Marketers often work long hours to execute strategies that deliver results for their companies and to keep their skills current with the constantly changing industry. This can come at the cost of our well-being and happiness due to less time spent on things like exercise, socializing with friends and family, and memorable experiences. Increasing your productivity can, as Tim Ferriss puts it, “maximize your per hour output” so you can get more free time or become more effective. I contacted dozens of influential marketers to ask them about their top productivity hack for getting the most out of their workday and they generously shared the following responses.
For me, it’s avoiding Twitter. Aside from that, for sales & proposals I work from a templated document using proposal software called Quote Roller. Makes the proposal process much faster. Finally, working towards building out checklists and procedures internally helps cut down on errors and misunderstandings. The more complex our processes get, the more I’m realizing the need for documentation earlier rather than later.
-Kane Jamison is the founder of the content marketing agency Content Harmony. @KaneJamison
My most effective and simple productivity hack to get the most out of my workday is to start early. I start my day between 6 to 630am which gives me 2-3 hours of uninterrupted work time. During this time I get 65% of my days work out of the way. The rest of the 8-9 hours I work I’m bombarded with phone calls, emails, instant messages which gets me side tracked.
-Sujan Patel is the founder of Single Grain, a leading digital marketing agency in San Francisco. @sujanpatel
My biggest productivity hack is to work on your most important project first thing in the day and don’t check email or Twitter until almost lunch. If you get a solid three hours in uninterrupted work first thing, I consider that highly productive. If you need to grab info or something from your email, use the pause inbox plugin so you’re not seeing any new messages show up to distract you.
-Dan Shure is the owner of Evolving SEO and hosts the video series No Board SEO. @dan_shure
I really don’t have any productivity hack. The only thing relating to this topic is that I ask myself one simple question before doing something, which is “is this the best use of my time to make the most money possible?” That ends up discarding a lot of tasks and help me reach my goals faster. Granted, I’ve only recently employed this after observing a few investors I highly respect, and I’m still not the most disciplined, but all in all, it’s changed the way I think about the whole “getting shit done” mantra. You can try to be as productive as possible, but at the end of the day, it’s about what you do, not how fast/productive you can be in terms of going about it.
-Jon Cooper is the owner of Point Blank SEO, a link building blog and course. @PointBlankSEO
My biggest hack is my schedule and my rigid discipline on communication and work channels. Basically, if it’s not on my Google calendar or in Gmail, it doesn’t happen. I stick to a modified version of inbox 0 and am always working to get down to nothing in my email – every task I have sits there, often in an email from myself. I use it like a checklist, and am only interrupted from polishing it off by meetings on my calendar.
My schedule is also pretty strict. I wake up ~8:30am, do email until 10am, get to work between 10:30-11am, have meetings and coffees and team communication stuff until ~6pm, head home, eat dinner with my wife, and am back online from 10pm-1am to clear out the rest of my inbox and, if I have the chance, blog.
-Rand Fishkin is the founder and CEO of Moz, a provider of marketing analytics software. @randfish
My biggest productivity hack I think goes against everything that the experts tell you which is that I stay on top of my emails throughout the day to stop things getting out of control in my inbox. So I get up early (another top tip), early enough to get some quiet work done before the rest of the world wakes up, clear through my inbox which has only had the 10 hours to fill up if you count sleep a leisure time. I operate a one-touch policy for email so basically I open and deal with it in less than 2 mins so that might be write a response, Boomerang for another time, assign to a team member, delete etc.
I used to have a terrible habit of opening every email then leaving it as a read email sat in my inbox for an entire day if not longer thinking about how I am going to deal with it. Now I have forced myself to deal with it in less than 2 minutes.
I always clear out my inbox before starting task related work because I find it helps clear my mind and ensures our customers have had responses, my team know what they are doing and I can focus on the specific tasks rather than getting sidetracked thinking “A client won’t know what is going on with X, Y or Z because I didn’t respond to them.”
