How To Increase Email Productivity [Infographic]

Office workers spend way too much time on checking and answering emails - more than a quarter of an average work week, according to McKinsey. Freelancers can have it worse because we tend to treat our inbox like a lottery basket which contains opportunities to get rich (or chances to pay the bill this month). 

What’s your story? Are there days when you seem to spend it all on responding and sending emails? Do you reach for your smartphone to open a mail app whenever you have three minutes to spare, waiting for your coffee or boarding the train? Is your inbox the first thing and the last thing you look at on a weekday? 

If the answers are all yes, you have a problem which is draining your time, energy and productivity. Check out the infographic for tips to better manage emails and take your time back. 

The 1st Step to a Productive Working Day, Everyday

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If you think that productivity is doing more in the same amount of time, think again! Actually, you need to erase that thought. Embrace this one: Less is More and One is The Most. 

You don't want to juggle a dozen of tasks, racing through eight hours a day. I know many of you do because you think you have to. So did I, but it does not have to be that way.

Using this Pomodoro technique, you focus solely on one task at a time, eventually work less, accomplish more and run no risk of burnout. The key is to avoid multitasking because doing more than one demanding task at a time literally drains the energy reserves of your brain. It makes you tired quickly, so it's counter-productive.  

 

THE SIMPLE TIME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM THAT WORKS MAGIC 

In his 2006 paper, its creator Francesco Cirillo explained the technique, the psychology behind it, and the steps to start applying it correctly. 

The bottom line is that you do only one task for a period of time, traditionally 25 minutes. You don’t multitask and you stay away from distraction: not making phone calls, not checking your email and not wasting time on Facebook. In a study from the University of California Irvine, researchers concluded that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after being distracted - so just think about it! 

If the task at hand requires more than 25 minutes - a Pomodoro, split it into smaller segments and remember to take breaks. Experiment and learn how to divide a specific type of task  into Pomodoros. For example, an action plan for marketing activities in three months might take five to six Pomodoros, while the editorial calendar for the week would take two to three Pomodoros. 

After every four (or five) Pomodoros, take a longer break of ten minutes. Go get a coffee, make yourself a snack or walk around the block to stretch your leg. 

That’s the basics, and here's a step-by-step guide to apply it to your everyday work life. 

 

GET UP AT LEAST HALF AN HOUR BEFORE YOUR SCREEN TIME 

You need to give yourself the time to be fully awakened, to collect your mind and to visualise your day. Don’t check your email the minute you open your eyes. Don’t scan the news on Twitter while brushing your teeth. 

Instead, make a cup of tea or coffee, get into the shower, do some stretches or whatever morning rituals you need. 

Now sit down with a pen and paper (or your note-taking app if you promise not to check Facebook while waiting for the app to load). 

Write down one thing that you really want to accomplish with your day - the one thing that counts. Pick a project that would make you a better version of yourself because you strengthen a skill, you finally stop procrastinating or you would make something good to show the world (like this article). 

The next step is to find a block of time that you are least likely to be interrupted, either my other people or yourself. If you are a morning person, don’t pick the late afternoon when your mind often wanders. Stay away from scheduled meetings or child pick-up responsibility. Once your find the perfect time, block it off in your calendar for the one thing you've chosen.

Now feel free to fill your day with other tasks and responsibilities required of you. Plan the amount of Pomodoros accordingly. Leave some space for urgent tasks or unexpected interruptions. Whenever you have the urge to cram more things in, remind yourself that these tasks are just bonuses. You have already done the one thing that matters.  

Note down the total amount of Pomodoros for the day to later compare with the actual number. 

 

KEEP TRACK, FEEDBACK, AND LEARN

It is very important to keep track of your Pomodoros for each day and each task. You might want to keep a record of the times you are interrupted by others as well, and see how it affects your pace (i.e. the difference between planned Pomodoros and actual Pomodoros). 

Take being productive as a habit that you need to forge. Keep planning, tracking and learning what works for you. One objective is to find your balance for a work day: the total amount of Pomodoros that you can do without exhausting your mind. Another is to work out your pace: the amount of Pomodoros you need for a typical task, so you can plan better. 

I got to know about Pomodoro Technique for the first time in Chris Winfield’s article in Fast Company. He said that his balance lay at eight Pomorodos of 25 minutes. I prefer to do 33 minutes for one Pomodoro and my balance varies between seven to nine. 

The point is that everyone is different. You need to factor in your general level of focus, your working environment, the nature of your job and your personal life. If you have a young kid or elderly parents, you just can’t afford to turn off your phone to completely avoid distraction. If you lead a team, you might need to spare more Pomodoros for urgent and unexpected stuff. Demanding clients? Well, it could take all day. 

