For the sake of your own productivity – and mine, I suppose – let’s keep this introduction brief and jump straight in with tip number one.
1. Lead by example
It’s the hallmark of any good leader, but you’d be surprised by how many senior marketers reach what they believe is the apex of their career and assume their pen-pushing days are over.
As Pete Jakob, MD of Purple Salix recalls: “I’ve had managers who’ve been a fabulous example to follow, and others that have been a car-crash! The first group inspired me to learn from them, and the second emphasised the fact that I didn’t want to emulate their ways. However, the change needs to come from within – you have to want to get a better control over your day.”
2. Ditch the conveyor belt approach
We all have targets we’re expected to meet. It’s part and parcel of being a marketer. Sometimes these targets are unrealistic, and sometimes mitigating circumstances affect our ability to fulfil them. This is where a flexible approach, and perceptive mindset, can bear fruit.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t think about productivity as something flexible,” says Fraser Sutherland, marketing manager at Storage Vault. “They think a factory worker can produce one car per hour and only one car per hour. When you think like this, the only way to increase a factory’s output is to make employees work longer hours.
“This, however, has the opposite effect. When you force people to work longer hours for no reward, their productivity drops off and you can even end up generating less output than before.”
3. Establish the right culture
This isn’t an abstract concept: company culture plays a huge role in shaping a team’s attitude and approach to their work, as Jada Balster, marketing director at Workfront and Ignite 2017 presenter, stresses. “Positive workplaces with a strong culture breathe success. It increases positive emotions and wellbeing for the wider team, amplifying their abilities and their creativity, which in turn improves productivity on a whole.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. Even if your company culture is more laissez-faire, it’s still important to clarify expectations and communicate priorities; those working in less relaxed, 24/7 working environments should consider mandating breaks for employees.
4. Encourage autonomy
Too many marketers’ days are split between frivolous meetings, senseless email conversations, and the odd hurried toilet break. Having trust in your employees is key here. Ditch micromanagement and give your team permission to make their own decisions around which meetings they attend, which tasks they can delegate and which email chains they’re copied into.
Small distractions like this, argues Pete, are most commonly to blame for poor productivity. “Turn off notifications on your phone, check your email inbox three times a day and extract what the actions are, then close it down in between. If you’re getting distracted by co-workers, find a coffee shop to work in if you need to get some focus.”
5. Rewards and incentives
“Small surprises – often in the form of doughnuts, Turkish breakfasts or pizza – can celebrate a win and build a sense of togetherness,” says Tim Lines, associate director at Nelson Bostock Unlimited. “It might sound corny but it really works.”
Rewards like this should be spontaneous and genuine: contrived perks reek of insincerity, and can severely dent a team’s morale. Value your employees, and take an interest in their personal and professional development.