Organize your Business & Marketing with These Productivity Tips
A To Do List is Your
Friend Best Friend
I know, I know. You’ve read this before. It literally is on every list related to efficiency or productivity, which is why this article would be incomplete without it. I don’t care if you keep your to do list on a notepad, or on an electronic platform, but get it done. One of the most important tools to keep you on track is the To Do List. Not only does it keep you organized and focused, it also provides a nice psychological boost each time you cross off an item. Enter all the tasks you need to complete, breaking down large ones into action steps, and prioritize accordingly. The key? Find a system that works for you, ensuring you’ll keep using it. You can keep it old school by using the aforementioned paper and pen, or become a task master creating a spreadsheet or tracking document, or downloading one of the many to do list apps available for Android, iOS and even Microsoft platforms. Many of these phone apps can integrate with your email making it easy to assign tasks directly from email, and almost all of them have a desktop version you can use at work.
As mentioned above, If you choose the technology route, you’re not short on options. A simple spreadsheet makes adding new tasks and deleting completed ones easy. It doesn’t boast much in the way of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done and, thanks to applications like Google Drive and OneDrive, portability isn’t an issue. There are also several effective apps to choose from with widely varying levels of features. Some of the most popular include:
- Any.do: works within browsers on desktop and tablet platforms , on both Android and iOS platforms and it has a Chrome Browser add on extension. It handles recurring tasks, and includes options like a quick review of tasks slated for that day. Separating tasks into multiple categories e.g. work life, play, shopping etc. And you can share tasks with your team too. If you’re on fire, Any.do will offer coupons and promotions to keep you going.
- Google Keep: available for your desktop, tablet, Android and IOS platform, and via a Chrome browser extension. It’s very simple to use, though it may seem lighter on some features than similar apps (some users prefer that). It has everything any to-do list needs and does integrate with other Google products. If you’re a big Googler, give Google Keep a try.
- Todoist: the granddaddy to do list app, available on Android, iOS, Web, desktop for Windows and OSX, as well as add-ons and plug-ins for browsers and email apps. It’s packed with features, though some of the most useful ones only come with a yearly subscription.
- Evernote: A classic for years, Evernote is feature packed and used by millions. This handy piece of software has a long list of features and makes sharing tasks and keeping track of your to-dos a breeze. There is a free option and larger packages to make it a “team thing.”
- Wunderlist: a seriously versatile app compatible accessible on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire and the Web. It’s packed with too many easy to use features to list here.
Each of the above-mentioned to-do list applications were briefly mentioned and tested, but many features weren’t mentioned, so be sure to check them all out for a day or two to determine what option best fits your lifestyle and work habits. If it’s a pen and paper, keeping it old school is “cool” with me.
Multitasking Magic is a Myth
The science is in: multitasking is a myth. Think You’re Multi-Tasking? Think Again All we’re really doing is switching rapidly from one task to another, with a cognitive cost to each switch. We feel like we’re multitasking, because our brains serve up a little hit of dopamine (the reward hormone) each time we complete the smallest task, like sending an email. In reality, we’ve accomplished little, yet that dopamine hit trains our brains to keep up the multitasking cycle. It’s also been shown to increase cortisol production (the stress hormone) and lower your effective IQ by as much as 15 points.
The biggest drivers? Email and texting. Each time you see that email message ghost in the corner of your screen, or hear that ding, it distracts you and you feel like it has to be dealt with immediately. Do yourself a favor: close out the email, silence your phone, and focus on one task at a time. You’ll be more effective, reduce stress, and increase your IQ. What a deal and a nice piece of information too, don’t get mad at me if you get passed up on your next job because you tell them you want to be more valuable and refute multi-tasking.
Password Protection and Security
The reality that passwords are necessary is well-established at this point. So is the fact that it’s a real hassle to keep track of all of them. Add marketing into the mix, and you’ve just upped the amount of passwords you need to remember. Experts say you need different passwords for everything, preferably 8 – 16 characters with a variety of uppercase and lowercase alphanumeric and special characters, to protect yourself from hackers gaining access to all of your accounts. Most hackers use software and have limited resources (if it takes too long to hack your email account, they will move on).
