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As content marketers and bloggers, we all feel like we could use some better time management strategies from time to time.
In fact, one of the biggest takeaways we learned from our 2016 Better Marketer Survey is that our readers are short on time.
As we dug deeper into the data, it wasn’t hard to see why. Most of our audience is working alone or with a small team, and usually without all the resources required to create all the content they need. The majority of respondents are also fairly new to content marketing and blogging, with 63% reporting they have two years of experience or less.
Put that all together, and it sounds like a recipe for burnout.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, however, there are ways you can get in control to tilt the odds for success back into your favor. By optimizing your workflow, leveraging the right tools, and learning to focus on the tasks where you can make the most impact, you can make your life as a content marketer less stressful and more satisfying while increasing your productivity.
Here are 101 marketing time management strategies to help you better manage your time, work more efficiently, and get back in control of your content.
Table Of Contents
When planning your content strategy with limited time, ask “what is the minimum amount of resources and effort each project will take to be successful?” This isn’t the same as cutting corners, however.
Think of this process as a way to mentally cut your content down to what’s most essential, and leave anything that isn’t critical to your success on the cutting room floor.
Instead of creating completely fresh content every time you sit down to write a post, consider identifying older content you can potentially update and refresh.
To do this, use Google Analytics to find your top performing posts.
Then, search the primary keyword for each post and see what content is currently ranking on the first page of Google. If those posts have newer or more relevant content than your own post, double down on revising your posts to be even better than theirs. Then, republish it as a new post, or an updated version of the original.
This strategy can help you save time by leveraging what you already have, rather than having to come up with something new from scratch. Plus, it can also be a good way to get more mileage out of posts you know already resonate with your audience.
Recommended Reading: How To Breathe New Life Into Old Blog Posts
Identify influential sources in your niche you can lean on for content curation and put them into a list you can refer back to later.
That way, you won’t have to hunt for sources later.
Use Google Trends to quickly gauge searcher interest in a given topic. It’s a free and easy-to-use tool that shows how frequently a given topic is getting searched, which is extremely helpful for validating the worth of your content ideas.
If you’re ready to move up to a paid tool, BuzzSumo is a handy tool for surfacing the top performing content on a given topic. It can help you not only determine what’s popular, but also show you what kind of competition you’re up against.
While it’s primarily a PPC tool, Google’s own Keyword Planner needs to be mentioned here as well. It’s useful for both generating keyword ideas as well as estimating the potential search traffic they could deliver to your post.
Manually review the most recent posts from your top competitors blogs and websites. Look at what they’re doing to get an idea of what topics are hot at the moment. Keep your eyes open for new information that you could add to a post, that no one else has (yet).
Use Feedly to quickly keep tabs on recent news and blog posts. It’s similar to what Google Reader used to be, pulling the latest posts from different sources you find in one place for easy reading.
Brainstorm (with a time limit).
Have your team write down as many ideas as they can think of in five minutes. Put them on notecards and then post them on a board. Go through them all and rank each idea a 1 (so-so) to 3 (brilliant). Discard anything that is not a unanimous 3. This process can easily yield dozens of strong ideas in under an hour.
Recommended Reading: 4 Simple Brainstorming Techniques That Will Help You Write Killer Content
Inspiration can come anywhere and at any time, so make a habit of recording your ideas whenever they pop into your head.
Use a voice recorder or note-taking app on your phone, or consider carrying around a notepad in your work bag.
Subscribe to quality industry email newsletters. Following thought leaders in your niche is a lot easier when you’re getting their latest information sent directly to your inbox.
Use internal site search analytics to see what people are looking for on your site or blog. This can be a fast way to identify gaps in your content (if people are looking to you for something you don’t have content for, then you know it’s time to get to work).
Turn wasted time into productive time by using your phone to research while waiting in shopping lines, riding public transit, or anywhere else you find yourself waiting (and when and where it’s acceptable to use your phone).
Listen to audiobooks related to your professional development on your commute instead of music or the radio. You’ll pick up information you can then put to use when you get to the office.
Use data from Google Analytics to predict success and avoid wasted time on things that won’t work.
For example, if you notice that several posts on a given topic aren’t performing well, consider whether the issue is the quality of your content, or the possibility that the topic simply doesn’t have an audience. If you know certain topics resonate with your readers and you have the data to prove it create more content like that.
Maintain a list of content ideas you can pull from in the future. Keep it in a Google Doc, spreadsheet, or Evernote doc that your entire team can access and edit. Then when it comes time to write a post, you can just pull an idea off the list instead of wasting time wondering what to write about.
Use a shared Google Calendar to make sure everyone on your team has visibility on meeting times, events, out-of-office requests, and so forth.
