Working on several projects on a specific day is not an easy task.
Every project, big or small, is composed of other small projects, or let’s call them tasks. Now some of these tasks can be executional tasks (the “you have to do the work”) while others are what I call connection tasks (you have to talk with someone about them). You may have to deal at the same time with strategy related tasks (where you have to plan what will come next), and of course, let’s not forget about the research part (you have to research to start working on these projects).
Now think about that every one of these projects needs to be scheduled with a deadline, while you also need to plan all the tasks that need to be completed before that deadline.
For some of us, the time management part comes easy, while for others, it may seem hard to do. The real struggle, however, is for us to be able to (and learn how we can) find what is supposed to be the best daily schedule in our day to day life to avoid unnecessary burnouts or over the edge anxiety for the day to come.
I had a talk with Andra Zaharia about how we are doing our work because we are both working for similar projects; we are that specific type of content marketer who wears many hats.
Andra is a freelancer who works for a lot of clients on a lot of projects, each one of them with its specific deadline. Let’s not forget that she is also running a prolific podcast and an excellent newsletter. These kinds of works are not as easy as they appear, so you need to get prepared, and you need to shift your work mode from the clients to your own.
I myself am a Brand and Communication Manager who is also managing a content creation team. I also need to think about new content projects, what they should be, how to be implemented, and how to create them in order to drive in the number of results we want to get. Just like Andra, I have my local podcast as well, I write on a personal blog, and from time to time, I attend different events as a speaker. And, let’s not forget that I also have my own life:)
Working and switching from one task to another, you get to feel like a plugin, plug out, plugin, and plug out robot.
This is the main reason why I found it to be so much beneficial when Andra told me how she manages to optimize her calendar. I tried to do the same thing, and as of consequence, I took one step forward and started optimizing my calendar as well to be more efficient with my time, my energy, and all the other resources I need in my work.
Therefore, here’s my calendar management techniques that, in the end, helped me optimize my calendar.
Before I start every task, I open my calendar and start looking for where I can fit it in. So, I categorize them in 4 major pillars:
Do the work
Let’s dig a little bit in every one of these pillars to explain why I choose them and why they are essential to me.
1. Do the work
This is the part where I do the work. It’s not something like meeting with people or thinking about some strategies. This is the real work. I mean writing the articles, sending the emails, creating the content, editing contracts, editing or recording my own podcast or optimizing the content.
Some of these work projects have to have their day. Think about what you don’t want to have three days in around only to have work projects. This will kill your creativity and also your passion for your work. So instead of putting work tasks every day, I’m recommending you check out what is the best day for you to work. For example, my best day to work is Tuesday, Wednesday, and sometimes Monday. These are the three days where I’m pumped up and feel like I can do the work.
Every time I’m assigning my ‘work’ task, I have to make sure that:
I have everything prepared to work (for example: if I’m working on an article I have to make sure that I have all my research done, all my keyword research done and I understand my content distribution strategy)
I have to know how much time will I spend doing the work (maybe it will take me 2 hours or 3 hours. These means that I won’t schedule any meetings before this task and I also will get offline from every one of the networks that can disturb my work and set me out of the mood to do what I need to do)
I always try to schedule this creative work task for at least 30 minutes longer than it’s necessary. I do it because sometimes, I am more creative than usual, I get to go with the flow, and I just can’t stop it. Other times, on the other hand, I might need some extra time to put an idea into words.
Another pillar I am using to categorize my tasks is “Connection.”
Connecting with other people is something we need, and we must do, not only because it is a job-related task but also because it can help our professional and personal lives.
I love talking with my marketing friends about trends, about strategies, and also about my fails.
I have two kinds of friends: the ones that I’m close to and the ones that we just want to connect, pick up our brains, and see if we can find an opportunity to work together.
And, to be honest with you, I’m valuing more my closest friends. Even if I don’t have too many best friends that are working in the marketing industry, I try to connect with them almost every month, having a call/coffee or just chatting on Skype or Messenger. It’s good to connect, talk about side projects, about projects, successes, and failures. It’s good because it helps me have a better picture of my work while at the same time, it also helps them have better results.