So when it comes to task work my other top tip is the Pomodoro Technique, it has taken real perseverance to make this a permanent fixture in my work day but what a difference it makes to productivity and it also forces me to take leisure breaks in the day and do important things like actually eat lunch 🙂
-James Agate is the CEO of Skyrocket SEO, a link building agency to digital marketing companies and major brands. @jamesagate
My number one hack is “Big Rocks First.” Covey and the Merrills have an excellent book on time management called “First Things First.” Find some time before your week begins, many use Sunday night, to look at the calendar for the week. You need to select the five most important things you need to get done and fit them into the calendar. If you don’t set this time aside you’ll get crushed by the “tyranny of the urgent” – there’s always unlimited email to answer, meetings with co-workers and other urgent but not really important tasks that can fill your week.
Think of your week as a jar – it has limited capacity. The important items are the rocks. Email, social media, meetings and other less important things are sand. You’ve got to put the big rocks in first – you’ll still have space for sand in there. If you just start pouring in the sand, you’ll fill the jar and the important stuff will never get done.
-John Wall is the co-host of Marketing Over Coffee and author of B2B Marketing Confessions. @johnjwall
I’m a big fan of simple techniques, and one I’ve come to like a lot is the Pomodoro Technique. Basically, you work in uninterrupted blocks of 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. It’s a bit more complex than that, and there are many variants, but I find that focused work – that means no email, no Twitter, etc., is absolutely amazing for productivity. Writing and planning especially benefit. For a while, I experimented with doing 8 blocks per day, and that 4 hours of uninterrupted work time was more productive than my average 8-10 hour day. It is shockingly difficult to find 8 uninterrupted blocks of time (or make them, as the case may be), but I still try to use the concept daily, in whatever way I can manage.
-Dr. Peter J. Meyers is a Marketing Scientist at Moz and owner of User Effect, a strategic usability consulting firm. @dr_pete
By far the productivity hack that has made the biggest impact on my life is getting everything with due dates out of your head and into a system that I trust. (This is a philosophy from David Allen’s Getting Things Done). Regardless if it is due in three hours or three days, every item goes into my OmniFocus system. From there it syncs with my phone and computer and is never more than a arms length away. With this setup, I don’t worry about having to remember the milk or to post a blog post because I wake up every morning with a list of all of the things that need to get done that day. I rarely go a day without completing the list and I never have to worry about forgetting important tasks.
-Danny Dover is the co-founder of the marketing training course Making It Click and shares his bucket list adventures at Life Listed. He is also the author of the book Search Engine Optimization Secrets. @dannydover
My #1 productivity hack is to create uninterrupted time in my workday – where it’s just me, silence, and the computer. This is generally around 6AM or before anyone else gets to the office. Distractions are simply that – and very tough to get around, even with willpower. The way to get over that is to force solutions.
My second hack is to schedule blog posts for times I’m traveling. The noise of people responding and tweeting posts are especially distracting to productivity, so I find that if I force the posts live at unproductive times (such as on a plane/at a conference), it’s the most optimal way to get benefit without cost.
-Ross Hudgens is the founder of Siege Media, a digital marketing consultancy that specializes in businesses that operate online. @RossHudgens
My top productivity hack for getting the most out of my workday is simple: Stay organized. I’ve got lots of to-do lists, but they’re very accessible and easy to work from. As long as I know what I need to do each day, I have no problem actually doing it. Recently, I’ve started using Producteev, which is a task management software that helps my employees and I sync up on tasks that need to be done, along with deadlines and collaboration tools as well. So far, I really like it!
-Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO, AudienceBloom, an SEO firm that specializes in link building and social media marketing. @jaysondemers
Everyone has to use something like Pomodoro to manage their time. You need to set out 25-45 minute blocks of time that are ‘interruption proof,’ and then set ground rules for your co-workers. Without this kind of interruption management, it’s impossible to get anything done.
-Ian Lurie is the founder and CEO of Portent, a leading internet marketing company. @portentint
I spend a lot of my time within my email inbox, so to save time I use Unroll.me, which unsubscribes me from any junk mail I receive. This saves me roughly 30 minutes a day.
I also respond to emails right after opening them, versus responding later on. This again saves me roughly 30 minutes a day as I don’t have to re-read emails later on.