Establish a consistent naming convention for saving files. This can make finding things later much easier.
Recommended Reading: How To Rock A Content Development Process That Will Save You Tons Of Time
Group similar projects together and knock them out all in a row as sprints. For example, list all the steps required to write one blog post. Then, run through them starting at the top.
Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 principle is the idea that 80% of your output will come from 20% of your effort. To leverage this for your work, start by eliminating or delegating menial non-essential tasks that don’t directly impact results. The more you focus on things that directly affect productivity, you’ll get more done with less effort.
Prioritize projects and only take on the ones that are within the scope of your resources and stand a reasonable shot at success.
Set progress goals for every project and stick to them. They’ll keep you focused on your end result and help you build discipline.
A picture is worth a thousand words. If you need to suggest design edits, sometimes sending screenshots is the best way to go. Use a tool like Skitch, SnagIt, iAt Home, or Awesome Screenshot to take screen captures with notes and arrows.
If someone else can do a task 80% as well as you can, and you don’t have time to do it yourself, consider handing it off to another team member (so long as they do have time).
Ask for help before you’ve wasted too much time trying to figure something out on your own. There’s something to be said for showing initiative and trying to learn things yourself, but if you know that someone on your team already has that knowledge, just ask. You’ll get more done that way.
Make sure everyone knows where to access files and documents your team will use. This sounds basic, but if you’re using multiple resources to store files, you’d be surprised how easy it is for things to get out of control if your team doesn’t know what goes where.
Establish consistent workflows to save time wondering what each person should be doing at each step of a project.
To do this:
By the time you’re done, you’ll have an effective workflow template you can follow on similar projects in the future, refining the process as you discover what works and what doesn’t.
Schedule regular touch-point meetings and stick to them. This removes excuses for not having time to communicate, or for team members not sharing vital information.
Create an outline for every blog post. Knowing the structure of your post will help you write it quicker and create more focused content.
Think less is more. If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to create too many posts, try putting more effort into fewer posts. Sometimes having greater focus on fewer things can help rein in some of that stress.
Recommended Reading: How To Blog With As Little As Possible
Don’t cut corners on quality, but do avoid chasing perfection. There will always be things you want to change, so focus on shipping and know when to call your work finished.
Edit your own work first before passing anything off to a proofreader or copy editor. It’ll help save them time and better endear you to staying on their good side.
Break down long-form pieces into smaller chunks and work on one section at a time. This can help you work faster by focusing on smaller portions of the overall post, instead of getting overwhelmed by the full scope of your idea.
Deadlines. Set them and meet them. Don’t let your work stretch to fill an excessive amount of time.
Don’t have time to do everything yourself? Consider hiring freelance help if you can.
Leverage internal experts within your organization. If you’re working in-house with a business, get buy-in from other team members with unique expertise who may be able to help contribute blog posts.
Block off focused and uninterrupted time to write. Distraction-free word processors like FocusWriter or WriteBox can be useful if you really want to get serious about eliminating distractions. This way, you can get more writing done quickly without getting sidetracked.
Don’t waste time worrying about hitting specified word counts (unless you’re working with an editor or manager who is adamant about a specific word count).
The right length for your post is however long it takes to write a full and comprehensive piece of content on your topic. Usually, that’s going to mean a substantial length (1,500+ words), but not always.
Consider accepting unsolicited reader submissions or create a section where readers can write their own blog posts on your blog (this will not necessarily work nor be appropriate for every blog). Moz’s YouMoz Blog is a great example of how to do this well.
Having some extra help from reputable contributors can make it much easier to get authoritative content on your blog with less effort from your own team.
Want to know if your writing sucks? The Hemingway app will let you know, and help you identify ways you can make your writing clearer. It’s available for both Mac and PC, and is worth its $10 price tag, especially if you don’t have an actual copy editor or proofreader.
Use a tool like CoSchedule to schedule your blog publishing and associated social media content ahead of time. Is this a shameless plug? Absolutely, but there’s a reason why we build our product. (If you haven’t tried it yet, get your 14-day free trial here.)
Use the Headline Analyzer to quickly write and score headlines. This makes it easy to write lots of headlines fast and choose the best option.
Use the skyscraper technique to quickly identify top performing competitor content you can improve on.
This simply involves looking at the top-ranking content on your given topic or keyword, identifying what those posts are missing, and then making sure your own content fills those gaps. That could mean including information those other posts are missing, or different types of content they lack (for example, embedded videos or infographics).
Repurpose content from your blog posts for other content. Borrow blog post copy for your email newsletter. Turn several related blog posts into an ebook. These are just a couple ideas, but if you need more inspiration, here’s over 50 ideas for repurposing content.
