How to Estimate Your Workload to Plan Ahead With Brian Honigman

You have already created a lot of content on your website. And now you’re wondering if publishing even more content will help you reach your goals even faster. The answer to that is an unequivocal yes! Publishing more high-quality content will help you boost your views, clicks and conversions. If you’re having trouble getting your workflow to the point that it allows you to publish frequently, you won’t want to miss today’s show.

We’re talking to Brian Honigman, the CEO of Honigman Media. Brian has his own brand, and he publishes content on Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other publications. He’s got a great system when it comes to proactively planning his workload and publishing at the right frequency, and he’s going to share it with us today.

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Some of the highlights of today’s show include:

  • Information about Honigman Media and what Brian does there.
  • How Brian plans an average week’s worth of projects, which might include writing five blog posts in addition to coaching, consulting, and speaking.
  • How Brian figures out how much time each task will take and how he budgets that time. He also talks about how understanding his own time budgeting helps him stay on course and fulfill his promises.
  • What to do if you get off-track when it comes to meeting deadlines or other client obligations.
  • How saying no can help with prioritizing, as well as how Brian decides when to say no.
  • The importance of publishing content consistently on your own channels in addition to your client channels.
  • Brian’s best advice for a marketer who is looking to boost their productivity.

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

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Transcript

Nathan: You already created and published tons of content. Am I right? But will publishing even more content help you boost your results even further? The answer is yes. We’ve got the data that proves that publishing more content helps you influence your goals that much faster.

The question is how can you do it? It comes down to proactively planning your workload and that takes awareness, reflection, and a lot of organization too. That’s the story Brian Honigman, the CEO of Honigman Media is sharing on this episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast.

Brian produces tons of content not only for his clients like People Magazine but for his own brand on publications like Entrepreneur, Forbes, his own blog, and a lot of others too.

I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. I am excited for you to learn how to stay organized and productive with Brian. Let’s listen to him. Hey Brian! Thanks a lot for joining me on the podcast today.

Brian: Awesome, happy to be here. Thank you.

Nathan: I’m happy to have you, Brian. I was wondering if you could just kick it off by telling me a bit about yourself and Honigman Media.

Brian: Yes, sure. I’m a marketer through and through. I’ve worked at Startups. I’ve worked at an agency before, brand side. I had a really great mix of experience that I gathered all up and started my own consultancy just under four years ago. Basically, Honigman Media is a content marketing focused consultancy as myself and a couple other contractors. We help medium to small sized businesses as well as large companies like People Magazine and The Weather Company. I help them with social media and content marketing, specifically and that spills into a couple of different areas.

I do courses with LinkedIn and NYU. I do one on one coaching. I do consulting, speaking. I write about all this stuff. Basically, a geek that gets to talk about this stuff all the time and writing is certainly something that ties in everything I do. It’s one of the main ways I was able to market myself in the industry. Get my name out there, get my ideas out there and build some credibility around what I’m offering as a service provider.

Nathan: I really wanted to talk about that, specifically. You published lots of content. Not only for your clients, but for your own blog and even for some pretty major publications like, I know you’ve written for Forbes, The Next Web, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post. I was wondering, could you give me an overview of how much content you create in an average week?

Brian: It definitely varies but I would say, on an average week, I’m writing at least five blog posts. Some weeks, it’s the five blog posts and a white paper thrown in there. That’s a mix of content for myself, for my own blog, on different publications that I’m using to get my ideas out there then also, for clients. About five or so or close a week. That’s about as much as I can physically do without my eyes bleeding and my hands falling off. Amongst the other stuff I’m doing lately, my work at this point is diversified among speaking and doing coaching, consulting. I’m not just doing writing but it’s certainly a big part of everything I’m doing for clients and for myself. It’s about the average.

Nathan: I know your content isn’t just this like run on the mail stuff. It’s very well planned out. It’s well researched. You put a lot of effort into it. That’s a lot of content to create in a week. I was wondering, how do you plan an average week’s worth of projects?

