Ever had one of those weeks when it feels like you’ll never be able to read all of your emails or get the projects on your to-do list finished?
I think we’ve all been there.
If it offers any solace, though, there are tons of busy editors and content managers around the Internet who deal with huge amounts of email traffic and content planning every single day and—somehow—manage to stay on top of it all.
If you want to rehash your productivity plan and take your editorial efficiency to the next level, here are a few tips from a few very busy content editors to inspire and advise you. I emailed a variety of online editors and content managers and asked them the following question:
Here’s what they said:
1. “Do Or Do Not. There Is No Try.”
Erin Falconer, Editor-in-Chief for Pick The Brain
“My rule of thumb is write it down. It’s so easy to say you’ll finish this, or start that and then forget about it.
Writing it down holds you accountable to each task: You either did and can cross it off the list, or you did not. To quote a great philosopher on productivity: ‘Do or do not. There is no try’ —Yoda.”
2. Plan Your Day: Always Have Something To Do
Brian Crecente, News Editor for Polygon
“My productivity habits were born out of necessity. When I first started blogging professionally, it was with Gawker’s Kotaku. They hired me as the editor in chief, and I already was working a full-time job as a night police reporter at one of Denver’s daily newspapers. Oh, and my wife had just had our first son.
What I discovered, as I fought to keep my head above water in those early days, is that I (and I don’t think I’m alone) waste a lot of time even when I don’t think I do.
I found my biggest waste of time was due to procrastination, and thinking about how much stuff I had to do, and what I should work on first. Here’s how I solved those problems:
- I have a daily calendar on my desk. Every evening I fill the box for the next day with all of the things I want or need to accomplish that day. I take great satisfaction in crossing out those items or even clearing the list.
- Whenever I’m confronted by a complex task, I break it down into lists in a second book I keep. Then I methodically work through those lists.
- Always have something—no matter how small—to work on. This goes back to all of those lists I make. If I’m really having trouble starting on one thing, I move over to the next.
- Don’t multitask unless you can multitask. I’m a good multitasker, but that’s because I know my limits—when doing multiple things at once makes sense and when it doesn’t. I can’t write a long feature and listen to a live-stream at the same time. I can read and edit stories, write short pieces, and sort through and answer my emails—all while walking on my treadmill (thanks to an attached desk). I’m doing that right now.
- Take breaks. I’m really bad at this, but finding a balanced work and personal life ends up helping you and your business in the long run. I find that when I’m running on that perfect mix of on and off time, I’m much more productive, creative, and most importantly, happy.”
3. Keep Track Of Your Inspiration
Jami Oetting, Content Strategist for HubSpot’s Agency Post
“Gmail (multiple inboxes is a lifesaver), Evernote, a plain text editor—these rule my day-to-day productivity.
However, the most useful hack I use is a plain notecard. I read A LOT. By writing down memorable quotes, stories, and facts from every book I read, I have a great library of information to pull from for blog posts. It makes my job easier and my writing that much more inspired.”
4. Prioritize Your Tasks By Time, ROI, And Upkeep
Matt Brandt, Content Editor for CJ Pony Parts
“One of the keys to successful website content management is prioritization. Focusing on the projects that are most timely, or will give us the biggest bang for our buck are always the highest priority, followed by the general content creation/editing that always needs attention on a website of our size.
With these strategies and a lot of teamwork to tackle projects quickly and effectively, we’ve built a site that’s a leader in the Mustang parts industry.”
5. Be Realistic With Your Time
Jory MacKay, Editor for PickCrew
“While I would by no means consider myself a productivity expert (hell, most of the time I feel like I’m sprinting with a blindfold on) one thing that has become very important to me lately is to be realistic about how much time each task is going to take.
By limiting my to-do list each day and allotting extra time for each task I’m more likely to get through everything that is urgent and end up feeling more accomplished at the end of the day. In turn, I sleep better, feel more relaxed, and have more time to read, write for pleasure, and be more creative in general.
It’s no get-up-at-4am-and-write tip but I feel like perceived productivity can be more important than actual productivity for both your personal and professional life.”
6. Add Your Tasks On A Calendar
Owen Thomas, Editor-in-Chief for ReadWrite
“As an editorial manager, it’s easy for my time to get consumed with little tasks involved with running ReadWrite. So when I really need to buckle down and get a story written or edited, I put it on my calendar.
This blocks off the time and prevents others from booking meetings, but it also reminds me of the commitment I’ve made to get something done.
If you don’t have enough time on your calendar, then you’ve got a problem—and this will force you to reschedule or rethink your other commitments. Either way, you’ve got a realistic path to getting everything you want to do done.”
7. Do The Right Things At The Right Time By Understanding Your Energy
Jessica Lawlor, Features Editor for Muck Rack
“I swear by energy management! Productivity books, blog posts, articles, and experts talk about the importance of time management. And yes, while managing your time effectively is important, for me, it has really come down to energy management.
