Okay, confession time: Â I’m secretly a David Allen/GTD groupie.
I discovered Allen’s stuff several years ago, when I was the in-house marketing person at a large regional commercial construction company. Â As basically a one-person marketing department, I had to juggle a lot of different priorities and tasks, and my workday was really unpredictable. Â One day I might be editing video for the annual Christmas party, the next I might be writing radio copy or designing a print advertisement, and later that afternoon I’d be wrestling with nailing down invitations, RSVPs and other details for a customer appreciation golf outing (or acting as the “drink cart girl” at the same).
Like most creative folks, organization and productivity skills don’t come naturally to me. Â So it didn’t take me too long in that position to realize that I needed a system–some kind of framework to help keep me from getting overwhelmed with all the things I had to manage. Â I ran across Merlin Mann’s excellent primer on Getting Things Done on 43folders.com, and I was off and running like a herd of turtles. Â At that time, it was more about saving my sanity than working at peak productivity–although it managed to accomplish both.
With the economy turning south, budgets are going to get tighter.Â It’s time to whittle that unwieldy workflow into a lean, mean, social media marketing routine. Smart companies are going to continue to spend money on marketing and advertising, but they’re going to get more exacting about their vendors, agencies and consultants delivering maximum value. Â Getting more efficient may enable you to keep your job as belts get tighter–particularly in the growing field of social media, where things have been admittedly a little lax in the efficiency department as practitioners spent a lot of time just getting to know the space, developing networks and resource channels, and experimenting to see what works.
So here are a few simple, fast efficiency tweaks that can help you become “sleek like a cheetah” and stay ahead of the dreaded pink slip till the economy picks back up.
- Do a value audit of your RSS feeds and social network memberships, and trim those that don’t deliver value ruthlessly. Â Jason wrote about this earlier this week, but it’s worth mentioning again. Â You only have so much time and attention–and if you’re like me, you’re hitting “mark all read” and missing the best stuff because youÂ don’t have time to wade through it all. It’s time for any and all “pity” subcriptions and “just in case this network goes hot” memberships to go buh-bye.
- Develop a workflow that works for you, and stick with it. Make a grid for your week, with two to four segments for each day (either Morning and Afternoon, or Early Morning, Late Morning, Early Afternoon, Late Afternoon). Â Assign a focus to each block–some foci may repeat. (Mine are clients–yours may be types of tasks, like blogging or ideation).Â Â Then grid a workday, with sections for each hour. Â Again, assign a focus for each block, repeat as necessary (for me, this is where I break up by task type.) Â To deal with the “always on” aspect of social media work, and things like Twitter, you can also draw a clock face, and break up the hour, alloting 5-10 minutes at the top and bottom of each hour, or only one or the other, to checking and updating statuses, responding to comments, etc. Â Use a timer or alarm of some sort to enforce your workflow till it becomes a habit.
- Eliminate duplicate effort wherever possible.Â Â There are multiple tools that will allow you to update statuses across multiple social sites simultaneously, (Profilactic, hellotxt, ping.fm, Utterli, and Firestatus to name a few)Â but many folks I know aren’t using them. Â It’s time to start. Â If your statuses need to be distinct on each channel where you “live,” you may want to consider that your social footprint is getting unmanageable.
- Do an ego check. Â Yes, building a strong personal brand and credibility is critical in social media, both for being seen and for truly understanding the space and the various communities. This is especially the case with so many “experts” entering the field in the last six months to a year. Â But in the current economic climate, be VERY wary of letting “personal brand development” steal too much time away from “delivering client results.”
- Consider getting a guru. Â If you really need help getting organized and improving your work habits, it may be a good time to invest in a personal coach (before your slacker tendencies get you fired and you can’t afford one). Â Or if that’s not an option, get a “virtual coach” by consumingÂ ONE productivity guru’s stuff–books, ebooks, blogs or podcasts. Â I say “pick one” because it’s very easy to let “productivity” become another distraction/obsession that keeps you from actually getting billable work done. Â Find one methodology and/or expert who’s approach fits your needs best, and engage with him or her at the level you can afford, both in terms of time and expense.
The ability to switch gears between very different tasks on-the-fly is often a trait that leads people to a career in social media–because it’s incredibly helpful just based on the nature of the work.Â However, it can also lead to running around in circles when things get really busy, and a loss of productivity.Â Smart practictioners will develop work habits that can scale at least as well as the best social software.