With so many passwords to remember, though, most of us ignore this advice. Don’t leave it up to your browser or memory to remember all of your passwords. Get some help with handy dandy free software. Pay a small price if the software you like carries a small free. Trust me, I’ve seen it 100s of times and in some cases a password system that cost over $5,000 would have been worth it.
There are some tricks you can employ to make this process easier. Use a phrase only you know, replacing each word in the phrase with a letter or number. “I hate to fly but have to for work” becomes Ih2fbh24W and lets you into the site you use to book travel. It looks random, but it’s easy to remember. To make it even stronger, replace letters with symbols or numbers that look similar, such as ! for I, a $ for S and a backwards 3 for an E. Make sure your recovery information is up-to-date to ensure you receive those “I forgot my password” emails or text messages. Also, don’t forget to protect any mobile devices you use. There is an amazing amount of personal information on your phone, and I’m sure you want it protected. I just purchased Kaspersky Total Internet Protection and they offer protection for my mobile phone at no additional cost.
This should go without saying, but don’t share your passwords with anyone, and don’t write them down and place them in an easy-to-find spot. Most SAAS (software as a service) applications allow you to create an account for a user, which allows you to delete their account at anytime. You can use an online program like Lastpass, Zoho Valut (great for teams) and RoboForm to create and store your passwords, so you only need to remember one “Master Password” to access everything and many of these applications automatically input your information into website login boxes – it’s amazing and safe. Just make sure that one “master password” password is foolproof (in other words “as difficult as it can get”) and you’ve set up recovery options for those unfortunate times we forget the unforgettable.
On this note, be wary of emails asking you to log into your account; no matter how official the email looks, it’s a phishing scam. I’ve yet to meet a company that asks for account information via email. If the email worries you enough, open your account in a different browser and ask their support department what’s going on. Chances are you just outsmarted some guy phishing without a pole.
Taking these precautions will ensure that you have access to all of your marketing accounts in one easy place, and it will allow you to get your marketing team or person what they need immediately. As an agency, this is one of the biggest hurdles we have when we onboard clients. It’s been two months, and our team is still waiting on several passwords for one client. They’re a small business, so we understand, but make sure that you’re the small/medium or large business that doesn’t waste time gathering and resetting passwords when there’s money on the line.
*If you want to help a company and the community out, report that fishing email to the company. It may just save several people heartache.
There’s a Best Time for Everything – Including Productivity
Executive Coach and author Richard Leider talks about the “Golden Hour,” which is whatever time of day your thought processes are clearest and you’re at your most creative. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather one you’ll either discover about yourself, or you already know. Are you sharpest in the morning? Just after lunch? Right before bed? Whenever that time is for you, don’t waste it, use it. Close your email, log off of social media, silence your phone, and focus on completing tasks that require your sharp, creative self to shine. Add your Golden Hour to your daily schedule, and respect that time commitment the same way you would if you were meeting with your biggest customer. Respecting that Golden Hour may just make your golden years a little better. If your golden hour happens to be your creative hour, use it for tackling marketing tasks; if not, use it to open up more time for marketing tasks.
Begin Each Day the Right Way
The phrase, “you must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” became a cliché for a reason: when your day starts out bad, it generally keeps going in that direction. Establishing a solid morning routine helps guard against days that start bad and remain bad.
It starts before you even leave the house. Beginning your day with just seven minutes of exercise has been proven to improve energy and focus for the entire day, so don’t shortchange the power of seven minutes. Another proven fact: each bad decision we make negatively impacts the rest of the decisions we make that day, no matter how trivial it seems. Plan your breakfast menu and wardrobe weekly, so you arrive at the office – on time – with two fewer decisions under your belt.
Take five minutes after you arrive to organize your day and study your to do list. Don’t begin with your email, which can and will derail all your plans. If you can knock off one big to do list item first thing, it’ll inspire you to keep going. This is doubly true if your golden time is in the morning.
With Productivity, the Perfect Ending Creates a Great Beginning
Before leaving work each day, prepare for tomorrow. Make sure your to do list is updated and has tomorrow’s tasks outlined, which reinforces the sense you accomplished something today, pumping you up for tomorrow and making your off time more enjoyable. If the back of your mind is filled with unfinished business, making that switch from business to personal time is nearly impossible. Creating a roadmap for the next day helps you make that transition and many experts believe that breaking that to-do list into time periods increases productivity. Review tomorrow’s schedule, tidy up your desk, answer those emails you let sit while you concentrated on more urgent tasks – the end of the day is the perfect time to handle these details that would have been a waste if handled earlier in the day. And a clean desk and updated to-do-list ensures you start fresh the following morning.
