The Best Way to Plan and Organize Marketing Tasks With Checklists
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How many marketing tasks do you work on that are actually important?
This is a bigger question than it might seem at first. If you’re like most marketers, you likely feel busy all the time, racing from one project to the next. When performance is measured based on activity rather than results, this problem is exacerbated, leading to lots of low-value work.
To make matters worse, keeping all that work planned and organized isn’t easy. When chaos rules the day, you end up feeling out of control and left to the whims of those around you, taking on whatever work you are assigned.
Picture this, though: what if you actually planned all your marketing tasks in advance? You’d get more work done, and you’d make sure that work was the most important thing you could have spent your time on.
DOWNLOAD: Marketing Task Checklist + State of Marketing Management Report
Turn tasks into consistent workflows with this simple marketing task checklist template. Then, read the rest of the post to learn how to put it into practice (it might seem simple, but there’s a little more work involved that what might be immediately apparent).
Plus, get a copy of CoSchedule’s 2019 State of Marketing Management Report. It’s packed with statistics to help guide your strategy and understand how successful teams manage marketing work:
First Off, What do we Mean by Marketing Tasks?
In a marketing context, tasks can be considered one of two different things:
- A project that needs to be completed. For example, you might be tasked with writing a blog post, producing a report, etc.
- Or a single step within a project. You might consider a project to be a list of tasks to complete. For example, writing an outline might be the first task in writing a blog post.
For the sake of clarity and ease of applying the advice in this post, we’ll explain how to tackle tasks using either definition.
What’s the Upside Behind Organizing Your Tasks?
Managing tasks is a function of managing marketing work, and statistics show this is an area where investment has considerable upside. Check out these statistics (accurate as of 2019):
- Organized marketers are 397% more likely to report success.
- Marketers that proactively plan projects and campaigns are 356% more likely to report success.
- Agile marketers are 252% more likely to report success as well.
Taken together, there are a few clear takeaways:
- Organized marketers are more effective marketers.
- Managing workflows and planning tasks involved in executing projects is key to success.
- The time you spend on this can make a large impact on results.
Start By Identifying Tasks You Work On Routinely
First, lay out every high-level task you regularly take on. These are the types of tasks and projects that make up the bulk of your work. Here are some common examples:
- Copywriting (landing pages, ads, etc.).
- Content writing (blog posts, social campaigns, email newsletters, ebooks, etc.).
- Content analysis and preparing reports.
- Campaign concepting and planning.
- Research projects.
These are some generic examples, but you understand the point. For every type of task or project you’re responsible for, you’ll want to map out a consistent series of tasks or steps that are required to complete it.
Next, List All Your Current Steps Per Project Type
And that’s exactly what you’ll do next. Figuring out what needs to be done to complete a project can help you identify which tasks are vital (and which are unnecessary) and build consistency into your workflows.
In order to do this, think hard and start from the beginning. Here’s a hypothetical example of what you might need to do when writing a blog post:
- Perform keyword research.
- Do topical research.
- Write 20-25 headline options.
- Write an outline.
- Write an introduction.
- Write the body content.
- Write conclusion.
- Design visual content.
- Add downloadable content.
- Proofread and copy edit post.
- Format post content for on-page SEO.
When you’ve executed a process enough times (whether that’s writing a blog post or something else), you start to roughly understand how long each step in that process takes. But accurately estimating time for marketing tasks can still be difficult. So, what’s the solution?
Try tracking your time using a time-tracking app. Toggl and Harvest are two quality options. The way they work is simple: press start to begin tracking time when you start a step, and then press pause when you take a break or wrap it up.
Then, track your time for how long all those steps take all together. You can do this with a simple spreadsheet that looks something like this:
It doesn’t need to be anything complicated. Just list your projects and how much time you spent on each one. Two columns should be enough to serve this purpose (and the easier you make things, the more likely you are to actually stick with it). In the future, this will help you understand how long they take more accurately.