Energy management means maximizing your energy and the times of the day you’re most alert and creative to get your most pressing work done. It means prioritizing your day based on when your body and mind work best.
For example, I do my very best creative thinking and writing very early in the morning. That’s why I wake up at 5 a.m. each day to work on writing projects, blog posts, and editing. I try to avoid answering emails at this time because I like to use the couple of hours when I have the most energy to focus on my most pressing projects.
I find myself in a creative lull in the mid-late afternoon. Because I know that my body and mind are often worn out by 3 p.m., I try to schedule meetings or phone calls around this time. These activities force me to stay alert by interacting with others.
I get another burst of energy in the evening and this is usually when I’ll respond to emails, manage Muck Rack’s editorial calendar and format posts for publication.
Energy management has revolutionized the way I work and get things done—it feels like I’m adding hours to my day, when really, I’m just maximizing the times of the day I personally can get my best work done.”
8. If Tech Isn’t Always For You, Go Old School
Robert Brockway, Senior Editor for Cracked
“I’d be lost without my to-do lists and schedules. Fancy software, apps, and documents have never worked for me.
I use a straight up, old school notepad file, break everything down into steps that I can accomplish within a few hours each, and plan at least a week ahead. That way I can fool myself into thinking I’m never more than an hour or two away from a break, even if I don’t necessarily take those breaks.
If I don’t get to everything in a day, I can just shuffle a piece of a task to a later day or a weekend. It’s all psychological trickery, because my brain is stupid and I am constantly messing with that dumb sucker.”
9. If I Do One Thing Today, It Will Be…
Matt Pierce, Content Marketer for Aptitude
“As a content marketer working with various clients on a day to day basis, setting daily goals to help boost my productivity is key. Daily goals allow me to keep away from distractions and focus on what’s really important.”
10. Plan Ahead, Use Your Free Time, And Balance Work And Play
Ericka Goodman, Fashion Editor for Ebony Magazine
“First, every night before bed, I scan my personal and work email accounts. I reply to those that make take me no more than 1 minute, I forward the others to one account (which is normally my work email account unless its NSFW, which almost never happens), and I’ll know to answer those as soon as I get in to work in the morning.
When I arrive at work, unless I have an appointment or meeting, I am able to sort through and answer those emails that require a bit more time. This is normally the first 20–30 minutes of my work day, while everyone else is applying makeup, getting coffee, and etc. It’s my bit of free time to organize my day and email accounts.
Also, I really take my commute seriously. Those 20–35 minutes on the subway can make or break my day. I almost always download CNN or NPR to catch up on my news before the Wi-Fi signal goes out on the train, so I can stay abreast of the day’s happenings.
Then, if I have a story due I might draft an outline, write an intro to a story…right into the notes section of my iPhone. Alternatively, if I’ve just interviewed a subject, I’ll transcribe the chat while on the subway. I’ll just put on my headphones and type away into my notes app, then email it to myself so I can clean it up on a desktop. This would just be time wasted, so why not do something that will improve the quality of your workday?
Furthermore, I think it’s very important to keep an actual notebook on your desk. I jot down random thoughts during the day. Flesh out concepts. It’s great to not just read or type, but visualize an idea. There is something about actual ink to paper that makes an idea seem more permanent.
Lastly, I use that same notebook to make my daily to-do list. I start by drawing a line down the middle of the page, one side designated to personal tasks, the other work-related. I take the time to prioritize in my head before writing it down and number each task from 1 and up based on priority. I check them off as I go.
I make sure that my personal and work tasks are pretty much even. If you neglect your ‘real’ life, you’ll never create work/life balance, so I even put things on my personal task list like…..get new chicken recipe, schedule a nail appointment.
Again, it’s about writing it, visualizing and making it a concrete goal, just as you do for work.”
11. Define How You’ll Do Something Before Diving In
Michele Collu, Managing Editor for The Law Insider
“Having a defined process is my number one productivity hack. Before you start anything, you should always first come up with a standardized process. Whether it’s how you draft a certain type of post or how you prepare the layout and creative, the process is king.
When you don’t have a standardized process, you end up burning creative cycles on the mundane. Protect your creative energy. You only get so much of it each day.”
12. Tackle The Small Stuff First
Benjie Moss, Editor at WebdesignerDepot
“I always start my day with a list, which invariably grows as the day progresses. I use a pen and paper. I’ve tried plenty of apps, none of which worked for me.
I’ve developed a shorthand for prioritizing tasks based on urgency and complexity, and except when something requires immediate attention, I tackle the shortest tasks first. It’s a great motivator to focus not just on what you have to do, but on what you’ve already achieved.”
How Will You Increase Your Productivity?
The final takeaway from all this advice?: No one follows the exact same methods to stay productive and efficient. Find what works for you and make it your own.
Do you need to write things down like Benjie Moss or Jami Oetting? Or do you simply need to organize with to-do lists and schedules like Owen Thomas or Brian Crecente?
Whatever you do to stay productive, do it with passion and purpose and I’m sure your editorial calendar will be even more efficient in 2015.