It’s Monday morning, and you are typing an email, participating on a conference call, replying to an instant message, and reaching across your morning cup of java to answer your cell phone—all at the same time. Sound familiar?
A recent study by the Families and Work Institute found that a full third of Americans are overworked, and more than 50 percent of those surveyed said they are either handling too many tasks at the same time or are frequently interrupted during the workday—or both. Another study, by Day-Timers, Inc., reported that 60 percent of workers say they always or frequently feel rushed at work, and 50 percent said they accomplish only half the work they have planned for that day. In short, we are overloaded.
Is it any wonder, then, that we have trouble staying focused, using our time and energy to maximum benefit and gaining ground on important marketing and PR efforts?
In this Web 2.0, 24/7, multitasking, do-less-with-more world, the degree to which you promote your own business or book often determines the level of success you achieve. If you are looking for increased exposure on the radio, in print, or online, you have to learn to make time for marketing.
Here are five easy ways you can avoid distraction and find the time to focus on getting the word out about your book and/or your business.
Just think about what happens when you are running too many programs on your computer—it usually slows down or even freezes up. The same is true for your brain; there is a limit to how much you can focus on at one time. Getting stuff out of your head and onto PDA or paper helps keep your mental space freed up to focus.
Take just one simple example: This morning, when I looked at the 10 top emails in my inbox, I found that seven of them presented opportunities for PR or marketing actions, including:
Some of these items are big and some small, some high priority and some low. But all of them need to be captured and organized—and not in my email inbox, where they can easily become lost.
Just taking the time to capture all the open marketing items in your life and write them down can dramatically improve your ability to focus and get things done. The best practice is to use a tool that helps you quickly capture all these things, even before you decide what to do with them. The tool can be a yellow pad, a sophisticated software program, a simple To Do file on your computer, a time-management book, or anything else that serves the purpose.
Once you have gotten into the habit of capturing your to-do items, learn to make quick decisions on what you are going to do with them. The fab four are:
Do it now. If it takes two to five minutes, just get it done on the spot.
Schedule it for later. No time to handle this now? Open your calendar and plan when you are going to get it done.
Delegate it. Is there someone you could hire to do this item, or someone who works for you who could handle it? Get it off your plate and onto theirs.
Abandon it. Learn to tell the truth about what is simply a “good idea” and what you are committed to doing.
2. Use time planning for marketing activities.
Earlier this week, I needed to get my Constant Contact newsletter out to announce a series of teleclasses I was going to be leading. I’d been putting this off for weeks and knew if I did not do it soon I’d miss the boat. So, I opened my calendar and blocked off a period of one hour on a Wednesday, between 9 and 10 a.m., to get the work done.
To make more time for marketing, go through your calendar and schedule a specific day and period of time when you will work on a marketing or PR item you have been putting off or need to get done. Periods ranging from 15 minutes to two hours are the most effective. Every hour or so, schedule a 10-minute break from your task.
And don’t just plan your time in your head—write the plan down. Studies show that 75 percent of individuals who set a specific time and date to complete something, do complete it.
3. Engage the power of your to-do list.
How much of your valuable time and energy is taken up with trivial distractions that have no positive long-term impact on your marketing and PR goals, but do have a negative short-term effect on your productivity and sense of accomplishment? For example, gossiping with co-workers in the break room, surfing the Net for hot eBay buys, cleaning out your pencil cup, and so on.
Marketing mavens know that resisting trivial distractions and facing the more challenging and significant tasks before them leads to a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Making those more significant tasks “A” priorities, whether they are time sensitive or not, helps bring them to the top of the heap. Here’s how to do it:
Write down and review all the items on your to-do list for the day. Next, determine which items would move you closer to achieving your marketing and PR goals. Assign those items an “A” priority—regardless of how time-sensitive or urgent they may or may not be.
Every workday for the next week, do at least one “A” priority item from your list. At the end of the week, you will have focused your energy (five times at least) on achieving your marketing objectives.
4. Chunk your big marketing projects down into smaller pieces.
If you find yourself procrastinating on a large marketing project, try breaking it into smaller pieces. This will help you take action more quickly and easily, while at the same time countering the overwhelming feeling of too much to do.
For example: One of my clients was doing a total overhaul of her Web site, but every time she went to work on it, she became like a deer in headlights. It was just too much to confront at one time. Her solution was to pick a simple, single, easy action she could do every day and do that. So instead of her project being “work on my Web site,” it became a series of smaller minitasks, including: Ask the programmer to create a “Contact Us” page; Rewrite my bio on the “About” page; Redo my blog-post categories; and Add client testimonials to the “Services” page.
Chunking an item down can also be applied to the smaller, everyday tasks on your to-do list. For example, an item that you keep transferring from day to day—or from week to week—may be a good candidate to break into minitasks. In other words, create steps small enough that they seem doable—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Lastly, when you have a big marketing goal or task that you are working on, don’t wait—unnecessarily and sometimes to your detriment—until the entire project is finished before you experience any sense of completion, satisfaction, or accomplishment. Instead, get into the habit of enthusiastically taking credit for any action you complete, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. The big item doesn’t have to be 100 percent done for you to experience the pleasures of closure if you generate energy all along the way by recognizing each aspect of the project you finish.
5. Use your technology—don’t let it use you.
Email, voicemail, instant messaging, and the Internet—wonderful tools, but when they cause continual interruptions, they can make it almost impossible to focus at work.
Draw a line by creating some technology-free times. For example: Turn off your cell phone during business lunches, meetings, or trainings. Don’t check your email, and turn off the alert, when working during a designated period of time. Log off of instant messaging when you need to focus on getting something done.
A message from the author: Please note that this article is copyrighted by Karen Leland. If you would like to reprint any or all of it on your blog or Web site, you are welcome to do so, provided you give credit and link to target=blank>karenleland.com.
Karen Leland, co-author of the recently released book Time Management in an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day, is also the co-founder of Sterling Marketing Group (sterlingmarketinggroup.com), which helps authors and entrepreneurs use the power of PR and marketing to promote their books and businesses. For more information, visit karenleland.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.