Determine Which Steps and Tasks Are Necessary (and Which Ones Aren’t)
When you work through this process, you might discover you’re spending time on tasks that aren’t necessary, or things that you might be able to do better another way.
When in doubt, ask yourself a few questions:
- Could I complete this project without following this step? If so, cut it out.
- Can this step be consolidated into another step? This might make writing your checklist more simple and easy to follow.
- If a step seems to take too long, are there ways I can make it more efficient? This is an open-ended question, but it’s worth thinking about why tasks might take too long.
This will help you narrow down the steps in each process down to the ones that are most essential.
Assigning and Delegating Tasks
In the previous section, you’re asked to assign tasks to each team member involved in the process. Here’s an example of what the blog post checklist mentioned earlier might look like with assignees added:
- Perform keyword research (SEO Strategist)
- Do topical research. (Content Strategist)
- Write 20-25 headline options (Content Writer)
- Write an outline (Content Writer)
- Write an introduction (Content Writer)
- Write the body content (Content Writer)
- Write conclusion (Content Writer)
- Design visual content (Graphic Designer)
- Add downloadable content (Graphic Designer / Content Writer)
- Proofread and copy edit post (Content Editor).
- Format post content for on-page SEO (SEO Strategist).
Determining Who Does What (When it’s Not Clear)
In some cases, it might be obvious who in your department is responsible for a certain task or step. In others, But what do you do when it’s not clear, and what do you do about tasks that can be delegated?
How you delegate tasks will depend on your team’s structure, which roles you have on staff, and your number of marketing employees. While this makes it difficult to generalize who might do what at different levels of seniority, a basic hierarchy of responsibility might look like this:
However, this simple, traditional breakdown of responsibility isn’t without problems. A better way to structure and delegate tasks is to align team member’s strengths and experiences with the most impactful tasks they’re capable of taking on.
Adding Time Estimates for Tasks
Now, for each task in the checklist, you’ll need to add a time estimate. This will help determine how deadlines are applied when you start mapping out tasks in your work management or project management software.
Let’s go back to the blog post example and see what this looks like with hypothetical time estimates added:
- Perform keyword research (SEO Strategist): 1 Hour
- Do topical research. (Content Strategist): 3 Hour
- Write 20-25 headline options (Content Writer): 1 Hour
- Write an outline (Content Writer): 1 Hour
- Write an introduction (Content Writer): 30 Minutes
- Write the body content (Content Writer): 2 Hours
- Write conclusion (Content Writer): 30 Minutes
- Design visual content (Graphic Designer): 4 Hours
- Add downloadable content (Graphic Designer / Content Writer): 30 Minutes
- Proofread and copy edit post (Content Editor): 2 Hours
- Format post content for on-page SEO (SEO Strategist): 1 Hour
Determining Task Deadlines
That makes clear how long each task will take. However, since this one project may not be the only thing each team member is working on, that doesn’t necessarily mean steps will be completed at the exact time the previous one is finished.
So, you’ll need to use those time estimates to map out realistic deadlines for everyone on the project. That way, people will know not only how much time in their day to allocate to the project, but also which day of the week their tasks are due.
Here’s that same blog post example one more time, with deadlines added relative to when the blog post will publish:
- Perform keyword research (SEO Strategist): 30 Days Before Publish
- Do topical research. (Content Strategist): 27 Days Before Publish
- Write 20-25 headline options (Content Writer): 25 Days Before Publish
- Write an outline (Content Writer): 25 Days Before Publish
- Write an introduction (Content Writer): 25 Days Before Publish
- Write the body content (Content Writer): 25 Days Before Publish
- Write conclusion (Content Writer): 25 Days Before Publish
- Design visual content (Graphic Designer): 18 Days Before Publish
- Add downloadable content (Graphic Designer / Content Writer): 18 Days Before Publish
- Proofread and copy edit post (Content Editor): 16 Days Before Publish
- Format post content for on-page SEO (SEO Strategist): 15 Days Before Publish
This task timeline gets all the work done with a full two weeks of lead time in case something comes up (something always comes up) and progress gets derailed. You can set this any way that makes sense for you.