Don’t have access to Photoshop? Or, does your team lack a dedicated graphic designer? In either case, tools like Canva, Infogr.am, and Piktochart make it easy to create high-quality images and infographics you can use for your content.
While the above tools are definitely useful, sometimes you really need dedicated design and image manipulation software to get the job done right. If cost is the only thing stopping you from investing in Photoshop, consider GIMP. It’s a free and open-source alternative to Photoshop that, while lacking certain features, still packs an incredible amount of power.
This isn’t necessarily a time-saving tool, per se, but if you’ve been putting off creating graphics because you don’t have budget for the right tool, now is the time to stop wasting time with excuses and start getting down to work (the payoffs for having quality graphics are worth it in the long run).
Don’t forget that one graphic can potentially be used multiple places. For example, try remaking blog header graphics in multiple sizes for email newsletters and social media posts. If you have certain graphic elements you use frequently, consider storing them all in one place where they can easily be accessed.
Learn Photoshop keyboard shortcuts. The time you spend internalizing them into your workflow will save you tons of time in the long run.
Create your own Photoshop templates for common image sizes and formats you know you’ll be using often, or find downloadable templates online (a quick Google search should yield plenty of options).
If you’re a writer or blogger working with a graphic designer, give them an idea of what you want for graphics before they get started. This can help avoid confusion and having to redo images when the results don’t match expectations.
For graphic designers, this same advice applies in reverse. Ask your writer what they want up front. Even if they can’t quite communicate exactly what they’re looking for, opening up the discussion early in the collaborative process can be an immense time saver later on.
If you’re using WordPress, use the Yoast plugin to quickly check your on-page SEO and make sure your title tags and meta descriptions are well written.
If you have a budget, use a dedicated SEO software platform to manage your search engine optimization efforts. Moz and Raven Tools are both affordably priced and fully featured options that will cover most of your bases. Backlink tools like Majestic and Ahrefs are well worth a look as well. The benefits to using these services are that they keep your data stored in one place and make performing SEO tasks much quicker, easier, and more effective.
If local SEO has any relevance to your business (meaning, if you have a brick-and-mortar location and rely on search to drive foot traffic), Whitespark and Moz Local are two great tools to help speed up a lot of menial tasks that can otherwise eat up valuable hours of your time.
Fixing broken links on your blog or website can be time-consuming. However, it helps to pay attention to them and get them fixed as an ongoing practice, rather than letting them accumulate and having to fix a ton of them all at once. Use Screaming Frog to quickly crawl your site and identify URLs that return a 404 status code.
Manage all your social media accounts with one tool. CoSchedule, Hootsuite, and Buffer are all valid options for this task. By logging into one dashboard instead of multiple sign-in pages each time you want to schedule social media updates, you can easily save an enormous amount of time.
Automate (some) of your social media content. You’ll want to continue adding a personal touch to your social media posts, but filling your social queues with pre-scheduled content can help you maintain a consistent presence with less active effort and attention.
Get rid of platforms that aren’t working. Focus more effort on fewer channels. You’ll likely be less stressed and more successful.
Use IFTTT to automate recurring tasks. It’s a cool tool that uses “recipes” to automate processes (and has applications that go way beyond just social media). Here’s a good video tutorial on how it works:
Get an email from someone and want quick access to their social profiles? Use Rapportive. It’s quicker and easier than manually searching for their Twitter handle.
Use Tomoson to find influencers and brands who might be interested in your product or service. Rather than manually searching for experts on a given topic, it can make finding prospects for this kind of social media outreach quicker and more effective.
Eliminate distractions from your personal social media when you’re working. You’d be surprised how much time you might be wasting checking your Facebook updates or Twitter stream.
Expedite social media response times. If you don’t have the time or energy to write up a thoughtful response to a social media post, sometimes a simple “Thanks for reading!” is enough to let someone know you’ve heard their feedback.
Try writing a few different versions of a single post. Then, schedule those posts out throughout the week. Now one idea for your post has become three.
Use Twitter lists to quickly follow influencers on specific topics. You can either create lists yourself to monitor accounts based on topics or interests, or simply search Twitter for lists on topics you’re interested in and follow them.
Use Storify to round up tweets and social media posts quickly.
Use social media engagement numbers as a rapid-fire real-time indicator of which content is most popular.
Leverage hashtags to easily increase exposure. Be sure to choose hashtags that directly relate to your brand, blog, or content. This may seem basic, but it’s an often overlooked tactic that can help your posts gain more visibility quickly.
Write social media posts in bulk and schedule them out at least a week or two in advance.
Want to analyze your Twitter performance and find influencers quickly? Try using Followerwonk. It’s free, fast, and easy to use.