Brian: Every Friday, towards the end of the day, when I’m getting tired from everything I’ve done during the week, I use Google Keep. Which is like Google Notes but the official product name is Google Keep and it’s just like a little note taking app. I use that to plan out what tasks I’ll do every single day. On Friday, I try to plan out to the best of my ability. It’s never perfect. This is what I’m going to be doing Mondays through Friday the next week. So that when I sit down Monday morning, I have a fairly strong sense of, okay this is what I’m going to be tackling today, this is what I have coming  up. I can always move things around but it gives me a good pacing for what to expect and how to budget my time. I try my best to plan what’s happening a week before. That’s just been really helpful and pacing so I’m not overwhelmed. I’m not doing 5,000 things every day because that would not be very productive. I would also probably pass out from exhaustion.

On Friday, I try to plan out what I'm going to be doing the next week.

It’s just a way of pacing. I make sure that everything is going well. With all the projects I take on from clients, I know what’s happening well in advance. This next three months are already planned out in terms of what clients I’m working on, what projects, what am I going to be doing to promote my business and grow my business, all that is already planned out. Of course, there are things that pop-up here and there, that are spur of the moment or spur of that week, spur of the month but the most part, all of the big projects, I know that are coming ahead of time. It’s easier for me to divvy them up and say, “Okay, this particular project, act is going to take three weeks so let’s divvy that up amongst those three weeks.”

Nathan: I was wondering if we could explore that just a little bit. You had mentioned something about time budgeting. I think that you’ve really nailed this and it’s really helped you boost your productivity to produce so much content. I was wondering if you could explain just a little bit more about how you figured out the amount of time you need to create or complete certain projects. How do you do that?

Brian: The first step is just to start doing it. Ahead of being on this lovely podcast, I checked out your video series overheard at CoSchedule. I saw you were talking about learning different skills as a content marketer. Your first step was just to start. I agree with you 100% on that. I would have no idea how long it takes to prepare a speech or prepare the materials I need ahead of a coaching session or to write a 3,000 word article if I just hadn’t done it before. I think that is always the first step, is just sitting down and saying, “Okay, let’s write a 500 word article and let’s do that a couple of times.” I’ve never really timed myself with a stopwatch or anything that official but I just said, “Okay, that took about three hours. That took about four hours that time.” And try and estimate about how long each thing takes. From there I can say, “Okay, I can do a blog post, email, plan some social media posts, and prepare for that coaching session today. I think that’ll take up most of the day.”

It’s just mainly about doing it, monitoring how long it takes you to complete that task on average, and then planning around that little time slot. For me, I am a multitasker. I’m addicted to it unfortunately and I always have to focus and tone everything down. Like I was saying, I make notes about what’s going to be happening workwise every day, a week ahead of time. I try to limit myself to work on five things, five major things to be working on that day. By understanding the timing of everything, I can say, “Okay, you know what I really can’t accomplish writing three blog posts today. I’m going to move on to another time.” It really comes in handy.

Nathan: To dive a little bit deeper into that, how is that understanding like? The idea of doing five things a day or understanding how long it takes to complete a project, how does that understanding help you in your business?

Brian: It helps me stay on course. I can deliver on promises to complete a project and be proud to it, to be to the right quality level, to make the client happy, to make myself happy, to make sure that I am healthy and again, not working 80 hours a week, feel really lucky. I’m so happy to run my own business but if I was working 80 hours a week, that’s pointless to me. That’s not a happy place. That’s working two full time jobs. What’s the point of that?

By setting five things, I can look at those five things and prioritize, “Okay, that particular item is due three days from now. That is top priority.” This isn’t perfect, but I try to rank those five things and say, “This is a top priority. Let’s make sure that it gets done first. Okay, that’s second.” Some things don’t get done. Some of those five things don’t get done. For me, every one’s different and no other entrepreneurs have said in the past they work on three major things a day. I just chose five.