-Neil Patel is the founder of the analytics companies KISSmetrics and CrazyEgg and blogs regularly about online marketing at Quick Sprout. @neilpatel
RescueTime has been great for me. Its a free tool to use personally and I am able to see a productivity breakdown. I also am able to see how much time I spend in Gmail which is something I REALLY try to limit as it is usually my biggest time suck. I think the key is that if you aren’t monitoring something it’s very hard to improve on it. I usually take a look at the data every week and see what type of trends are standing out.
-Mike Ramsey is the President of Nifty Marketing, a local search marketing company @niftymarketing
I got this tip from John Doherty (of Distilled) – the key to really get things done or be more productive is to actually do stuff (and lots of them). Productivity is as simple as that, I believe.
Make a list of the things you need to do on a daily basis and sort them by levels of priorities. I personally use Trello to organize my daily/weekly tasks.
I usually start with medium to high priority tasks that aren’t time consuming (like emails, delegating tasks to teammates, reading etc…) before doing the tedious ones (ex: writing blog posts, doing research, analyzing clients’ sites, etc…). The more I see my list of “done tasks” pile up, the more it stimulates my brain and be pumped up to work on the tougher ones.
-Jason Acidre is the CEO of Xight Interactive and writes about online marketing at Kaiser the Sage. @jasonacidre
I don’t have any separate productivity tools (mostly because, ironically, I don’t have time to master them) but I have learned to use my daily software for productivity:
My browser: FireFox has “pinned tabs” option, so whenever there’s a task, I pin it and let it hang there. My browser gets slow and cluttered with too many open pinned tabs, so that’s by far the best motivation for me to go and clear it up by actually doing the tasks!
My email client: I use Thunderbird as my master email inbox: I sync all my mail in there and go through each message one by one (reading, replying, deleting automatic updates, etc). If any of the emails requires something done, I’ll leave it there hanging. If I want to unclutter my inbox, I’ll do my best to *do* that.
-Ann Smarty is the owner of MyBlogGuest, a free community of guest bloggers. She also blogs about SEO at SEO Smarty. @seosmarty
One of the most helpful productivity hacks that I’ve found is to turn off all notifications. I don’t get pop up notifications about email or chats or any kind of push notifications; these these messages rarely contain pertinent information to what I’m working on and are distractions rather than resources. When I’m working on something, I want to focus on the task at hand rather than being interrupted by notifications.
-Geoff Kenyon in an SEO consultant at Distilled and blogs at Geoffkenyon.com. @geoffkenyon
My top productivity hack is to not read blog posts during the workday. I’m constantly on Twitter and see awesome content coming through my feed, but I also have work to do. So, I signed up for Pocket, formerly ReadItLater, and save everything to my Pocket so that I can read it that evening or on my commute home. If you install the Pocket Chrome extension, you can right click on links and save them to your queue without having to open them at all. It’s brilliant!
-John Doherty is the head of Distilled NYC and blogs at Johnfdoherty.com. @dohertyjf.
I’m happiest when I’m in The Flow – that’s when I’m totally focused on one activity at a time and pushing myself through the hard parts. It’s too easy to distract myself with the online equivalent of potato chips when I should be eating salads (getting things done).
One of my weaknesses is social media. There’s so much power for good there, and it’s an essential place for online marketers to be. But, like potato chips, too much can be a bad thing. I’ve recently started using Buffer (optimized with FollowerWonk) as a way to share awesome content throughout the day without having to open the bag of potato chips every time. I use the Chrome plugin to send quick updates on the fly, and they get deployed at intervals throughout the day. Now I plan when I check my social networks instead of letting real-time updates control me.
BONUS! I’ll be keeping an eye on my RescueTime dashboard to quantify my Buffer-induced productivity!
-Lauren Hall-Stigerts is a marketing consultant specializing in content strategy and social media at Marketing Gal. @lstigerts
My top productivity hack is taking my dog for a walk in the morning and before I go to bed. Although it’s not a hack during work time I find it’s vital that I have these two periods of calm in order to process what happened during the day and to plan for the day ahead. We have so many distractions around us at work and home that walking the dog is the time when I have no technology around me, just her and the empty field. With all of the other burdens removed it means I’m free to think creatively and put my mind to tasks that need dedicated time.
