There are three key elements in my professional life that I credit for my continued success as a marketer and content creator. Not only do they help me do my job well, but they enhance my value when working with a team. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how hard these skills are for some to master. This is what works for me: time management, multitasking, and staying organized.
I figured most of this out while working from home over the last 11 years, as my titles changed and my responsibilities grew. However, mastering these skills is invaluable regardless of your professional environment.
We’re always in the process of attaining professional goals, whether they're set by your manager or you impose them upon yourself. The timeframe to complete your goals varies as well - some can take you an entire year to reach, others you want met by the end of a single day. What’s key here, is setting realistic goals. Short term or not, you need to set goals you can actually reach, have time for, and have the resources to complete.
On the small scale, day-to-day, I use time to keep my goals realistic. For my daily set of tasks, I make sure I have enough time, that day, to complete them. For long-term goals, I plan out a realistic timeline to keep moving forward.
Using time to keep me on track with my goals also allows me to create daily to-do lists that I can actually do. Knowing in advance how I want to use my time each day gives me a clear picture of what I can and can’t accomplish, mitigating the odds of getting overwhelmed. There’s nothing more counterproductive than feeling overwhelmed. It’s like a freeze ray; you get nothing done, and the amount of work just gets worse.
Another thing I use to-do lists for is prioritizing my daily tasks. Sometimes, something unplanned comes up in a day - a surprise meeting, a personal issue, a last-minute assignment - causing you to restructure your carefully scheduled day. By prioritizing my to-do list, I can ensure the most important tasks come first, regardless of whether or not a surprise element pops up. I can always push the lower priority tasks onto tomorrow without feeling like I’m losing any momentum as well.
Managing your time properly doesn’t mean you only have to do things one-by-one. While you have to be careful not to do too much at once, each person has their own magic number of tasks that can go on concurrently without work quality faltering. I like to have a few things going simultaneously that don’t all need my attention at the same time - so maybe I’m having an email conversation or chat at the same time I’m working on an assignment. I can stop periodically while working on the assignment to stay caught up in that particular email conversation.
I’ve also been known to take advantage of using multiple devices in order to multitask. For example, if I’m uploading a project on my laptop and it’s taking some time, I’ll use my phone to check email or update my calendar. I want to keep an eye on my computer so I can notify my client when their files are ready, but don’t want to just sit still and wait without continuing to move forward with my day.
There are so many examples of how multitasking can be done successfully, but overall, I often multitask by looking at everything I want to get done for the day and then making a stepped out plan of what order I’ll get each piece of each task done so I can pair tasks together that allow me to give everything proper attention.
I feel organization is a very personal thing. What looks like a total mess to you can actually be a series of organized piles to someone else. I have a series of piles in my office that are organized for me, but might not look that way to an outsider.
Organizing your stuff is one thing, keeping your head on straight is something else. I use different strategies when it comes to my brain staying organized. Firstly, lists. I can’t stress enough how helpful they really are. I have them everywhere - in my planner (yes, it’s an actual planner, not some app in my phone,) on notepads, and in apps. I use my planner for daily to-do lists and reminders. Notepad lists are for reminders as well as listing tasks centered around a single item, like remembering all the things I need to put in my car before leaving in the morning. Wunderlist is my favorite list app because you can share lists with others. I use it to keep various shopping lists going so that my family can add to them as needed.
Secondly there is your calendar. With virtual meeting requests being the preferred way to schedule time with others now, having a digital calendar really is a must. The trick is to keep it up-to-date with everything you have going on so nothing falls through the cracks. I’ll even schedule working on certain projects if I need to ensure no conflicts come up in that window of time. Maintaining your calendar not only keeps your entire life organized as far as your commitments go, but it helps you be better prepared to plan out what you need to (and can) do in between appointments on any given day.
Being a successful professional is about more than just knowing your craft. Additional skills like these are imperative to enhancing your value as an employee and furthering your professional career. Having these skills myself has proven invaluable time and time again throughout my marketing career.