Sometimes, I don’t get them all and that’s okay and I’m trying to get myself permission to let that be okay. It’s hard at times. It just really helps make sure that I stay on the right timeline so that I’m getting everything done that I need get to get done. I try to work ahead of time with everything I’m doing so that I’m never at the last minute scrambling to get something accomplished because I don’t work well at the end of the deadline. I know other people do and that’s great. I wish I could but I have to have plenty of buffer to take my time, complete the work to the point where I’m happy with it.

Also, I think quality is affected heavily. If you’re at the last minute working on five things that are all due at the end of the day, you’re going to make some sacrifices in terms of not putting your best work out there and that’s really important for me to always think about it. If I’m rushing on something, I always try to stop and say, “Wait a second, is this the best coaching session that I can put out there? Is this speaking event could actually turn out like I thought if I am rushing through this?” It’s all about giving myself enough time to get as much quality work done as possible to make my clients happy, to make me happy, and just to have a productive work day.

Nathan: I love that example. I think frameworks like that, having five things to do today., they are not always perfect but they give you that priority or that focus enough to keep projects rolling forward.

Brian: Yeah. It’s like a brain trick too. I don’t know. It just simplifies things a little bit. Instead of looking at my email or something else that’s disorganized and being like, “Whoa, where do I start today?” It’s just like, “These are five things. Try this.” Start there, go on the list. If you could tackle more, that’s great. But instead of sitting at your desk and looking at all the tons of different directions you can go in and I’m sure you know as a marketer, there’s so many different directions, it’s just like a nice set of trick to say “Okay, great. Let’s just start with those five things.”

Nathan: I know the last time we chatted, I know that you mentioned that you really focused on meeting client deadlines. What do you do if you get off track?

Brian: I try to walk away. There are two things there. I always have a buffer so that if I  miss something, maybe I had to write an article and that was one of the five things I was supposed to do that day and I just didn’t get to it because I had other priorities, that’s okay. It wasn’t due the next day. I always try to make sure that there’s a plenty of buffer in there so I don’t put myself in that situation. If it drops that day, if I don’t tackle it just not beating myself up about it, not saying the whole day was a fail. That’s been a whole learning curve for me. It’s good to be very driven to get things done and to accomplish a lot in the day, but it also puts a lot of pressure on myself.

The second aspect of it is just walking away, especially with writing. Everything I do is really writing intensive, to be honest. Teaching, making a lesson plan. A course, you need scripts for it. Coaching, I make notes and presentation. I’m just constantly writing unless I’m talking or teaching somebody. Just getting up and walking away from the computer and making lunch, going for a walk, listening to a podcast, on my lunch breaks I watch YouTube videos that are unrelated to marketing just to give your brain a break from the task at hand and that really helps me get back on track. Especially with writing, sometimes you’re trying to cover a topic and maybe the topic is dense or you’re having a hard time explaining in a really succinct way. Walking away really helps clear my mind and that’s been hard for me to do. Sometimes, I’m like, “I don’t want to get up unless this blog post is done.” If you’re having issues with it, stand up and give yourself a break. That’s been really helpful when I get off track or I feel like I’m spiralling around with the same exact problem over time.

Just getting up and walking away from the computer ...

.Nathan: I think a big part of focus is your idea behind prioritization. We had a really great conversation the last time we chatted about saying no to things. I was wondering if you could dive into that just a little bit. Why is saying no to certain kinds of works or projects important for you?

Brian: Saying no allows you to craft the type of work you want to do, the type of business I want to have, the work that I’ll be truly proud of. I’m in a lucky situation as a marketer, I use marketing to try leads clients and different opportunities my way and that’s great. I love it that way. That way, I can say yes and no to things but if I said yes to everything, I will be letting other businesses, other people dictate what kind of work I’m doing, what type of clients I’m taking on. By saying no to commitments that come your way, you free yourself up to take on the commitments that excite you, that drive money. Money is in the bank. That give you the exposure you want. The level of clients you’re looking for. If you say yes to everything, you will get booked up doing stuff that is like sea level stuff and then an A level opportunity comes your way and you don’t have the bandwidth and that’s no good. I try to say no so that I can make sure that everything I’m doing, I’m proud of, I’m excited about.