I also value the second category of acquaintances, the one that includes other people to whom I can connect. Even if they are not my closest friends, I believe that sometimes getting out of your comfort zone and having a coffee with someone from your industry (also if they are not your best and closest friends) it’s right for you because it helps you get other perspectives, strategies or ideas.
I do this regularly (but without having a calendar for it), trying to keep up with them and, of course, with the connection task.
Just think about having weekly meetings with someone from your industry. Think about doing it even if it’s only for knowing each other, talking about ideas, talking about struggles, and how you can create a better environment for you and your colleagues.
For me, it’s working. What about you? I don’t know, but I tell you something: You have to try it.
The strategy is an essential task in my daily work. I’m a Brand & Communication Manager, and I have to create plans for my team. I have to work closely with other teams like the product, design, SEO, and email marketing, and I also have to know the “WHY” behind every project. Here comes the strategy.
The strategy is the answer behind every WHY.
Whenever we are working on a project, when we are working on something, right from the start or even before, I have to imagine a strategy for the entire department and about how it can help that project.
For this to work, I have to talk with other team members, and I have to stay in touch with the industry and see what all the others are doing.
Some may call it to research, but I call it strategy.
The strategy’s more like a hybrid task for a marketer. It encompasses several other tasks, such as doing the work, researching, meeting, and putting down the ideas.
I’m not a very theoretical person. I assume I like doing research, but I’m more like the practical person who loves to experiment, see how it’s working, and then taking out the good and the bad from that experiment.
So when I think about research, the task comprises everything I do besides the work. I’m not using social media as a regular person who is scrolling through his feed just to check out on what vacation someone is right now, or what kind of car someone just bought. In fact, my social media feed is not about this. I’m very particular with my social media feed because I understand that if I’m not taking care of it, I won’t get any useful information. So how am I doing this?
For example, I unfollowed everybody who does not share excellent and high-quality content. I don’t care about your excellent breakfast, your fantastic sunset with your wine glass in your hand, or about what your cat is doing with a funny boomerang.
My job is 100% in the digital industry. Therefore, almost everything I do must be related to my job. I said “almost” because yes, I’m also using Netflix, and sometimes I get to relax watching some Youtube videos. But even then, my mind is connected to my job and waiting to get a new idea or a new perspective for a new project I’m working on.
I think marketers must use the internet and social media in a very different way than all the others. For example, let’s talk about TikTok. More and more people are talking about TikTok. The press I’m talking about TikTok, brands are talking about TikTok, and teenagers are using it. So what about you, my dear marketer fellow? What do you know about TikTok? You’ve done your research to understand a little bit what’s with this new social media network?
If we are not curious, we can’t do our job as marketers.
This is my research part. I’m using it to learn, to find out about new experiments, and to check out what others are doing, why do they do it, and then trying to see if what they do can be applied in my area or not.
How to use them?
Think about this. Every one of these particular types of events in my life is organized from 2 critical perspectives:
My job: I’m working 10 hours per day. That means that I need to understand what’s more important for my job, what’s a priority and what’s urgent.
My projects: because I’m working 10 hours per day for my job, I can’t use these hours to work on my projects. It’s not correct for myself and also for my colleagues. Instead, I can use my free time or the time before I start my work to work on my projects.
With these two perspectives in my mind, I understand how to organize my calendar every day, every week, and every month.
But even if I’m doing these tactics, there is only a straightforward tactic that is helping me during the day. It is something that allows me to disconnect for a few moments and focus on my calendar. It’s a pen and a notebook. Yes. These offline products help me do my online projects. I love opening my agenda, looking back at the days that passed away, and saw what I accomplished and what I missed. And then, for the next day, I try to think about what I can do, what I can work on, and what’s more important.
At the same time, I always open my digital calendar and keep it open to see if there are other points I need to take care of.
Knowing your calendar means to be able to control your time.
Controlling your time will help you do a better job.
Doing a better job can give you a good sense of that particular day.
So, if you want to have a good day, just understand your calendar.