As a marketer, you know that your profit is directly tied to your personal productivity. That’s because you’re not selling a product, you’re selling a service.
For example, a software company can sell unlimited ‘copies’ of the app, but you and your people can only sell a limited amount of your time.
So whatever you make at the end of the month, is more or less a result of what you and your team can get done in each of your working hours.
In other words, if you work 40 hours a week and manage to accomplish projects worth $10k, then tripling your productivity per hour would result in $30k over the same 40-hour workweek.
Does that mean you have to work your ass off? No, not necessarily. Great productivity is as much about working hard as it is about working smart. Here’s what I mean by saying that.
1. ‘No’ is the New ‘Yes’
According to Marissa Mayer, “saying no is more important than saying yes” was the mantra of the early team at Google. In other words, your success is a result of how you manage your focus.
The moment Apple started to the top was when Steve Jobs killed its 20+ product lines. Instead, he decided to focus on one laptop and one desktop computer. The narrow focus allowed Apple to build products that are ‘insanely great’.
Today, Apple is the world’s biggest company. Not only its products are insanely great, they’re insanely profitable too. (Fun fact: Apple has twice as much cash as the US government).
The story of Apple has a lot to do with the so-called Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule. It says that roughly 80% of the result come from 20% of the causes.
Pareto, the Italian philosopher and economist came up with this rule after he found out that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas and that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.
It turns out this rule is widely applicable in business and time management too. For example, Microsoft found out that fixing 20% of it’s bugs would eliminate 80% of crashes. Other examples are:
- 80% of complaints come from 20% of customers
- 80% of revenue is generated by 20% of salespeople
- 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients
- 80% of your profits come from 20% of your time spend
So to maximize your efficiency, Pareto rule is the first prerequisite to making it happen. While the actual distribution may differ (e.g. 70/30 or 90/10), the point is; double down on what gives you the results and delegate, eliminate, outsource or automate the rest.
2. Track Time & Revenue Per Task
To implement the Pareto rule efficiently you need to gather some relevant data. It’s not enough to simply dump the clients who don’t fall in the top 20% category. It may turn out generate much better ROI.
What do I mean by that? Some clients may pay more, but the total time you dedicate to the job may end up being much higher. Likewise, some projects or tasks may end up giving you a better ROI than others.
Here’s a simple table I used to track my performance. The idea behind it is that you first identify the amount of revenue you want to generate a month then divide it by the number of working hours. In this case, it’s $100.
(Note that the figures are completely made up. It’s just an example of how it works)
So you get a project from a client and a budget. Ideally you pick a goal to accomplish the project in an amount of time that gives you the desired revenue.
After you finish the project, you log all the hours that it took you from starting it to getting paid. What have you learned?
Well, clearly PPC and advertising related work is a winner in terms of efficiency to deliver on your goals and the revenue per hour. Copywriting, on the other hand, is a clear loser.
It takes longer than you normally plan and the average earnings aren’t as high as you need. If you’re doing copywriting in-house, you should consider outsourcing it to get a better time/revenue ratio and focus on PPC work instead.
You may learn all sorts of things. Some clients may end up giving you lower ROI despite higher budgets, or you may simply learn that your planning for some tasks isn’t realistic.
Either way, this is just an example. Create your charts and get data on what gives you the best revenue. Even if you don’t want to give up on some work, knowing what your strengths are is the key step to better efficiency.
3. Focus on Scalable Projects
What do I mean by scalable projects? I mean the kind of projects that have the highest potential to make the value of your work go up.
If you sell your time, the only way to scale is to either start selling the results or to increase the price of your time. But you can’t increase the price on something that generates mediocre results.
For instance, in the example above PPC work ended up giving you the best ROI. Let’s suppose your clients don’t find the results outstanding, while they totally love the area of mobile marketing.
Let’s assume that you’re more passionate about mobile marketing too and you’re also getting more referrals and see a growing demand for it. Now the question is, do you want to be the Mazda of the Tesla of the marketing world?
If you know you have what it takes to become the best at some services, the chances are you’ll be able to charge a top dollar soon.
4. Utilize Your Peak Times
Here’s a great hack I learned from the co-founder of Asana, Justin Rosenstein – some parts of your day are more productive than other.
The theory behind it is that our bodies are governed by a 24-hour biorhythm, called circadian clock. The circadian clock determines which part of the day you’re most easily energized.
There’s also another clock, called the Ultradian rhythm. These are shorter, 90-120-minute cycles that repeat throughout the day.
The point here is, they differ from person to person. And the best way to find out what your setup is, is to track it. You can track it manually by grading your energy, focus and mood on a scale of 1-3, each hour for about a week or two. You can also use Justin’s table.
Here’s the result, shared on Asana’s blog. As you can see, Justin’s peak times occur in the first half of the day. Naturally, that’s when you’d want to do your most important work.
5. Delegate, Outsource, and Automate
So we already discussed what you can do to identify your top 20% and how you should max it out. Now the question is: what to do with the remaining 80% of the work that need to be done?
There are three options: delegate, automate or give it up. Let’s start with delegation and outsourcing.
If you have a potential to earn $100 per hour, there’s no point in doing stuff that earns you $0. Every minute you spend doing that stuff dilutes your overall ROI.
But that work needs to be done. Naturally, if you can get someone to do it for e.g. $20 per hour while you focus on your top ROI work, you’re ultimately earning $80 instead of $0. There’s nothing new or surprising about this concept.
The problem see is that even though delegation is a no-brainer there’s way too many marketers and entrepreneurs running the rat race, just because they feel nobody can do their job as well as they can.
(Zirtual is one of the many services offering virtual assistants)
Even if you can’t hire someone full-time, you can still outsource to freelancers. I am sure you’re already working with freelancers; my point is; there might be more to outsource than you currently think there is.
For example, a friend of mine runs an advertising sales team at one of the London-based finance magazines. His salespeople are paid £35k a month plus commission, and their work is comprised of cold calling and lead sourcing.
To cut it short, he hired a freelancer on Elance to do the lead sourcing for $1k / month. His revenues doubled, simply because the salespeople got more time to do what they do the best – selling.
The third option is automation. As we discussed in our previous post, there some great automation tools you should be using.
Obviously, JimmyData is an automation tool. Instead of wasting time on writing client reports, JimmyData does it for you so that you can focus on your top 20%.
6. Step Up Your Time Management & Productivity Game
Lastly, you want to make sure you’re not wasting your time. This has a lot to do with adopting the right habits. Here are some tips:
Optimize your environment: block distractions like Facebook, close your email, turn off your chat, wear headphones (even if you don’t listen to music), etc.
Pre-order your lunch, so you don’t have to stand in the line.
Eat complex carbs: Complex carbs take longer to digest, so you get a steadier supply of energy. See this chart:
Avoid meetings. Meetings are the top productivity killer. According to a study conducted by Atlassian, employees in the tech industry spend over 30 hours a month on meetings. Over 50% of that time is unproductive.
Try Boomerang email extension. It allows you to schedule emails for later, so you can avoid triggering lengthy discussions.
So that was our quick take on boosting your efficiency. Now your turn. What are some productivity tips that worked for you well?