Your time is valuable because you are valuable. Do you believe that?
At Digital Gaggle, I asked an audience of marketing and sales managers how many of them regularly finished at 5pm, most days. Pretty much no one put their hand up. Do you?
It’s safe to say that most of us are too busy and too stressed. So stop wasting your time!
Read on for a whole bunch of hints, tips, tools and tricks to make yourself more efficient, automate your most boring tasks, and save yourself some precious time.
Before you read about all of the best marketing automation tools, hear this: standardising your processes and weeding out inefficiencies can save you nearly as much time as automating them. And it’s free - just add time.
Spend a little time now to save a lot of time later. Here’s the framework:1. Start by mapping out your overall business goals, and under that, any SMART goals you are personally held accountable for.
If you don’t have any SMART goals, get some! Talk to your line manager or stakeholders and set up some specific goals which you can meet. That way, you know what you’re assessed on when it comes to promotions and pay rises, and it also means you know where to focus your efforts.2. Then under your goals, map the key areas or different forms of marketing you might do to achieve those goals. So under conversion rate goals, you might have content writing, CTAs and so on.
3. Write up the specifics of those next. You don’t need a blow-by-blow account, but it’s essential to get down exactly how you’re spending your time. Write up your weekly tasks as well as longer projects.
4. Next we want to add time estimates. Now these need to be honest time estimates. If something takes you twice as long as it ‘should’, fine, put that down. It’s important that we get an accurate portrayal of how much time you’re spending.
If you have no idea, try an app like clockify to track your time, or just block out what you’ve been doing and for how long in your google calendar every time you finish a task.
Then add 6 hours for lunch and faff, because no one is productive all the time. You’re not. Don’t lie to me.
5. Once we’ve mapped out everything relating to our goals, we also need to add on the time we spend on admin and business processes; stuff like training new staff or sending so many emails…
When I went over this during the talk, the hours added up to 48. Already - from this fake example - we can see that our marketing manager is working too much!
It’s really important you map this out so we can see where you’re at right now. It will help with the justification of setting up or paying for the tools that will save you time.
I also encouraged everyone to add this plan into their actual calendar, so you can see when and how long you generally need to/ actually spend on everything.
This reduces your mental load, and is also SUPER helpful because then if someone asks you to do something really unnecessary and time consuming, you can hit back saying “sure, which of the blockers in my calendar that are aligned with achieving our business goals would you like me to defer?”.
You might still have to do the thing, but people will at least know the cost it has on your work much better.
Before we look at how to make everything faster, take a second to see if there’s anything in there that doesn’t actually help achieve your goals.
Do you really need to tweet everyday if you’re only getting 4 likes?
Be ruthless with your responsibilities, and convert them into goal-oriented actions. Hopefully that will save you some time. Remember, standardise first, remove any inefficiencies, then automate.
Now that we've cut out the unnecessary stuff, it’s time to speed everything up. Some of the tools below are bordering-on-magic artificial intelligence.
But to be honest, some of them are simple, free, and easy to do. You might just not have thought of them yet. Let’s get into it.
Everyone hates reporting, right? But it’s really important. One of the most time consuming and arduous parts of reporting is copying data from multiple sources into a spreadsheet/powerpoint to then present.
But you don’t need to be doing that manually. You can use a python script (a custom built computer programme) to lift data from web pages and magically move it onto a spreadsheet.
This takes a bit of time and expense upfront, but could save you several hours every week/month.
Or, if you’re not technical at all and want it to be easy and user friendly, use Databox. We’ve used them before and they’re easy and brilliant.
Also, side note: if you’re sending 20 slides or 40 rows of data to your stakeholders once a month and they’re only really looking at 4 numbers, just send them the 4 numbers. Justify it by pointing out how much more time you could spend on putting the numbers up if you stopped writing them all out… standardise, then automate.
How long do you spend booking meetings? Calendly reckon people on average take 7 emails to find the right time for a meeting. That’s so inefficient!
Use a calendar link instead and save yourself a ton of time and effort. HubSpot have a great tool that we use, but Calendly is the go-to free version.
You link it to your Google or Outlook calendar and just send the link out. They’ll only see times you’re available and book in with you when you have crossover. Easy.
You can also set up links for groups or a round robin - if you’ve not got your sales people on this, do it right now! Otherwise they are wasting so much time, and it saves on painful admin too, so they’ll thank you for it.
Extra tip: if you’re a managing director or you are constantly trying to herd 10 internal staff into a room, use shared Outlook or Google calendars. That way you can just click into all of the people you need in the room, and play Jenga to find a space. Ideally, you’d then send one email, and everyone will accept it because they’re free.
Love it or hate it? I take forever to write social posts (luckily, our social media marketing team does that for our clients, not me!) so I’ve found a few cheeky hacks to speed things up.
The first one is Descript. This is one of the coolest bits of technology I’ve ever seen - when I saw the advert I thought ‘surely that’s not real…’ but it really does work!
You upload your video, and then Descript will automatically create a transcript and caption it. Already that’s amazing. But if there’s an ‘um’ or a sentence you want to take out of the video, all you have to do is select that sentence in the transcript and delete it. Descript then automatically cuts the video to remove that bit. And it’s very accurate.