If you don’t have access to a developer who can build you custom email newsletter templates, then use a platform to manage email like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor (at CoSchedule, we use Campaign Monitor). They’re easy to use and make email marketing management a lot more efficient than going without them.
Instead of writing a whole new email, try taking your last email and sending it to anyone on your list who didn’t open it the first time (be sure to wait about a week first).
Use automated pop-ups on your blog or website to build your email list fast and convert readers into email subscribers. SumoMe’s Scroll Box is an easy to use tool for this task, available in both free and premium versions.
Use content upgrades to entice more email subscriptions. A content upgrade can be defined as a gated piece of content (like an infographic, ebook, video, course, or something else) that requires readers to exchange their email address in order to access the content upgrade. One piece of content can equal tons of subscribers, making this a highly efficient way to grow your email list.
If you need to automate a lot of messages for one-on-one email outreach, use Boomerang to follow up on emails.
When it comes to your own work email, set time aside to check your email rather than checking it every five minutes. If you took our suggestion of using HipChat or Slack for inner-office communication, you’ll probably notice the amount of email hitting your inbox dropping substantially, too.
If you aren’t already, use a content calendar. Any kind of calendar. We’re going to plug ourselves quick here, but using CoSchedule can help save tons of time here.
Keep your calendar full for at least two weeks out into the future. You’ll get more done when you’re not stressed over hitting immediate deadlines. That may mean having to work a little extra hard at first to build up enough content to fill your calendar, but once you’ve gotten past that initial effort, you’ll find yourself freer to strategize and work more efficiently.
Be consistent when updating your content calendar. Build habits that save time and your calendar will, in turn, help you save time elsewhere in your workflow.
If you’re not skilled in configuring Google Analytics yourself, get more utility from it faster using pre-built dashboards. That saves you time from having to learn how to configure everything correctly yourself while making sure your dashboards are designed to be useful.
Use SumAll to automatically generate data-driven social media performance reports (note that as of March 1, 2016, this is a paid-only tool).
If you’re using Moz, Raven Tools, or any other content marketing and SEO platform, use it to set up automatic reports delivered to your email. That way, you can provide reports to management quickly without having to build out reports manually.
Time tracking tools like Toggl work well for this. Or, just use the timer on your phone. Over time, you’ll get a better idea of how much time tasks generally take, and be better able to plan accordingly in the future.
Try using the Pomodoro technique throughout your workday. In short, it’s a productivity method where you work in 25-minute bursts, separated by break periods.
Even if you don’t use the Pomodoro technique, taking timed breaks is still highly advisable. Your brain simply can’t fire on all cylinders around the clock.
Fail fast and move on. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from trying something new that may work better than what you did yesterday.
Likewise, if something isn’t working, either figure out why it’s not working or ditch it and move onto something else. Bias yourself toward action and don’t waste time overanalyzing things.
Stop multi-tasking. Studies show you’ll get more done, more quickly if you focus on one task at a time.
Create task checklists to keep yourself on track. Wonder what makes checklists such an effective tool for getting things done? Read The Checklist Manifesto.
Plan your meetings and set timers. Never go into a meeting without an agenda or a goal that the meeting is intended to help achieve.
Use tools and software services that deliver demonstrable productivity benefits. Ditch any that don’t. That saves time and money all in one fell swoop.
Do your most dreaded task first thing in the morning, whatever that task may be, to free up mental space to take on the rest of your day.
Sleep. You’ll get more done, more quickly if you’re well rested. Working when you’re tired leads to diminishing returns over time.
Learn how and when to say no. While it’s often tempting to take on every opportunity and task handed your way, you don’t want to burn yourself out by taking on too much. Be realistic about what you can accomplish with the time you have.
Leave a time buffer when estimating time for tasks to account for unforeseen hang-ups. This can help avoid missing deadlines. This is important because missed deadlines have a way of snowballing by pushing out timelines on other projects.
Set aside time for planning. It takes time, but it also saves time in the long run.
Plan your least mentally intensive tasks for Friday afternoon when you’re probably drained. That way they won’t distract from more important work but they’ll still get done.
Recommended Reading: What To Do On The Weekend To Increase Your Productivity On Monday
Use the end of one day to plan what you’ll do at the start of the next day. You’ll likely be feeling drained around the end of your day, which makes it a good time to write up a simple list of priorities for your next morning. You’d be surprised how much time this can save while making optimal use of your energy levels.
Developing better habits isn’t always easy, and odds are, it’s going to take a little while before you can start applying the majority of these time management strategies to your content marketing workflows. However, all of these items are things you can start doing today, taking things one small step at a time until you’ve established more efficient and productive ways to work.
Are there any tips, tools, or tricks we’ve missed? Sound off in the comments below, and thank you for reading!
P.S. Here’s a free productivity wallpaper for your desktop!
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