As we begin to shed our winter coats and dust off the cobwebs in preparation for the revitalization of spring, it’s always refreshing to do a little tidying up. The cold months bog us down with clutter — both in our physical spaces and our minds. So when the sun returns, seemingly having flown south for the winter, we doff the extra weight and hit the grass running.
There’s no reason not to apply this newly found energy it to your workspace too. So break out the Windex, everyone, here’s some advice on how to de-clutter for springtime and increase productivity on the job.
Start with what’s in front of you.
This means your desk, cubicle, office — whatever you call home when you’re at work, you should make the effort to respect as such. After all, you spend a sizable chunk of time there, you might as well be comfortable! Dust off your computer monitor. Get that lumbar support in order. Maybe it’s time to throw away those coffee cups and parking stubs. Get a new air purifying plant for your desk (I’m in the market for an Aloe vera plant — they keep easy and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t sunburn.) Take an hour to dig into your space — you’ll appreciate it once it’s done.
Assess what’s on your plate.
Work down the list of all the ambitious projects you’ve been wanting to do since August, but have been putting off to get other, more immediate work done. Cull that list down to initiatives you actually think you will accomplish, not the pipe dreams. Set aside a half, or even a whole, day to knock some of the easier projects off your list for good. If there are still items that you want to keep on the back-burner for a rainy (or snowy) day, see my notes below about project organizational tools.
Monitor your recent performance.
Tools like Toggl, a time tracking application, can tell a lot about how and where you’re spending your energy and what you could focus on more diligently. Whether you work for an agency, billing hours to many clients, or you’re in-house and want to track the time you spend on different projects, Toggl sends you weekly reports that show the concentration of your efforts. The company is releasing an insights feature soon, in an attempt to economize employee productivity.
Set some goals.
I’m a huge advocate for generating and documenting tangible goals. If you’re results-driven, like me, then you know how good it feels to check something off your list and know that it’s done. This is why the tangibility of your goals is so important — goals like “get better at responding to emails,” or “write more often,” are nebulous and you’ll never really know if you’ve achieved them. Of course you can strive towards those vague goals, but additionally, write down a few actionable, quantifiable items that you can definitively check off.
Try out new tools.
Part of a Trello board for our podcast, ChalkTalk.
I’ve already thrown in a plug for Toggl, so I might as well keep it going. We use Trello as a project management tool to keep our team in the loop. Each client gets their own page (Trello calls it a board) and we make a to-do list for every campaign running for that client. You can comment and communicate within the lists, updating the team on the status of the campaign. If your inbox is already gasping for air, giving updates in Trello eradicates the need to send minutia via email.
Spring is springing and it’s a great time to take advantage of your renewed energy by doing some cleaning up. Start with your physical space to clear the air so you can focus more deeply on upcoming projects, goal-setting and tools that will make your life easier and more productive.
Joining a band is not one of my resolutions this year. Why? Because I can’t sing, nor do I play the guitar or any other instrument. So it’s not a realistic goal and I’d likely be doomed from the start.
Deconstructing Your Goals Can Turn the Loftiest Ambition into Bite-Sized Approachability
We are three weeks into January (has your gym attendance waned yet?) and I’m curious if you’ve forgotten about your New Year’s resolutions already. On the way to the mountain for vacation last month, I had an interesting conversation with my family about New Year’s resolutions and couldn’t help from relating each family member’s resolutions to marketing, as I do with most things.
After dissecting each resolution, I’ve come to the realization that a simplified theme has emerged. Rather than stating large overwhelming and unattainable goals, it seems that some of the best resolutions employ simple steps to get us to a desired end result. You’ll see what I mean with the list below of some of my family’s New Year’s resolutions and how they relate to marketing.
First Things First: Leverage Your Tools
Rather than stating that she wants the house to be immaculate (which isn’t going to happen with both adults working full-time, two elementary-aged kids, a puppy and me), my wife is aiming to start in an approachable manner by simply making the bed each morning. Piling junk on top of an unmade bed is like stacking chaos on top of chaos. Putting laundry away that is sitting on a neat surface is less overwhelming because it’s easier to see. You have to start somewhere.
This reminds me to better utilize the marketing tools that are at my disposal. If I can figure out how to better leverage the organizational tool, Trello, that I suggested my company use, I will get more organized. Essentially laying out all of the things that need doing ahead of time will help me digest them and my never-ending to-do list might appear more manageable.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
My wife’s other resolution is to go to bed earlier. This resolution employs a trick. While going to bed earlier might mean that she wakes up earlier, this isn’t necessarily the main goal. A well-rested person produces more work throughout the day and tends to be calmer and happier (more work and a happier wife makes sense to me). In this same vein, marketers who plan ahead get the worm. An editorial calendar is a great example of how marketers can plan and deconstruct their marketing goals.
Continue Growing & Learning
My son’s resolution was to simply memorize the periodic table. I am not sure how useful this will be to him now as he is only nine, but we can dream, right? Marketers didn’t know how influential the “world wide web,” MySpace and later Facebook would be when those oddities first came out. The ever-changing world of the internet makes learning and attempting new things more important than ever for veterans and newbies alike. In 2017 I plan to delve even further into the intricacies of Facebook advertising and learn how to create more in-depth social media personas. In short, be open to learning, no matter how much you think you already know.
Do you know the Periodic Table? No? Guess it’s time to study up!
Slow Down for Meaningful Interactions
My accident-prone daughter said her resolution was not to hurt herself every day. This is a lofty goal for a seven-year-old who is clumsy by nature. She might have more success by aiming to slow down and pay more attention throughout the day. This notion aligns with how I’d like to be more involved with the clients on a personal level (I just read a great book on this topic, The Connector’s Way by Patrick Galvin), rather than solely dedicating myself to outputting exhaustible results for each of them. After all, marketing is personal. We believe that each client has their own unique story that can only be drawn out through old-fashioned dialogue.
“Board” meetings on the Willamette with LP? Sign me up!
How do I plan on carrying out this vague goal besides the usual coffee date? Well, continuing to whip Greg Specht, CEO of Specht Development, into shape on the basketball court every other morning is a start. Possibly I will need to take up photography so I can share tips with Brian Allen, Co-Owner of Windermere Stellar. Or learn how to “shred” on the Willamette River so I can attend one of Mike Weinhouse’s, Co-CEO of Logical Position, infamous “board meetings.”
To conclude, if you’ve already succeeded in breaking your resolutions, this might be a sign that something’s not right with your list. It’s not you, it’s the list! Don’t just give up altogether, consider revising the list with an approach that deconstructs your goals — breaking down each goal into simple steps that are resolutions in disguise to help attain each of them. It’s time to dust off that list and try again.