Ditch Email Clutter Forever
You have to enter an email address for nearly everything: online shopping, retail rewards programs, and newsletters just to name a few. The problem is that, once you’re in, you’re in forever and the emails never stop, clogging up your inbox and distracting you from the real work you need to get done. Just because you have to enter an email address, though, doesn’t mean it needs to be your primary email. With so many free email services out there, setting up a “junk” email account is fast and easy. You can check it weekly to clean it out, or read the items you really do want to see. If it’s already too late, and your current primary email address is overloaded with news updates and donation requests, create a new primary email account and let the old one keep collecting junk, just don’t forget to let people know your address changed. If that’s not possible, unsubscribe from emails that add worthless clutter and use software that helps clean inboxes. One popular service is unroll.me. It’s a lifesaver, you set it up (quickly I’ll add) to roll up emails from certain places or people that you know aren’t urgent, and the service gives you the option to check your “roll ups” at anytime. You’ll end up with a clean inbox…dare I say inbox zero?
Protect Your Domain Name (URL), It’s Online Real Estate
Back to some more marketing related issues…Your domain name is the brick and mortar location for your online business, so keep it safe. Once you come up with the perfect name, make sure you get it purchased in your account under YOUR name. If this isn’t something you feel comfortable doing, have your marketing team do it, but make sure it’s done in your account and under your name. Do not ever, and I mean ever, let anyone have control of your domain name. A website and its files can come and go, but a domain name and the brand behind it are much harder to replace.
After you control your domain name, don’t forget to set things up so that it automatically renews each year. I can’t tell you how many clients’ we’ve had lose domain names because they ignored emails and forgot to pay the small renewal fees. It’s always a pain to get domain names back after their gone, and it always costs a bit more money. On top of that, we also recommend our clients purchase their domain names for extra years. It’s a small (likely very small) ranking factor, but it shows search engines that you’re dedicated and that your domain isn’t a “throw away” domain. If you have extra funds, add an additional 5-years to the life of your domain name and live worry free. You can use anyone of your to-do-lists to remind you to add a few more years in a year or two.
It’s not uncommon for some business owners to buy different variations of their domain name, so that the competition doesn’t use those different variations to steal business. I mention it, because some professionals recommend buying the .co, .org, .info, .co.uk, .me, etc. but I personally don’t think it’s worth it. It’s a waste of your money and efforts, two things you can spend in better places – building a brand. If you have a huge brand already, or are planning on building a huge brand in multiple countries and states, it may be something to consider.
Keep Your Industry Knowledge Up-to-Date
Make better decisions and hone your competitive edge by remaining up-to-date in your industry. You’ll learn about coming changes, improved technology, and develop expertise in your industry, all invaluable tools for building marketing success. With technology, it’s easier than ever, but where should you start?
Begin online, reading at least one article about your industry every day. A quick web search reveals blogs about nearly any subject matter you can think of, and they’re a great source of information. Flipboard is a phone app that lets you pick your interests and learns what you like to read overtime. You can also use social media like LinkedIn and Twitter, or set up Google Alerts to notify you every time Google indexes an article with search words you select. If you receive too many notifications, adjust your settings accordingly. These resources are an easy way to keep up with your industry, and easy to fit into your day. Read articles over meals or during your commute if you ride the bus or train, or listen to podcasts if you drive to work. If you make it a priority, you’ll find the time. While doing this, keep an eye on your competition too. Google alerts can help you find out what the competition is doing and where they’re showing up. If you spot a trend, it might be something you should try.
For a more personal, in-depth approach, you can also join trade organizations or attend networking events and conferences. You’ll meet others in your industry, learn more about your competition, and build relationships with potential customers and suppliers. In terms of marketing and growing your business education and networking is an absolute must and a great way to stay on top of best productivity practices for business and marketing. If you’re on the shy side or too busy to network, stick with education by reading books, magazines, articles and blog posts.
