I am swamped. Requests from colleagues, friends and family leave me with no time to do any actual work. I can’t ignore any of the aforementioned things and it’s impossible to cram them all into an eight-hour day.
But time management isn’t about taking shortcuts in your thinking time, it’s about finding shortcuts for the mundane, administrative and repetitive, in order to make way for the creative, strategic and dare I say… fun? As a busy carpooling mom of three boys (two of them teens!), a CEO of a company that grows 500 percent year over year and a happily married lady with lots of extended family, here’s how I make the most of every hour of every day.
Email Templates and Autoresponders
The Issue: Email is a huge time suck. Everyone knows it. Yet when I find myself bogged down, my first (weird) impulse is to check my email. This only serves to make me even crazier and stressed out because for every minute my inbox is ignored, the magical email bunnies produce about 50 new emails.
The Shortcut: Autoresponders. I have an amazing marketing assistant who helps me wade through requests and schedule important meetings. I archive every client communication so I don’t get distracted when looking for something I know I saw just yesterday (Gmail makes this a snap), and I use autoresponders for things like guest post requests, meetings, phone calls and new client queries. A great article about how to word these emails popped up a few weeks ago and I couldn’t agree with its premise more.
Texting and Typing Shortcuts
The Issue: I like a good manicure and spend a lot of time on the road. I can’t look down every three seconds or enter passwords without flubbing.
The Shortcut: I use autocorrect to make my texting life less frenetic. For example, I can text “RBM” and my phone knows to spell out “Red Branch Media.” I use the same trick to make emails and phrases I type frequently appear. This not only saves me time, it makes even the hastiest text message look professional.
The Issue: I have usernames on every single website that exists in the English language. Okay, maybe not. But it feels like I do. Add in client login information, software, and the hundreds of media bundles and new apps I buy regularly, and you have a password bottleneck.
The Shortcut: In addition to the company password list, I use LastPass to ensure that I am not endlessly frustrated. I have my kids use 1Password when they access my computer for homework and Minecraft.
The Issue: My kids go to three different schools in two different towns, 25 miles away. Since none of them can drive unaccompanied, I find myself in the car a lot. Once I’ve finished my rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” I settle in and use two tools to make the most of my time in the car.
The Shortcut: Dragon Dictation is like Siri on steroids! I use it to speak out outlines of articles (like this one) that pop into my head. It’s also super useful for strategy documents, as those are the hardest for me to get from the idea stage to publication-ready. Another useful tool is my conference line Speek. It allows me to record and keep notes. My assistant can get all information down on paper if I’m in the proposal phase with a new client or when I simply need to remember what I was talking about as I sped down the highway. Plus, we can save the audio files to the client folder for later.
The Issue: We have a group of friends in our neighborhood with roughly 28 children between us. There is no logical way to keep track of the barbecues, birthday parties, play dates and fire-pit nights without someone feeling left out.
The Shortcut: Aside from a rolling text string among three of us for social updates, we use NextDoor to keep in touch in our neighborhood. This makes it easy to exchange invites and useful time saving information, like who found the best concrete guy or when trees will be picked up from the last summer storm. This also serves as a de facto neighborhood watch and has led to lots of new friendships on the block.
The Issue: Clients come and go, partnerships ebb and flow. Some people and companies with whom I was hot and heavy (professionally) just months ago are now just folders I breeze through.
The Shortcut: Archive. Archive. Archive. I love Dropbox, but if you have a folder for every active and inactive client, you will soon get tendonitis just from looking through your cloud. If I am finished with a project or email, I put it straight into storage. Dropbox syncs on all office computers, making it a cinch to see and sort through only the most active and recent files.
The Issue: Boring, repetitive tasks that make me nuts.
The Shortcut: IFTTT and other recipe makers. Sometimes you are pulling in five pictures per day and they all need to be a certain size. Create a recipe that saves them that way to the right file automatically! Sure, it takes about 30 seconds to set up in the beginning. But when making a presentation or building a website, this creates a lot more serenity than manually resizing multiple photos. The same goes for other repeatable tasks (taking pictures of your receipts to categorize, downloading files from your Google Drive, building templates in illustrator for white papers and ebooks). Use a recipe or template for any project you think you will do more than once — and use it!
There you have it — the hacks that get me through every single day. I learned early on that I had to start looking at every task more strategically. I would often think, “There HAS to be a better way to do this.” And there usually is.
Share your time-saving hacks in the comments, and let’s all get out of our own way!
Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space.
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