Okay, confession time:  I’m secretly a David Allen/GTD groupie.

I discovered Allen’s stuff several years ago, when I was the in-house marketing person at a large regional commercial construction company.  As basically a one-person marketing department, I had to juggle a lot of different priorities and tasks, and my workday was really unpredictable.  One day I might be editing video for the annual Christmas party, the next I might be writing radio copy or designing a print advertisement, and later that afternoon I’d be wrestling with nailing down invitations, RSVPs and other details for a customer appreciation golf outing (or acting as the “drink cart girl” at the same).

Like most creative folks, organization and productivity skills don’t come naturally to me.  So it didn’t take me too long in that position to realize that I needed a system–some kind of framework to help keep me from getting overwhelmed with all the things I had to manage.  I ran across Merlin Mann’s excellent primer on Getting Things Done on 43folders.com, and I was off and running like a herd of turtles.  At that time, it was more about saving my sanity than working at peak productivity–although it managed to accomplish both.

With the economy turning south, budgets are going to get tighter.  It’s time to whittle that unwieldy workflow into a lean, mean, social media marketing routine. Smart companies are going to continue to spend money on marketing and advertising, but they’re going to get more exacting about their vendors, agencies and consultants delivering maximum value.  Getting more efficient may enable you to keep your job as belts get tighter–particularly in the growing field of social media, where things have been admittedly a little lax in the efficiency department as practitioners spent a lot of time just getting to know the space, developing networks and resource channels, and experimenting to see what works.

So here are a few simple, fast efficiency tweaks that can help you become “sleek like a cheetah” and stay ahead of the dreaded pink slip till the economy picks back up.

  1. Do a value audit of your RSS feeds and social network memberships, and trim those that don’t deliver value ruthlessly.  Jason wrote about this earlier this week, but it’s worth mentioning again.  You only have so much time and attention–and if you’re like me, you’re hitting “mark all read” and missing the best stuff because you don’t have time to wade through it all. It’s time for any and all “pity” subcriptions and “just in case this network goes hot” memberships to go buh-bye.
  2. Develop a workflow that works for you, and stick with it. Make a grid for your week, with two to four segments for each day (either Morning and Afternoon, or Early Morning, Late Morning, Early Afternoon, Late Afternoon).  Assign a focus to each block–some foci may repeat. (Mine are clients–yours may be types of tasks, like blogging or ideation).  Then grid a workday, with sections for each hour.  Again, assign a focus for each block, repeat as necessary (for me, this is where I break up by task type.)  To deal with the “always on” aspect of social media work, and things like Twitter, you can also draw a clock face, and break up the hour, alloting 5-10 minutes at the top and bottom of each hour, or only one or the other, to checking and updating statuses, responding to comments, etc.  Use a timer or alarm of some sort to enforce your workflow till it becomes a habit.
  3. Eliminate duplicate effort wherever possible.  There are multiple tools that will allow you to update statuses across multiple social sites simultaneously, (Profilactic, hellotxt, ping.fm, Utterli, and Firestatus to name a few) but many folks I know aren’t using them.  It’s time to start.  If your statuses need to be distinct on each channel where you “live,” you may want to consider that your social footprint is getting unmanageable.
  4. Do an ego check.  Yes, building a strong personal brand and credibility is critical in social media, both for being seen and for truly understanding the space and the various communities. This is especially the case with so many “experts” entering the field in the last six months to a year.  But in the current economic climate, be VERY wary of letting “personal brand development” steal too much time away from “delivering client results.”
  5. Consider getting a guru.   If you really need help getting organized and improving your work habits, it may be a good time to invest in a personal coach (before your slacker tendencies get you fired and you can’t afford one).  Or if that’s not an option, get a “virtual coach” by consuming ONE productivity guru’s stuff–books, ebooks, blogs or podcasts.  I say “pick one” because it’s very easy to let “productivity” become another distraction/obsession that keeps you from actually getting billable work done.  Find one methodology and/or expert who’s approach fits your needs best, and engage with him or her at the level you can afford, both in terms of time and expense.

The ability to switch gears between very different tasks on-the-fly is often a trait that leads people to a career in social media–because it’s incredibly helpful just based on the nature of the work.  However, it can also lead to running around in circles when things get really busy, and a loss of productivity.  Smart practictioners will develop work habits that can scale at least as well as the best social software.