Another way to set task deadlines is to start with when work begins, and then move forward from there (rather than working backward from a publishing or shipping deadline). Here’s an example of what this might look like:
- Perform keyword research (SEO Strategist): Project Start
- Do topical research. (Content Strategist): Three Days After Start
- Write 20-25 headline options (Content Writer): Five Days After Start
- Write an outline (Content Writer): Five Days After Start
- Write an introduction (Content Writer): Five Days After Start
- Write the body content (Content Writer): Five Days After Start
- Write conclusion (Content Writer): Five Days After Start
- Design visual content (Graphic Designer): 12 Days After Start
- Add downloadable content (Graphic Designer / Content Writer): 12 Days After Start
- Proofread and copy edit post (Content Editor): 14 Days After Start
- Format post content for on-page SEO (SEO Strategist): 15 Days After Start
This takes effectively the same amount of time, but it offers another way of thinking about how task deadlines are applied to the checklist.
Then, Organize Tasks Into Checklists
Once you have your tasks mapped out, it’s time to build them into actual checklists, with time estimates and deadlines attached to each task.
At this point, you might wonder why checklists are important. And the answer is simple: they work. Here’s Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto, explaining how effective they are for ensuring work gets completed right the first time, every time (using surgery as an example):
If they’re good enough for doctors and surgeons, then they’re good enough for marketers.
There are a lot of different ways you can create checklists:
- Using Evernote (integrates with CoSchedule).
- With the Excel-based checklist template included in this post.
- Or using Task Templates in CoSchedule (this is a feature that makes building checklists and automating workflows easy).
Take a look at this screenshot of the template this post includes:
You’ll note a few different columns here:
- Step: The work that needs to be done.
- Team Member: The person who will get it done.
- Deadline: When it needs to be done (this is where your time estimates help).
If you upload this template into Google Sheets of Excel (using Office 365), you can use the checklist with an entire team so everyone can see when things are getting done.
Creating Task Templates in CoSchedule
That’s a high-level overview of how checklists work in CoSchedule with Task Templates. Let’s try setting up a Task Template from start to finish (if you’re using the downloadable template, Evernote, or something else, this will still be helpful—just set up the equivalent information in the tool you’re using).
Alternately, with Task Templates in CoSchedule, you can create checklist templates that are easy to set up, and manage your task workflows easily within one marketing software suite.
Here’s what a project looks like within CoSchedule. You can create a new project by clicking a day on your calendar:
Or by clicking Create on the Kanban Project Dashboard:
Once inside a project, on the right, you can see the button to see your list of saved Task Templates (or you can create a new one, or duplicate an existing one).
When you click Create New, you’ll be given the option to create a Task Template with dates relative to the project start date, or the project ship date:
Give your Task Template a name:
And add tasks, schedule due dates, and add assignees to each step:
Continue until you’ve created an entire checklist with every task, deadline, and assignee in the process.
Then, when you add projects into CoSchedule, you can apply the appropriate Task Template to keep your task management consistent. Next, once a task template is applied, checking off tasks as complete drives up the completion percentage:
And you can use Team Performance Reports to see which team members are completing tasks on time (and who might be falling behind). This report is populated every time a task is checked complete.
You can see both on-time completion rate team-wide at a high level:
And you can see how each individual team member is performing too:
You’re Ready to Manage Marketing Tasks
By taking the time to plan and organize all your marketing tasks, you can make managing work much easier, and stop feeling like you’re just responding to work requests all day. When you actually take control of how those tasks get completed, you can ensure they’re done the right way every time, more work gets done more easily, and ultimately, you achieve more success with less stress.
October 16, 2019