Professional Development

5 Time Management Tips From an Expert*


*Full Disclosure: no one has really ever called me an expert. But I did manage to complete two full-time degree programs while working full time, worked 80-100 hour weeks for five years, and somehow have not completely lost my mind along the way (I think). Even now, believe it or not, we have a team of two content marketers who create all of Marketo’s content.

We’re all busy and there’s no end in sight to the busyness, as far as I’m concerned. In fact, it seems that every time I find myself with a bit of free time, I pick up something else to fill that void in my schedule. I know that I could use another hour in every day but I’m also fairly certain that I would still be really busy.

So, how can you maximize your time? In this blog, I’ll give you my 5 time-management tips that have helped me with productivity on even my busiest days.

Set a Time Limit

When I was a grad student, I would schedule my meetings with teammates and the time I would spend working on an assignment and stick to that schedule. Because I was working full time while getting my MBA, I needed to optimize my time. I simply did not have eight hours to complete an assignment, I had four at best.

By setting a time limit, I was able to keep myself on task and not let anything get into the inevitable “just one more little tweak” that we perfectionists find ourselves falling into all too often. I still do this on a daily basis in order to keep things on track. As marketers, we have a tendency to obsess over details. Pick and choose the tasks that require perfection carefully.

Schedule Breaks

I’m sure it’s happened to you more than once. You find yourself at your desk, pouring through documents, analyzing data, and really getting in the groove. You skip lunch, or have my favorite “sad desk lunch.” You hit a wall but try to push through. Your eyelids get heavier, the words scramble on the page and stop making sense, and before you know it, your productivity has taken a nose dive.

For every 55 minutes of work I do, I take a five-minute break. I get more water, grab a snack, or take a lap around the office to talk to a coworker. It helps me to push through the tasks at hand, knowing I have a break coming up. By scheduling in breaks, it’s much easier to push through the tough times. 

Take a Walk

A little exercise goes a long way. My team members and I like to take walks instead of sitting in yet another conference room for some of our meetings. If you can find a way to disconnect from everything digital for even 15 minutes, you’ll be amazed at how much calmer you’ll feel and how much more you get accomplished without notifications buzzing and the shiny internet distracting you.

Find a teammate who is willing to try this with you, especially if you have a reoccurring meeting and can try it for multiple meetings over time. I also find that if I can’t get a walking meeting into my day, that taking a walk around the office building really helps me to go back to my desk with a fresh set of eyes.

Use Your Commute

Every morning, I have a 30-minute walk to work. During that time, I mentally prepare for the day. Before I leave, I quickly check my email. During the walk, I think about the most important tasks to be accomplished. I use the time to think about the next blog I need to write or to brainstorm potential topics for a future blog.

If you’re someone who doesn’t have to be behind the wheel of a car for your commute, consider how you might utilize that time to be more productive during your workday. When I had a 30-45 minute commute, I would listen to professional development-focused audiobooks or podcasts. I would sometimes use a speech-to-text app or record voice memos for myself to organize my thoughts regarding a particular campaign or piece of content I was in the midst of creating. There’s a great deal of potential in the minutes you spend going from place to place. Just remember to be safe and abide by all of the rules of the road while doing so.

Actually Sleep

When I was 22, I could pull an all-nighter—no problem. Now, I need at least six hours of sleep to be a human being, at least seven if I want to have a really productive day, and eight hours if I really want to knock the day out of the park. Sacrificing sleep sometimes seems like the only option to get everything done but ask yourself how that affects the rest of your workday. Are you truly getting more done or are you just so hopped up on caffeine that you’re talking and typing faster, but not really getting anything done?

In order to get everything done, it’s important to take care of yourself. Sleep is a crucial part of that. Don’t underestimate the power of some solid ZZZs or of turning off your phone for a while. While I haven’t been able to break myself of sleeping with my iPhone next to the bed quite yet, it’s a major goal of mine for 2018. It’s always better to maintain an electronics-free space to get a good night’s rest.

What are your best time management hacks? Have you used any of the ones that I’ve listed here before? How might you implement them to get more done this day? I’d love to hear about your tips in the comment section.