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About Kat French

Kat French

Kat French is the Digital Operations Manager at CafePress. An exceptional writer both on the web and in other genres, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in community management, SEO/PPC, social media strategy and program management. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, Optima Batteries and more.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://productivityincontext.com @Stephen

    Well, Kat, you have just written the post that I was going to work on this week. The RSS tip is a good one, timely for me as I declared “RSS Bankruptcy” last month and turned off everything but the most valuable (and all of the political stuff is gone too).

    I would add that there are going to be times that you have to just turn off all of the SM inputs completely, and focus on what you are doing. Then you can turn them back on when it's completed as your reward.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • KatFrench

      Stephen,

      Thanks for the reply, and sorry for “stealing” your post. I did the RSS audit this week, and painful as it was, it's helped. I also know what you're saying on the political thing– I dropped two folks I really like from Twitter till after the election because their constant political sniping was sucking my energy into a black hole of negativity.

      I also agree about switching it ALL off during certain “crunch times”–I call those “analog days.”

      • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

        This is funny, as earlier today, I went into my feed reader and trimmed 20 subscriptions to 126. I still have a ton to remove, for I'm a believer that if something is crucial for me to read, enough people will either blog or tweet about it that I'll find it.

        Good advice, Kat.

  • http://productivityincontext.com @Stephen

    Well, Kat, you have just written the post that I was going to work on this week. The RSS tip is a good one, timely for me as I declared “RSS Bankruptcy” last month and turned off everything but the most valuable (and all of the political stuff is gone too).

    I would add that there are going to be times that you have to just turn off all of the SM inputs completely, and focus on what you are doing. Then you can turn them back on when it's completed as your reward.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • KatFrench

    Stephen,

    Thanks for the reply, and sorry for “stealing” your post. I did the RSS audit this week, and painful as it was, it's helped. I also know what you're saying on the political thing– I dropped two folks I really like from Twitter till after the election because their constant political sniping was sucking my energy into a black hole of negativity.

    I also agree about switching it ALL off during certain “crunch times”–I call those “analog days.”

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com CraigK

    Thanks for the tips Kat, my project load is increasing all the time and on diverse projects, some unrelated like you gave examples of. As a new worker I am trying my best to keep myself organized. I am big on writing down my to-do-lists instead of using calendars or other software to track progress. The RSS tip is really, good. I waste a lot of time reading blogs that really are not important or authors provide no real value for me.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

    • KatFrench

      I'm glad you brought up “value”–I think it's important to note that there are different kinds of value. I kept one or two that just provide consistent, excellent entertainment value, or whose authors writing style or ideas I just really, really ENJOY.

      It's really easy to sterilize your feeds into all work, all business, all the time. Don't forget the human value. It's important, too.

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com CraigK

    Thanks for the tips Kat, my project load is increasing all the time and on diverse projects, some unrelated like you gave examples of. As a new worker I am trying my best to keep myself organized. I am big on writing down my to-do-lists instead of using calendars or other software to track progress. The RSS tip is really, good. I waste a lot of time reading blogs that really are not important or authors provide no real value for me.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  • http://twitter.com/violetmae violet

    Nice tips, Kat. I find it especially helps me to have a time schedule of my entire day, then have a timer go off when I have to switch tasks (I tend to get into this state of flow that's hard to break). I also find I am more productive when I take a couple minutes between every hour or so to recollect myself, rather than try to plow through everything at one time. I pair those tips with some caffeine, and I'm good to go.

    • KatFrench

      Sounds like you have a great system going! Good for you! :)

  • http://twitter.com/violetmae violet

    Nice tips, Kat. I find it especially helps me to have a time schedule of my entire day, then have a timer go off when I have to switch tasks (I tend to get into this state of flow that's hard to break). I also find I am more productive when I take a couple minutes between every hour or so to recollect myself, rather than try to plow through everything at one time. I pair those tips with some caffeine, and I'm good to go.

  • http://www.digitalcapitalism.com Kipp Bodnar

    Kat

    This is a good list and some helpful tips, though I would disagree with 3. I don't like to broadcast status updates, I feel like you miss out on the responses from the community especially on active platforms like Twitter. I would rather participate in less communities than broadcast updates that don't contribute to the community in the way I think they should.

