Have an Objective
To be effective you have to have a goal. Don't make a decision without knowing why you're doing it, preferably backed up by solid data.
Prioritise the Important
With a clear objective, you can now prioritise your tasks based on impact. Avoid fire-fighting and instead delegate or say no to any tasks that don't move you towards your goal (not important).
Batch Similar Tasks
Get in the flow by batching similar tasks. If you have multiple clients that need content briefs to be written or outreach to be conducted, for example, make one day a content day and the next an outreach day.
Avoid chopping and changing between different tasks as much as possible. Not only does this help you stay focused it's also more efficient. There's a certain amount of mental overhead to get up to speed when starting any new task.
Use Time Blocks
While batching is a great way to improve efficiency, you need to take regular breaks to perform at your best. Time blocking means concentrating fully on a task for 20 - 30 minutes then taking a short, 5 minute, break to reset and go again.
Use your short breaks to take a screen break, get up, move around, grab a drink, go to the loo, you get it! These breaks also create a natural stopping point for non-important tasks (looking at you emails!) that can otherwise end up consuming your workday.
Avoid having your email tab open or running in the background, with those pesky notifications, at all costs. Remember, there's no such thing as an SEO emergency! If it's super important you'll get a phone call.
Instead, schedule two to three times per day to check and respond to emails. Limit each check to 15 - 20 minutes to avoid email consuming your workday.
Inbox zero is interpreted differently by different people, so here's our take on effectively managing your inbox. For us, inbox zero means having no unread emails in your inbox.
You can do this in two passes. First, flick through all your new emails and categorise them using a three star system:
This gives you a quick idea of what's in your inbox, so you don't get caught out by an unexpected request several emails in. Any emails that can be answered in 2 minutes or less can be responded to as you go but for everything else, give it a star!
Next, go back and move any action emails (orange star) over to your task management platform. Any reference emails (purple star) can be converted to a PDF and moved to a client folder on Google Drive or similar.
For emails that require a detailed response (yellow star) schedule a time to respond in the new few days. Keep clients happy by sending a quick "I'll look into this and get back to you by the end of the week." so they know you're on the case.
Avoid pushing planned tasks out of the way to respond to long or complex emails. Either block out time on your schedule to respond, but not right away, or suggest providing an answer during your next scheduled client call.