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    Buried Alive! Time Management, Priorities, and Organization


    Have you ever struggled with balancing your work load, prioritizing projects and tasks, and keeping track of your time and files?

    Good. I’m not alone.

    Teaching a lesson on time management and organization – for me - is sort of like teaching a lesson on humility. I just haven’t arrived, and if anyone else tells you he or she has… run!

    This isn’t something that we're born with, and it's not something anyone can master. Sure, some folks may have a knack for organization. They enjoy color-coding their sock drawer, desk drawer, and they're never late for an appointment. Good for them. Seriously, guys and gals -- we envy you!

    The rest of us need an intentional strategy to manage our time, prioritize projects, and organize our files. Keyword: intentional.

    Time Management

    No matter your position, title, skill set, education, or background... we are all equal with one regard: time. We all have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, 730 hours in a month, and 8,760 hours in a year.

    Now, go ahead and subtract 1/3 of that time and label it "sleep".

    Depressing, I know.

    Ok, now go ahead and subtract another 1/3 of your waking hours and label it "life".

    What's left? About 8 hours, right? That little slice we call "work". 

    Much depressing. Sorry.

    Now listen carefully, what I'd like you to do next is take those 8-hours and accomplish the tasks of 3 people working full-time. Cool?

    Not cool, man. Not cool!!!

    But that's what we ask of ourselves, our teammates, and our employees every week. Work is hard. And I would suggest that since we can't add hours to our day, we need to "add smart to our hours". That's what time management is all about: working smarter.

    In our day-to-day grind, we need to be intentional about how we choose to spend our time. Thankfully, there are some tips and tools that can help us get there. 

    Make a "If I Only Did" List Each and Every Morning

    This is a small list, like 4-5 items: "if I only did these 4 things, my day would be successful". Don't try to climb Everest in one day. The key here is knowing what is a priority (more on that below) and doing the most important things first. 

    Use a Project Management Software to Stay On-Task

    We love Asana. This software tool (free to start), is amazing at helping our team communicate complex project milestones, deliverables, and tasks. It has built-in communication features that cut down and even eliminate tiresome, life-draining emails. Plus, Asana requires you to assign tasks to individuals with deadlines, thus creating instant accountability (managers like that)!

    Use a Time Management Software to Record Time

    Asana works great with a third-party software integration called Harvest. This little tool - built right into the Asana tasks - allows team members to track their activities from start to finish. This is critical in a service business like ours where we frequently invoice by the hour. However, I would argue that most project-based teams - like Marketing Teams - should also be tracking their time. This is critical to knowing the investment of your marketing activities and subsequent ROI. Plus, it helps ensure your employees aren't just playing Candy Crush on the company's dime. Sorry dude, I just so busted you. 


    Every day you are asked -- or you ask yourself -- to DO a hundred different things. Think of yourself like an IT Ticket service. Here's a sample of today's shit-load of ticket submissions:

    • Fix the leaking toilet
    • Pick-up coffee, eggs, and tortillas
    • Finish pricing for the website
    • Ask Boss for time-off in August
    • Create logo for friend's startup cat salon business
    • Drop off clothes at dry cleaner's
    • Write article for company blog
    • Feed dog, change the air filter, organize sock drawer
    • Redesign website SALE landing page
    • Edit email marketing contact list
    • Drink three 9% ABV Belgian Ales
    • Post social media graphic

    Now you have two options: 1) Take care of these ticket submissions in the order they are made (very progressive of you) or 2) Prioritize this crap so you can get more crap done. (Editorial note: I wanted to say sh*t instead of crap, by they said I could only write one cuss word per blog article. Fiddle sticks!)

    Use the Priority Matrix to Tackle the Urgent + Important Items First

    The priority matrix - like the Force in Star Wars - is a powerful tool in the hands of a young padawan. So many of us have raw, undeveloped talent for getting stuff done. But those of us who can get the urgent + important tasks done faster will become Marketing Jedi Masters. 

    Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First is a great read for the organizationally challenged. In Chapter 3, “The Urgency Addiction,” he provides a framework for deciding whether or not a task is urgent, important or some combination thereof. Think of it as a 2 x 2 matrix:

    Covey time management matrix 001 001

    We should prioritize our daily task list by determining which quadrant it is in. For example,

    Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent. These tasks should be our first priority. They go at the top of your to-do list. They are important, and they must be done today.

    Quadrant 2: Important But Not Urgent. These are the “tomorrow” tasks. They should be our second priority, because if we don’t do them, we will face the consequences in the future.

    Quadrant 3: Urgent But Not Important. These are those tasks that are urgent to someone else, but they are not important to us. They should be our third priority. Frankly, much of the email we receive and social media falls into this quadrant.

    Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important. These should just be deleted from our daily task list. They are simply a distraction that keeps us from accomplishing those items in the first two quadrants.

    If prioritizing your tasks is - well, a task - then starting each day with this priority matrix may be the thing for you. Soon, you will discover that you can categorize tasks IN YOUR MIND. Oooh, the Priority Matrix Force is strong with that one!


    I decided that before I could write this portion of the lesson, I needed to clean and organize my garage. Ahh, I feel much better now. The only problem is now my attic is a freaking disaster!

    Organization at work can feel the same way. You clean out your email only to realize that the files on your server are a confusing mess. The point is that organization isn't a one-time deal. It's an internal core value that manifests itself in consistent, intentional activities that produce better, faster results... every time.

    I may not be the most organized person in the world, but I recognize the importance of organization and I invest in people who demonstrate it. In fact, one of our main review categories is "organization". The principal is pretty simple. If you can't manage your own desk, personal belongings, email, or project files... then how are you going to manage a client's marketing strategy?

    I'm not saying you need to adopt a complete minimalist philosophy, but there are some tips and tricks to better marketing organization.

    Get to Inbox Zero Each Day

    This means setting up folders within your Inbox for Projects, Tasks, Teams, and Clients. Once you have folders for each important category be sure to file your Inbox frequently - moving important messages to the appropriate folder and DELETING (yes, deleting) the emails that are not worthy of being archived in your folders. Even today's modern servers have limited space. Besides, who wants to filter through 10,000 emails to find that one your boss asked you to dig up? Not me, homeslice. 

    Develop a File Structure That is Intuitive

    I know, I know... your teammates are complete slobs and they never file their work properly. Hey, Proper Police, take a look in the mirror! File management is a huge issue, but at the core of it is this: finding stuff. The goal of any good file management structure is not to piss-off your less structured teammates, it's to find stuff. You see that project you just finished? Well, in 6 months, someone is going to ask you where they can locate so-and-so file. That will be annoying, and you will have to stop what you're doing and spend 5-10 minutes finding that file and delivering it to your beloved teammate. That's cute -- the first 25 times, but after that it gets old. An intuitive file management naming convention is your tool to file-freedom. It's not that hard. It could look something like this...

    • Marketing Project
      • Deliverable Name
        • Project Manager
          • Files
          • Archive
        • Resources
      • Art
        • Final
        • Archive
      • Proofs
        • 1st Proof
        • 2nd Proof
        • Final Proof
      • Final

    Throw It Away!!!

    Third and final tip is really more of a permission. I am giving you permission to throw away those old files and emails. That's right DELETE them from the face of the earth! How many times have you gone back into the junk drawer folder to find something that's important. If it was actually important, you would have successfully archived it already. Clean off that desktop and feel the relief and freedom that comes from actually being able to find your work. 

    One more thing. Do the same thing in your house!! Your closet, your kitchen cabinets, and your garage. Throw all that old crap that's out of style and out of repair in the garbage. Sell some stuff you never use online. Have a yard sale. Removing the clutter doesn't take away our happiness, it makes room for more JOY.