Writing isn’t rocket science. But sometimes, sitting down and actually producing work can feel just as difficult.
After all, there are tons of distractions in daily life, from the prosaic and common (answering emails) to the uniquely work-at-home issues (cleaning your bathroom sink).
This article will outline some ways that content marketers are wasting time, but it will only focus on those issues that we can actually solve (sorry to those who spend countless hours cleaning their kitchens).
There are a million and one ways bloggers are spending time on wasteful and repetitive activities, but today, there are almost as many tools, tactics, and techniques to solve them.
1. Uploading Google Docs to WordPress and Reformatting Everything
If there’s one thing prolific bloggers and content marketers all have in common, it’s this: they write a lot.
Obvious, sure. But we rarely think about the compounding value of repetitive activities. Put in other words, what activities do you constantly engage in that aren’t actually related to the business of blogging (writing, promoting, editing, etc.)?
One activity, surely, is the process of uploading your draft to your CMS. In many cases, due to the popularity of these tools, you’re going to be uploading drafts written in Google Docs to WordPress. While this sounds straightforward, it usually comes with a lot of tinkering and reformatting. In my mind, this is simply wasted time.
Wordable gives you that time back. In basically the click of a button, you can upload a draft, fully formatted, to WordPress. It takes just a few seconds this way.
If you write one post per week, and you save one hour for each post using Wordable, how much is that worth to you over the course of a month?
2. Social Media
We’re all subject to the time suck that is social media. Sure, we can connect with old friends across time zones and borders. We can get interesting news that otherwise would have been transmitted through magazines or carrier pigeons. But at what cost? The cost is our productivity (and sanity) of course.
You can try will power, but I’ve not had luck doing that. So in this case, we can fight technology with more technology. Two tools worth considering:
First, News Feed Eradicator. This one is my favorite, because it still allows you to access other features of Facebook (the more social ones), but it blocks the addicting and poisonous features (the news feed). It’s a Chrome Extension, so it’s a quick install, and it’s completely free.
It even gives you a nice quote about productivity in place of the news feed:
Second, another Chrome Extension, is Dayboard. This does two things:
- Gives you a 5 item task list that shows up on new tabs
- Blocks sites that are deemed unproductive
For the latter feature, you can set the sites and the time that you allows yourself. For instance, you can ban Twitter and Reddit, but you can also allott yourself, say, 20 minutes per day. This is a great tool for those humans among us with less that iron wills.
3. Being Buried in Emails
Email is a tricky one, because unlike Facebook, it feels productive. After all, it’s never deemed a leisurely activity. I view procrastination in two categories:
- Unproductive procrastination
- Productive procrastination
Unproductive procrastination – things like watching Netflix and happy hour – obviously negate responsibility. But in my opinion, they’re less dangerous because of their obviousness.
Productive procrastination – things like cleaning your house and, yes, email – is more insidious, because on the surface, it feels like you’re getting something important done. But you know, deep down, that you’re supposed to be doing something else (when’s your deadline again?).
It’s tough to combat this one entirely, but I believe there are two things that can help:
Boomerang has tons of time saving features. You can schedule emails. You can set up boomerangs that return emails to you at a later date. It’s a really great overall solution for email productivity.
The other isn’t so much a tool, but a methodology. Basically, put two 30 minute time slots on your calendar for email. I like to do one at 11am and the other at the end of my workday, just so I don’t feel bad leaving work having “unanswered emails.” These time slots are the only time you are allowed to check or respond to emails.
This tactic alone can save you hours of time and pounds of sanity.
Other than these two, there are actually tons of email productivity tools out there. It’s almost like lots of people struggle with this problem!
4. Too Much Content Consumption
As content marketers and bloggers, we not only write a lot of content, but we read a lot of it as well. This is important work, don’t doubt it. First, we need to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s working and trending in content marketing. Second, we need to research and continue to learn about the domain we’re writing about. Third, sometimes we just need some inspiration.
The trouble comes when you’re constantly reading content and don’t get “heads down” time to actually produce. This pattern of intermittent interruptions can really put a strain on your flow. It can be really difficult to get in the groove.
For this, I like Pocket.
Pocket allows you to save articles for later, and you can even listen to articles as audio. It’s like batching for your content consumption.