I cannot emphasise enough how much time this has saved on our video editing. And with video being the cornerstone of content now, this is a great way of enabling your team to do more video without losing days in editing time.
No problem. If you can’t afford Descript, Tiktok also creates auto captions. Just upload your video and press the captions button. You can then download it and remove the Tiktok logo, and you’re good to go. If you want landscape video captions, we’ve got a whole blog on how to do video captions here.
If you need to crop the video, I can’t believe I’m suggesting this, but ezgif.com/maker is my go to for cropping videos and turning them into gifs. It’s free and does what it says on the tin.
Adding video captions ensures that your content is accessible, but if your audience has the option to auto-caption your videos - for example, in-platform - that’s even better. Your content remains accessible because you are giving your audience the option to turn captions on to provide additional support, or turn them off to remove unnecessary distraction. But please use caution. No one likes inaccurate captions, so think about the type of content you are captioning and if an auto-caption or transcript tool is best.
Another socials hack for content writing is using a software like Wordtune.
Everyone knows that it’s bad practice to post the same thing across every platform. But it can be so frustrating and time consuming once you’ve come up with the perfect post to change it up, to then say the same thing in a different way.
With Wordtune you can type in a sentence or paragraph and it will smartly come up with different ways of saying it.
The technology is advanced enough that it doesn’t just move the sentence round, it will add in or take away different bits to create a new-ish sentence with the same sentiment. That’s an easy way to shave time off every social post, and that time adds up!
While we’re on the topic of speeding up writing: welcome to AI writing tools. We use Jasper.ai but there are loads… you just select the type of content you want to make, write a couple of sentences and specify your tone, and it will just spit out a couple of normally, pretty well written paragraphs in the format you’ve chosen.
This is an amazing time saver, but a word of warning! Don’t just take what Jasper spits out and post it on your site. Google has recently launched the helpful content update, and one of their main tenements is to massively de-rank webpages with content written by an AI. If anyone can spot it, it’s going to be Google… so use it as a first draft.
How do you edit it quickly? Just think, how can I make this more succinct and more beautiful. The midpoint between those two things should get you great content, quickly.
If you can’t afford an AI tool, Google docs has a free voice typing tool.
Voice typing - i.e talking to your laptop while it writes down what you say - is statistically 3x faster than typing, even with time for correcting typos. It can feel weird at first, but it’s a great way to just get words down on a page, smash out a first draft, and then make yourself more efficient by editing it into something good instead of trying to pen a masterpiece on your first try.
Do you have end to end, clear documentation of what your prospect to customer journey is? No? Neither did most of the audience at Digital Gaggle.
Loads of our work with clients in HubSpot is mapping out and then automating their sales and marketing process. This saves both sales and marketing teams loads of time and money by making them more efficient and improves reporting.
If that sounds like something you need, get in touch! But even with zero budget, you can still take the time to map out your end to end process and find inefficiencies, and areas to standardise or automate.
We use Lucid chart for this, it’s probably my favourite tool ever, but you can use anything from Miro to a whiteboard and sticky notes.
Here’s the process:
Below are a bunch of prompts to get you started.
This is my biggest pet peeve: please stop wasting your time doing the same training over and over again! Just record it in Zoom or Google Meet, share your screen, do the session like you’re training someone and then upload that to an internal portal or GDrive.
Then, you can give new starters a playlist of videos to watch.
If you think there will be questions, you can always book a 10 minute call after they’ve watched the video to keep them accountable and answer their queries… but that still saves you 50 minutes of an hour-long training session every time!
If you keep getting the same questions from sales people about how to do a specific thing, use a platform like Soapbox. It’s free, and we use it all the time for our clients. It’s a really easy way of recording quick explainer videos, editing out the start or end if you need to, and then hosting that video somewhere with a title and description.
Videos are an amazing way of communicating quickly. The Americans call it ‘Asynchronous meetings’, and it’s a great way of saving time or discussing complicated topics when you can’t meet.
Do you send too many emails? I feel like we all do. Ever thought to yourself “I’ve written this email before, why do I have to keep telling people this?” Stop writing it then. Use email templates.
We use HubSpot templates which are great, but Gmail has free templates you can use too.
You write out your repetitive email, save it as a template, then any time you go to send a similar email, just add the template. This way you can save time but still make it sound authentic.
Also, no one wants to read your long emails. Sorry. They don’t. They’ll probably skim it.
Stop taking 35 minutes to write an email no one is going to read. Record a 5 minute video instead. People will watch it because it’s like watching YouTube at work, you’ve only used up 5 minutes of your life, and you’ll probably be able to explain whatever it is much easier too.
If you now feel a bit overwhelmed, don’t panic. Just pick three easy things you can start saving time on and spend time now to save time later.
Because your time is valuable. Why? Say it with me. Because you are valuable.
Go get ‘em.
Saving clients from bad marketing and design is Andy's MO. He writes helpful blog content on all sorts of marketing topics so that you get the advice you need to take your job by storm.
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