Keeping tabs on time management

Use some of these tips to improve on time management in 2020.

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

Business-to-business (B2B) editors have much longer to-do lists today than they did even just a decade ago. Much of this can be attributed to the changing nature of the publishing industry.

In the 1990s and 2000s, digital media was just starting to become a priority for B2B editors. Today, digital media is a main revenue driver for B2B publications. During ASBPE’s GenerationB2B conference in May, Abe Peck, director of B2B Communication at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, shared that digital media made up about 44 percent of revenue among trade publishers in 2018. With that kind of an impact on revenue, digital media is an increasingly important priority for editors to consider.

Yet print also is still important since it remains a revenue driver as well. Conference planning and management is another revenue driver that editors must include on their to-do list. And let’s not forget managing social media, either.

All these tasks must be done by today’s B2B editors, even though staff sizes are typically smaller than what they were a few decades ago.

Today’s editors experience fewer “slow” days, and that can make time management difficult. How can editors manage never-ending to-do lists and ensure they aren’t wasting time?

Improving on time management is something worth considering with the start of the new year quickly approaching. Earlier this year, GIE Media, a Cleveland-based publishing company, invited all its editors (myself included) to collaborate for a few hours to brainstorm ways we could improve on time management. The following were some ideas we generated on how to maximize our time:

  • Create ‘micro-deadlines’ for long-term deadlines: When planning a conference or writing a more involved series of features, it’s easy to forget the details. With long-term projects like these, create micro-deadlines to check off on a daily or weekly basis to ensure you’re on track.
Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash
Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash
  • Turn off emails and carve out alone time to work: It’s tempting to get bogged down by emails—emails and similar distractions are simple things to check off of our to-do lists. However, you can get seriously behind on tasks if you’re constantly checking emails or messaging systems. Instead, carve out email-free times in your day or week to work on features, plan editorial calendars, research topics or perform more intensive tasks. In those times, turn off all distractions (such as email, cellphone, Slack, Skype and other messaging tools) to have interruption-free work.
  • Use scheduling tools with social media: Save a few minutes of your time by sending out your social media posts on a scheduling tool like Buffer.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist: When writing feature articles, editors sometimes sit way too long on an article in order to get everything written perfectly. However, there comes a point when it’s better to send that feature off to another editor to review if all you’re waiting on is a perfect headline or wording the lead perfectly. Another editor or colleague has a fresh set of eyes on the story and can help you with that.
  • Be honest with your team in all circumstances: Faking fine is never OK. Sometimes a source isn’t coming through for a feature assignment; you overcommit to too many speaking engagements; or you make serious editing errors. Hiding the truth is unethical, and it also won’t help you grow in your role. The truth always tends to come out one way or another, so be honest from the get-go if you’re behind on a feature, if you can’t fulfill a commitment or if you make a mistake.
  • Create realistic deadlines: Some projects demand longer timelines—and that’s OK. For instance, advertorials involve a number of different parties—a client, a source, your sales team, your editorial team, your graphic design team. With all those moving parts, it makes sense to set a longer deadline to ensure everything turns out well instead of rushing to get it done sooner.
  • Make changes when things aren’t working: Sometimes a feature just isn’t coming together or a newsletter isn’t getting the clicks you or your team expected. Instead of trying to pull teeth to get these tasks done, consider taking these tasks a different direction. Pursue a different feature or change the direction on the newsletter.
  • Know your productivity levels: Some people are night owls while others are morning doves. Everyone has a time of day where they are more productive—some people are night owls while others are morning doves. Make sure you know what hours you are most productive. Perform the harder tasks for when you are most alert and save the less intensive tasks for times when you’re less alert (such as following up on emails or reaching out to companies for an annual list).
  • Know when to rest: Working more hours doesn’t mean you’re more productive. People hit a wall if they work too much or too hard. Productivity diminishes after you hit that wall. To avoid hitting that wall too early, take the occasional break throughout the day—especially if doing so would make you more alert. It’s OK to go on a five-minute walk, connect with a colleague to discuss nonwork topics or make a quick Starbucks run to get a jolt of energy. But even with breaks, there will come a point in the day where you simply need to call it quits.

And with that, I’m calling this blog post quits.

Do you have other time management tricks that work for you? How can you apply some of these pointers to improve your work in 2020?

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