5. Spell Check and Tedious Editorial Tasks
There are two layers of editorial tasks: the important and the tedious.
The important tasks are things that can’t (yet) be outsourced to a robot or even an intern. They are things like crafting the overall brand voice, spinning a compelling story, and optimizing your content for SEO or social.
The tedious tasks are things like spell check, grammar, and fixing errors that, in a fully caffeinated, probably would never have occurred.
So, there is a spell check feature in Google Docs. But there’s also Grammarly, which is a damn life saver. It’s another Chrome Extension, and it’s freemium. You can get a lot of mileage out of the free version.
6. Too Much Research
Research is good. Creating data-backed content is not only effective, but it’s intrinsically rewarding.
But there’s a certain level of research that you can basically outsource. In addition, the research you do yourself can be cumulative and can be stored where you can pick it up when you need it. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you write an article.
For the first point, outsourcing your research, we have two tools:
Wonder is an app that, plain and simple, does your research for you. Give them a topic or question, and they’ll come back with stats, sources, and facts. It’s really cool for getting the basics on a topic.
If you do require a bit more bespoke research, Upwork has tons and tons of freelancers that can do your research and put together an easy to read report. While you still may need to go beyond this (you probably will), this gets you started and eliminates a lot of the heavy lifting.
As for storing your research for later use, I like Evernote.
Both allow you to create tags, upload screenshots, quotes, etc., and search for them for easy access.
7. Trying (and Failing) to Get Insights from Digital Analytics
There’s this new trend in the marketing space, where it seems that we’re all expected to know everything about everything. How many breathless articles are written about how “If marketers don’t learn this 3 skills in 2019, they’re doomed!”?
It’s all a bunch of BS. Sometimes, a copywriter is just a copywriter (and it doesn’t matter if they know SQL or Python).
That said, I think it’s great for everyone to have a foundational understanding of data. It’s helpful beyond digital marketing, but it’s particularly useful in decision making and gauging the success of campaigns.
The difference, however, in becoming a world class analyst and knowing the basics of Google Analytics is huge. You should know the basics. You should hire the world class expert.
So spend a lot of time building out a robust Data Studio dashboard, and then plug back into what your speciality is: content. And see if Quill Engage gives you anything interesting as well.
8. Back and Forth Emails to Schedule Meetings
Though I try to avoid meetings when I can, sometimes they’re inevitable. And when they’re inevitable, there’s nothing worse than 5 back and forth emails trying to find a time that works for everyone (especially if there are more than two people in the meeting).
9. Workflow Disorganization
The last one on the list is the hardest to solve. Go figure.
All of us, no matter the job title or responsibility, have an element of management to our job. Whether it’s simply managing your own workflow, or managing a complex editorial calendar and content pipeline for a large organization, this is an element of our jobs as content creators.
There are two poles here. The first is to have no strategy or tools for workflow organization. You write what you feel like, you pull ad-hoc reports, and you fly by the seat of your pants. This is no bueno.
The other side is to have everything under strict control, leaving not even a gasping breath of space for serendipity or flexibility.
Neither are good strategies, but we probably tend to bias towards the side of less organization (I do at least).
There are tons and tons of tools here (more that we can list here, but check out our blog tools article). A few of the best ones:
- Trello (for editorial calendar management)
- Google Drive (for collaboration and editorial)
- Zapier (for all automation and connecting apps)
- Dayboard (for personal to do lists and productivity)
Even giving you a list of tools is insufficient though. Two people could use those four tools and they could have completely different workflows. This is why we’ve put together our Content Crafter interview series. Follow the Wordable blog to read a bi-weekly interview with an expert content marketer, and see how they run things.
Here are a few past interviews to get you started:
- Tracey Wallace of BigCommerce on Editorial Process, Influencers, and SEO
- Emma Brudner of HubSpot on Empathy, Adaptability, and Hyper-Scale Content Output
- Tommy Walker of Intuit on Editorial Processes & Storytelling
We all waste time sometimes, and that’s not something to be ashamed of. But there are always ways to squeeze out more productive time, and eliminate especially the most tedious and repetitive tasks.
We’ve listed a lot of tools in this post, but productivity is really mostly a function of mindset. Only after you have that ability to focus and write fast can tools, tactics, or tricks help you. That said, these tools, tactics, and tricks will help you. Especially Wordable. 🙂