    Just my .02
    Kipp

    • KatFrench

      I'd agree you could do either approach (trimming networks or broadcasting), or a blend. What I was taking exception to was duplication of effort simply because you haven't taken the time to really figure out why you're on a particular network.

  • http://www.digitalcapitalism.com Kipp Bodnar

    Kat

    This is a good list and some helpful tips, though I would disagree with 3. I don't like to broadcast status updates, I feel like you miss out on the responses from the community especially on active platforms like Twitter. I would rather participate in less communities than broadcast updates that don't contribute to the community in the way I think they should.

    Just my .02
    Kipp

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    This is funny, as earlier today, I went into my feed reader and trimmed 20 subscriptions to 126. I still have a ton to remove, for I'm a believer that if something is crucial for me to read, enough people will either blog or tweet about it that I'll find it.

    Good advice, Kat.

  • http://blog.cars4causes.net Virginia

    Great tips for organization! I keep an ongoing task scheduler (whiteboard) in my office with deadlines and status of all posts in process for publication. I agree that things like Twitter can be a black hole of time-sucking, but working on that to make my time on all SM relevant to what I am doing on blogs in articles etc. Thanks for your words of advice!
    Viirginia
    http://www.cars4causes.net

    • KatFrench

      Thanks for the comment. I like whiteboards, too, but more often for ideation and mind mapping. Something about that marker smell just puts me in a creative mood.

  • http://blog.cars4causes.net Virginia

    Great tips for organization! I keep an ongoing task scheduler (whiteboard) in my office with deadlines and status of all posts in process for publication. I agree that things like Twitter can be a black hole of time-sucking, but working on that to make my time on all SM relevant to what I am doing on blogs in articles etc. Thanks for your words of advice!
    Viirginia
    http://www.cars4causes.net

  • KatFrench

    I'm glad you brought up “value”–I think it's important to note that there are different kinds of value. I kept one or two that just provide consistent, excellent entertainment value, or whose authors writing style or ideas I just really, really ENJOY.

    It's really easy to sterilize your feeds into all work, all business, all the time. Don't forget the human value. It's important, too.

  • KatFrench

    Sounds like you have a great system going! Good for you! :)

  • KatFrench

    I'd agree you could do either approach (trimming networks or broadcasting), or a blend. What I was taking exception to was duplication of effort simply because you haven't taken the time to really figure out why you're on a particular network.

  • KatFrench

    Thanks for the comment. I like whiteboards, too, but more often for ideation and mind mapping. Something about that marker smell just puts me in a creative mood.

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  • http://www.roundpeg.biz Roundpeg

    Great suggestions. Particularly the value audit of your feeds. When my unread feeds start stacking up, I look for patterns, are there feeds routinely skip in favor of others I find more interesting. If so, I drop them.

    Or if I have more than 5 or 6 unread from a particular author, that is usually a sign this feed is no longer serving the purpose, and I drop it.

    The cool thing is you can ad or drop, without fee, cost or penalty!

  • http://www.roundpeg.biz Roundpeg

    Great suggestions. Particularly the value audit of your feeds. When my unread feeds start stacking up, I look for patterns, are there feeds routinely skip in favor of others I find more interesting. If so, I drop them.

    Or if I have more than 5 or 6 unread from a particular author, that is usually a sign this feed is no longer serving the purpose, and I drop it.

    The cool thing is you can ad or drop, without fee, cost or penalty!

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  • G D Stanford CCIM

    This was a very well written and informative article. I am able to immediately improve my ability to be productive by following several simple suggestions that were made. I love the way this is written (short and sweet) and to the point.

    thanks

  • G D Stanford CCIM

    This was a very well written and informative article. I am able to immediately improve my ability to be productive by following several simple suggestions that were made. I love the way this is written (short and sweet) and to the point.

    thanks

  • G D Stanford CCIM

    This was a very well written and informative article. I am able to immediately improve my ability to be productive by following several simple suggestions that were made. I love the way this is written (short and sweet) and to the point.

    thanks

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  • http://www.carsforbreastcancer.org/ Carla | Auto Donation

    With the vastness of things that Internet could do, we should be updated of the tools and strategies that we can take advantage of. Most of them are for free and we dont use them that much because we don’t know how. Social media is a powerful tool as well. Get connected and get known

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