It’s like how people get great ideas in the shower because their mind is free to think and listen to the ideas that have been bubbling under until that point. The shower is pretty much the only time we get away from technology now and dog walking applies the same “hack.” The best hack of all is turning everything off.
You might also find this slidedeck I made helpful which covers other hacks to be creative like coning yourself, Pomodoro and being child-like.
-Mike Essex is an Online Marketing Manager at Koozai and author of Free Stuff Everyday. @Koozai_Mike
The biggest productivity hack I use is to work at a standing desk. I swear my productivity rises 30% with this simple act. I also have more energy, seem to digest my food better and when listening to music have more freedom to dance.
The one I have at work I made myself, inspired by this post. Here’s what it looks like:
-Cyrus Shepard is Senior Content Producer at Moz and blogs at Above the Fold. @CyrusShepard
I’m a big believer in “proactive” vs. “reactive” modes in business. I find that I get the most accomplished when I’m in proactive mode.
Because of the way humans evolved, we’re in reactive mode by default. First, it’s better for survival (you can spot danger and opportunities easier). Second, it requires less mental energy.
That’s why checking email/Facebook/blogs is so addictive: it puts you in full-on reactive mode.
I’ve found that once I get into reactive mode, it’s hard to go back into proactive mode.
That’s why I don’t check email (usually) until 3-4pm. That’s obviously more efficient because of batching. But it ensure that my mornings and early afternoons are in full-on proactive mode: producing content, doing outreach and generally getting stuff accomplished.
When my brain is tired from that work, I check all the things I need to check…which requires significantly less mental effort.
-Brian Dean is a link building consultant and owner of Backlinko, which provides free tips and resources for building links. @Backlinko
If you have trouble staying focused on your work, then try the StayFocusd Chrome extension. It blocks websites that distract you from your projects on specific days and hours during the day. Overall, you can give yourself a specific allotted time for all of your blocked sites per day. This can keep your Facebook, celebrity gossip, and online poker site usage down to 15 minutes total during the work day. It’s a great way to increase your productivity by decreasing the chance of getting sucked down the IMDB rabbit hole.
-Kristi Hines is a content marketer and freelance writer who was named to Forbes’ Top 50 Social Influencers. Her Blog Post Promotion Course teaches people how to become exceptional at promoting content and she also runs the popular marketing blog, Kikolani. @kikolani
Each day I make sure that I rise an hour early so that I can go through all of the latest content that has been produced across my favorite blogs and decide which to share online. This is where Feedly comes to my rescue. I’ve categorized my Feedly (RSS reader) into loads of different categories to give me streams of content related to link building, content marketing, design, PPC, growth hacking, local SEO, entrepreneurship, etc. This way, I can skim through each subject to get a general overview of what’s going on – the fact that I’m UK-based helps because I get all the content from the US whilst they’re all asleep, which gives me a chance to catch up! My goal is always to get as much done as possible in the morning because I find my concentration is at its peak. Getting into the office early helps me to shake of any rustiness before I get bombarded with phone calls as well!
-Matthew Barby is the Head of Online Strategy at Wow Internet and writes about online marketing tools and strategies at Find My BlogWay. @matthewbarby
Thanks to everyone who contributed for being so generous with their time! Please help improve this resource by sharing your best productivity hack in the comments.
“My biggest productivity hack is to work on your most important project first thing in the day” -Dan Shure (Tweet This Quote)
“My most effective and simple productivity hack to get the most out of my workday is to start early.” -Sujan Patel (Tweet This Quote)
“Make a list of the things you need to do on a daily basis and sort them by levels of priorities.” -Jason Acidre (Tweet This Quote)
One of the most helpful productivity hacks that I’ve found is to turn off all notifications. -Geoff Kenyon (Tweet This Quote)
“My top productivity hack is taking my dog for a walk in the morning and before I go to bed.” -Mike Essex (Tweet This Quote)
“The biggest productivity hack I use is to work at a standing desk.” -Cyrus Shepard (Tweet This Quote)
If you like this post, be sure to share it with your audience.
Responses collected by Charles Sipe, an online marketing specialist at Spacecraft Digital. @charlessipe