Basically, stay flexible and never stop learning from the data. 

 

GETTING STARTED: THE TOOLS

The beauty of this method is its simplicity. To start, you only need two things

1. A timer
A kitchen timer is traditionally suggested. The ticking noise has a calming effect because it tells you that you are working and everything is fine. The ring after each Pomodoro signals your accomplishment, boost your motivation and also tells you to take a break. 

However, the ticks and rings might be of annoyance for anyone who shares an office with you. An app and a pair of headphones are more practical in this case. There are many Pomodoro apps, both paid and free, but make sure you get one with options for the sound. This is the one I use. 

2. A pen and paper
To plan our your day and keep track of your activities. You can also use this To Do Today sheet that I’ve prepared to start straight away. 

 

So that is that. Happy working everyone!

Let me know if you decide to try Pomodoro, and do share your productive stories. 

The Checklist For Hiring Your First Freelance Blogger

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It is overwhelming to start a new process, such as trying a just-released software or bring in the fresh talents to grow your business. You’ve heard good things about content marketing and decided to hire an expert to expand your digital footprint. You've received hundreds of replies to your first enquiry for a freelance blogger. What do you do? 

I have created a checklist that guides you through the process step-by-step to make sure you find the best freelancer for your business, fast and pain-free. 

One click, no email needed, and the list is yours. Print it out and start checking off items. If you rather do it green, email me and I will send you the list in a spreadsheet. Once you've done,  it’s a very high chance that you have found a freelancer whom you can rely on for high-quality content and work with happily, ever after.

Content Strategy: What, Why and How from Marketing Experts

You have probably heard about "content marketing", but do you know that 91% of B2B marketers are using it?

If you haven't done online content, you should start today. Even if you are running a small company selling directly to consumers, content creation still has significant values for you business.

Interested? Read on to see what the numbers say and get advice from industry experts.

What is Content Marketing?  

There are many definitions but let's start with the basics.

Content marketing means creating content to attract and convert prospects into customers.

If you want to dig deeper, here are two definitions from well-known content marketing sites

Content Marketing Institute 

Copy Blogger 

 

Why is content marketing important to your business? 

In the four steps of the buying cycle (Awareness, Research, Consideration, and Buy), you can use content to effectively tap into the first two steps. With the rise of ad-blocking features, accessible expert knowledge is becoming the main source to bring in customers. 

Besides, content marketing is cost-effective, trackable, and scalable. 

"At my own company we’ve used content marketing to grow more than 1,000% over the past year...95% of the success we’ve experienced with content marketing can be traced to a handful of articles I’ve written, adding up to perhaps 20 hours of work." -  John Steimle, MWI

You can read more from Forbes

 

how to start?  

There are different ways to start doing content marketing. You can have a content strategist build a comprehensive strategy for various types of content (blog articles, infographics, books, videos, podcasts...) and distribution channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr...). Or you can start now with the first blog post, get to know your audience and work out what sticks. Many small companies started with the latter. 

Thinking practically, you want to figure out how much budget you can allocate for content marketing, thus how many more people you can hire.

Personnel 

If you are a one-man business, you often start writing yourself. Set out a couple of hours a week to share your knowledge and experience with your audience. When your business grows bigger, you can hire a blogger to help you create more quality content that converts. 

Further along the line, you will need a content creator, who are able to write for various projects and expand your company's digital footprint. Then, there will be the need for a social media manager, and a designer, preferably one with video-making experience.

Type of content 

Depending on your in-house staff or the skills of your freelance contractors, you can start creating different types of content. Here is a list of options for you to choose:

  1. Blog Posts (How-to, List Posts, Thought Leadership, Newsjacks) 
  2. Premium Assets (Ebooks, Whitepapers, Webinars, Templates) 
  3. Visual Content (Infographics, SlideShares, Videos) 

Distributing Content

Once you have created amazing content, it is equally important to make sure that it gets found by your target audience. The role of social media in distributing content is undeniable, but don't overlook other channels like search engines, emails, and social ads. 

Measuring Your Content Marketing 

Set a couple of KPIs for your campaign. Remember that one main benefit of content marketing is the ability to track and analyse the results. Google Analytics is a perfect place to start because it is free and easy to get to the basics. 

This brief summary is to provide you with the basics so you can start doing content marketing. You can find more at this detailed guide from HubSpot - a leading marketing platform.

 

Good luck with your content marketing when you decide to do it or take your current campaign a step further. I can also help you more with my writing services. Check them out and drop me an email, so we can discuss further.