"We'll publish a blog post every day this month"; "this quarter, we'll create a top-of-the-funnel eBook and a middle-of-the-funnel whitepaper": it's easy to be ambitious about your B2B content strategy, but achieving your goals can often be a different story.
When there's so much to do and distractions at every turn, it can be difficult for B2B content writers to be as productive as they would like. However, successful content marketing relies on consistently creating useful and valuable content for your target audience.
So, here are five simple productivity techniques, to help you power through your to-do list and create the great content you have planned.
1. Don't Break the Chain
This is a productivity technique said to be used by American comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Many of us recognise that it's easy to feel motivated at the start of a task – energised and raring to go – but that feeling tends to dissipate as time goes on. So, we lose focus, we take a break – and the task doesn't get completed (or is completed late).
Don't Break the Chain aims to sustain that initial motivation. Seinfeld is said to have explained this technique to software developer Brad Isaac as follows: "He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here's how it works.
"He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
"He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. 'After a few days, you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.'
"'Don't break the chain,' he said again for emphasis."
Sometimes, productivity is simply about good habits and routine.
2. The Pomodoro Technique
The word "pomodoro" is Italian for "tomato" – so, what does this have to do with productivity? Well, remember those kitchen timers, where an hour is broken down into five-minute blocks? The Pomodoro technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, uses these timers to help you improve your approach to work.
It's a simple idea: you set the timer to 25 minutes (or one "pomodoro") and commit yourself to work during this time without interruption. At the end of this period, you take a short break – say, five minutes to grab a coffee. Then, you start again. Once you've completed four 25-minute segments (or four "pomodoros"), you take a longer break – say, 20 to 30 minutes. If you think of another task you need to do while the timer is running, you simply note it down on a piece of paper and then immediately continue with the task at hand.
The Pomodoro Technique is all about working smarter, not harder and is said to have four main benefits, allowing you to:
- Work with time- not against it
- Eliminate burnout
- Manage distraction
- Create a better work/ life balance
Using The Pomodoro Technique can also help you to gauge more accurately how much time and effort different tasks require – whether that's writing a blog post or an entire eBook –, thereby enabling you to better manage your work load.
3. Eat Live Frogs
Ok, not literally – this technique is otherwise known as "do the worst task first". Often the word "worst" is used as a synonym for "difficult" or "complex" – it's used to describe the task that requires oodles of brainpower and may take a significant chunk of time to complete. Understandably, we tend to put off these kinds of tasks, instead ticking "easy-wins" off our to-do lists.
There's a saying: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day." It's often credited to Mark Twain, but is actually thought to have evolved from a quotation written by the French writer Nicolas Chamfort.
Either way, by eating that live frog at the start of our working day, we ensure that we tackle what really needs to be done. And often, once you get over the initial hurdle of starting to work on a project, it isn't as bad as you imagined.
4. Getting Things Done (GTD)
This methodology was created by productivity consultant David Allen and it's really what it says on the tin. GTD is described as "a total work-life management system that transforms overwhelm into an integrated system of stress-free productivity".
It consists of five steps, which are intended to provide structure to your work:
- Capture – collect what has your attention
- Clarify – process what it means
- Organise – put it where it belongs
- Reflect – review frequently
- Engage – simply do
So, what does this look like in practice?
- Capture – write down all the tasks that you need to complete, from small to-do's to large-scale projects.
- Clarify – work your way through your list and decide whether each task is actionable or not. If it isn't, either get rid of it entirely or note it down to address later. For actionable tasks, if they will take less than two minutes to complete, work on them immediately; if not, either delegate them or assign a time when you can work on them.
- Organise – further define your list of actionable tasks, by sorting them into relevant categories.
- Reflect – look at your to-do list on a frequent basis, constantly updating and amending as you go.
- Engage – get things done, confident in the knowledge that you are on top of your workload.
Many B2B content writers have struggled with productivity at one time or another and this can be highly problematic when there are brilliant ideas to be conveyed and endless words to be written. However, by adopting one or more of these simple productivity techniques, you can ensure that you meet your deadlines and, resultantly, your wider marketing and business goals.