I think about a couple of things and I think about, okay, when I’m having opportunity come my way whether it’s being on a podcast, whether it’s writing an article for a new client, whatever it may be, I think about the time commitment. I think about is this a paid opportunity? Is this an opportunity for exposure for me and the business? Is this something to help a friend, help a colleague, help someone in my network that I like and enjoy or we have an existing relationship? Or is this something that’s just fun and exciting? An opportunity doesn’t have to have all those things but those are all things I’m considering if I’m tethering around. Okay, yes, this is something I’m interested in but I may not have the time or I can’t tell if this is a commitment I want to dive in to. Those are the kinds of things that I’m culling through when I’m trying to figure out to say yes or no to something.

Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. All these frameworks I’m talking about, there is no perfect formula. Sometimes, there are things that I really want to do and I do them anyway, even if I don’t have the time. It’s a cool opportunity and it’s hard to pass by. The downside there is just it’s going to eat into my time outside of working hours, which is okay at times but I’m much better at it now than I was two years ago. Night and day, especially in the beginning year of my business, I would take on almost anyone that would come my way to just to build up client base and everything and trying to continue to scale. I’ve been lucky enough to find what works and say no to the things that keep you at a certain level and say yes to the things that will help me keep moving on. I’m still always working at it but it’s getting a lot better. I highly recommend start saying no to things, you’ll have a far more control over what you’re doing. It’s more of an active versus a passive approach to business, I would say.

Say no to things that keep you on a certain level

Nathan: I think all these frameworks that you’re sharing have helped you focus and it shows in the work that you do. You were talking about wanting to be happy and I think people who love what they do produce exceptional work. That’s the reason why I’m talking to you today because your work has definitely caught my eye. You’re on the right path.

Brian: Thanks, Nathan.

Nathan: Brian, I want to circle back to the amount of content that you publish for your clients, your personal brand, and your business. Something I hear all too often from marketers at consulting businesses and agencies that focus on client work is that sometimes they neglect their own marketing for their own businesses but this is something that you do extremely well especially with minimum resources. I was wondering if you could explain why is it important for an agency or consultancy to publish content consistently for their own channels?

Brian: Basically, because they need to illustrate the advice that they’re giving to their clients in their own work. It’s showing versus telling. There are many businesses and agencies that get away with it, that don’t walk the talk. They’ll do one thing for their clients but not for themselves. They don’t have enough time or resources and I get it, but I think it holds them back from a certain caliber of clients, a certain types of projects they’d be excited about a big or small agency, a big or small consulting firm.

That’s something I look to when I worked with other partners. From having a website designed and I go to the designer’s website and if their website isn’t up to par, that’s not going to convince that they’re going to do a wonderful job on my site or whatever sites I’m looking to have built. The same goes for a marketer. If you’re working with a content marketing agency, you’re working with a PR firm and they’re not illustrating clearly what they’ve done in the space either through their own promotion or very visibly promoting what they’ve done for clients, then how are you supposed to know the caliber of their work? I’m a big proponent of action. Showing what you’re capable of as opposed to just talking about it. You certainly have to talk about it and frame it and provide context, but I think it’s important to give clients insight into how you’re thinking about the type of work you’re going to offer to them.

I think that’s something CoSchedule does really well. One of the reasons I paid attention more so than other tools is that your blog, your video series, your overall approach to marketing as a marketing tool, is really strong. It shows that you get it. It illustrates that, you as a service provider, understand marketing enough to do it for yourself and to get results.

That’s takeaway. It’s that I can talk about how great of a marketer I think I am all day but what really helps me succeed is that someone can go read an article of mine, or go read a white paper, or whatever and understand how I think about marketing, understand and see my ideas and action and see if it aligns with them. Like I think I’m doing the right thing but maybe my approach isn’t right for all clients. I know that’s true. Not every client is going to want to work with me and that’s okay. It’ll be quicker and easier for both of us if they learned that just from seeing my content, seeing the messaging I’m putting out there.