Don’t Always Leave Social Media at the Office
You already know that social media is a necessity for your marketing efforts (at least in most industries); though keeping up with all the different feeds may seem overwhelming. Additionally, if you’re confining your updates to business hours, you’re missing a big chunk of time people spend on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Luckily, there are a number of apps available to manage your various feeds and send scheduled updates, even when you’re out of the office.
Applications like CrowdBooster combine social media and marketing analytics, allowing you to build deeper relationships and better prospects at the same time. TweetDeck and Tweepi help you navigate and clean up your Twitter, as well as schedule tweets. SocialOomph and IFTTT offer functions for a number of sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Finally, Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Bufferapp allow you to schedule updates and publish across multiple social networks via a single dashboard, which allows you to schedule your updates for an entire week or month. If you dig deep into your Analytics on platforms like Facebook via their Insights tool, you can schedule updates when most of your users are online, making it easier to get maximum exposure. For more information: Facebook advertising guide for small businesses.
Keep Track of Your Marketing: Accounts, Profiles, Logins Etc.
Online marketing in 2016, just like previous years, will involve numerous moving parts consisting of a constantly expanding list of online portals to track and interact with. This will include Analytics accounts, social profiles, web profiles, niche directory profiles, review portal profiles, platforms for tracking and analyzing performance, and so on. Overtime, you’ll end up with hundreds of accounts and keeping tracking of everything is vital, especially if you want to stay ahead of the competition, maintain accuracy, and save time on your marketing efforts.
There are several ways to store this data, but we’ve found that an easy way is to create a simple excel/spreadsheet on OneDrive or Google Drive, and share it with experts and administrators involved in a particular client’s marketing efforts. When you set things up, keep these documents online (1 standard online document = 1 always up-to-date document), so that any change(s) related to the administration of your accounts can be completed quickly, and everyone on the team has the details they need immediately. Make sure you set proper permissions when sharing these documents. Some permissions allow editing and others limit users to viewing only.
At Phoenix Online Media, we use tabs within each spreadsheet to organize our accounts by type e.g. Social Media Profiles, Software Platforms, Web Directories, Niche Directories and so on. Although thoroughly tracking all accounts and account credentials may seem unnecessary, or pointless – I can promise you that it’s vital to your ongoing marketing efforts. Furthermore, I can guarantee you that it will save you money and make any transitions
Keeping track of this information has three (3) major upsides:
a) You know instantly what profiles you control and can quickly make next step decisions.
b) marketing team or internal company changes can be done efficiently
c) Any major change i.e. an address change, name change, partner change or image changes can be done quickly, because your organized approach to web marketing has given you the information you need to quickly access accounts and make changes.
Without this information, you’ll spend hours resetting passwords and looking for profiles online that have outdated information. Do yourself a favor and setup a detailed road-map of your marketing efforts. Start as soon as possible, and reap the rewards as time goes on.
Don’t be Afraid to Delegate to Third-Party Partners
Every business has a host of necessary tasks that don’t grow the business, even though the business will fail if they aren’t completed. Though necessary, these tasks, usually administrative in nature, often don’t happen often enough to require a full-time or permanent employee. Once again, technology provides a viable solution, in the form of virtual assistants.
In the past decade, a host of companies offering VA services opened their virtual doors online. For a variable fee, you can hire someone to clean up a spreadsheet, make airline reservations, pick up furniture, create a mailing list, pretty much anything you can think of that can be done online (and some in person, as well), there’s an option for delegation. Costs start at a few dollars per task, with monthly plans available at most VA providers. Some of the more popular ones include taskrabbit.com, timesvr.com, and fancyhands.com. Most of these companies claim that their virtual assistants are from the states, so you can assure that writing tasks get done by someone with English as their primary language. From experience, I’ll tell you that the more details you give the better results you’ll get. So take the extra minute to describe what you need in more detail.
Marketing & General Productivity Conclusion
You have a lot on your plate, but you can keep your marketing strategy moving forward and safe by using these simple tools: plan your day to make the most effective use of your time and energy levels, keep yourself on track with updated to do lists and a good grasp of your industry, and make technology work for you. Implement these tools correctly and you’ll feel energized, you’ll get more done and you’ll take more enjoyment in your work.