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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.
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:
In a marketing context, tasks can be considered one of two different things:
For the sake of clarity and ease of applying the advice in this post, we’ll explain how to tackle tasks using either definition.
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):
Taken together, there are a few clear takeaways:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
This will help you narrow down the steps in each process down to the ones that are most essential.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
This takes effectively the same amount of time, but it offers another way of thinking about how task deadlines are applied to the checklist.
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:
Take a look at this screenshot of the template this post includes:
You’ll note a few different columns here:
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.
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:
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.
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