It’s about making sure your thought process, your perspective of the industry is out there and clear. I don’t think other organizations are neglecting it purposely. I just think there’s a little bit of time in a day and that’s actually something I do for a couple of clients, is help them better scale up their own marketing so that they can focus on clients. It’s a hard problem. There’s a whole, what’s the saying? The cobbler’s children have the worst shoes or whatever. It’s a matter of resources and try to make it a priority. I think it should be such a priority. When I look at a partner, look at an agency, I consider their understanding of the space by how well they show they get it, put their advice into action.

Nathan: Something that I want to ask you, just for our last question. We’re wrapping this up. Our whole topic here has been about focusing, productivity, efficiency. I was wondering if we could wrap this up by asking you what’s your best advice for a marketer who’s looking to boost their productivity?

Brian: Two things. One, I’ve touched on this before with focusing on five things a day. I would say overall, as a marketer, try to take on fewer things. There are so many bells and whistles, all these sexy news, social channels, a new strategy you should be implementing. It’s true, you need to be staying up to date on the latest trends and making sure your organization is top of mind with the people you’re trying to reach. That requires constant experimentation and all that kind of good stuff but I think there’s this underlying pressure to be everywhere, to do everything. I need to be on Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook. I need to be blogging and podcasting and doing a video series and whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s exhausting. Maybe if you’re Red Bull, that’s great. You can handle that, you have the resources but to be more productive as a marketer, I think you need to take on fewer things and dive deep into them and make them something you’re really proud of, something that drives results.

If you want to try other things, you want to expand to other areas, that’s fantastic. You need to as a marketer. I would say take small risks, take little steps towards trying out that new channel or a new way of reaching your customers but try not to do it all haphazardly. I would say, take on fewer things.

Second thing, I know you asked for one but I’m going to break the script. I think you should let your competition fuel you instead of anger you. Your competition, you should pay attention to, but as a marketer, I think you should instead of saying “Wow, they’re everywhere, we need to be everywhere.” Instead of copycatting them, instead of trying to chase after what your most successful competitor is doing which is a common thing that happens especially in the marketing space, I would recommend letting them fuel you. Take your admiration for what they’re doing and let it excite you. Try to break down what they’re doing, reverse engineer. How are they possibly active on XYZ channel? How many people actually work there? Try to understand the process and then emulate what they’re doing then thrive forward with that new channel or that new marketing strategy. I see a lot of copycatting in a sense that’s like, “That worked for that company, let’s all do it and run towards it at 60 miles an hour.” I think competition should fuel you, but it shouldn’t be your only direction. You should see what they’re doing, reverse engineer it and add your own spin to it to see how it works for your organization, for your situation.

Nathan: Alright, Brian. I think that’s awesome advice and a really great place to end this. I want to say thanks a lot for being on the podcast!

Brian: Thank you! I appreciate it.

Nathan: This year, the demand generation team at CoSchedule has a goal to increase the amount of content we publish. We’ve already hit at some stakes and growing pains here and there. We borrowed some of Brian’s advice and started estimating how long it takes to create some of our content in each phase of the process. It’s really helped us realistically look at how much content we can publish with our current resources. That has helped us understand when we need to add new team members to help us scale even further.

I want to send Brian a big thank you for sharing his advice on this episode. It was awesome. Thank you so much. I also want to say thank you to you too for listening again.

You just heard from Brian Honigman. He’s a CEO at Honigman Media. If you want to learn more, you can catch this episode’s show notes and transcript at coschedule.com/podcast. When you start scaling the amount of content you publish, don’t forget to check out CoSchedule. You get 30 free days when you sign up at coschedule.com/actionable. That exclusive offer is only available to podcast listeners like you, so definitely take advantage of it. That’s 30 free days of CoSchedule. Sign up now at coschedule.com/actionable.

Alright friends, I’m Nathan from CoSchedule and I will catch you on the next episode.

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