When you’re just starting out in the interactive marketing business, you might feel a bit like young Luke Skywalker leaving Tatooine to begin his Jedi training. It’s nerve-wracking, yet thrilling to jump into an established and growing enterprise, which makes ongoing industry training all the more important.
In fact, it’s so important to stay abreast of shifting trends and best practices that many people fall into the trap of constantly pouring over industry blogs for hours on end, obsessively live-tweeting meetups, and trying out new “time-saving” software so much that their actual day-to-day tasks get left on the wayside.
How can you balance your daily responsibilities such as scheduling blog posts, updating editorial calendars, and replying to client emails with the research required to stay on top of the ever-changing industry progressions? How can you differentiate the “next best thing” that’s worth your time to try out vs. just another project management tool? What’s the best way to avoid “inaction by learning” and actually put your training to good use?
Glad you asked.
Set Growth Goals
One thing that we’ve recently established here at Thunder are setting personal and professional goals for ourselves to accomplish exactly that. It’s crucial to identify your weak spots (we all have them!) and focus your training on where you need improvement so you can rely on your strengths to balance out your days.
For instance, I happen to be an organizational and grammatical wizard (I learned from the best), but I lack advanced knowledge of keywords for SEO and haven’t established Google Authorship for myself (yet). Using my organizational strengths, I have been able to schedule time over the past few months to carve out training periods specifically dedicated to completing an SEO Google Keywords course on Lynda and take the necessary steps to begin building authorship. By taking a little bit of time to learn the foundations of keywords, I’m vastly improving my content output and investing in myself and our clients, and establishing Google Authorship will increase my visibility and expertise in the interactive marketing industry, making me a valuable voice for Thunder.
If you want to establish goals for yourself, here are some tips:
- Figure out what areas of interactive marketing you’d like to know more about (personal goals).
- Work with your superior to identify areas where the company could use support (professional goals).
- Establish a realistic timeline for achieving these goals with progress checkpoints along the way. Luke didn’t become a Jedi overnight and neither will you!
When You Have More To-Dos Than Time
The reality remains that there will be times when you simply have less time to dedicate to furthering your learning than others (seasonal spikes, team members on vacation, etc.) This is when communication amongst your team members becomes crucial, and having a deadline for specific goals will come in very handy. It’s easy to push off these goals indefinitely if there’s no end date, but when you have the end of a 6-month period looming, shifting some things around suddenly becomes a LOT easier.
Here are some ways to dig yourself out of an endless sea of to-dos to free up some training time:
- Sign out of email – there are a ton of articles disparaging the amount of time that email sucks up. Nix it for certain periods daily and watch your to-do list practically check itself off!
- Make yourself unavailable. That might seem negative, but trains of thought weren’t meant to be broken and sometimes you just need some quiet time to chug through. At Thunder, we have little red flags you can put up when you need to focus, which signals to other Thunder Cats to come back later!
- Maintain 24-hour response times for clients and team members at all times. This simple courtesy will help you prioritize.
When You Are Training More Than Tasking
On the other hand, there are times when it’s easier to get sucked down a rabbit hole of reading industry blogs and updates than execute a tedious client task like running a report. The bottom line is there are always going to be things on your to-do list that take priority over reading Twitter updates. Just having the light saber doesn’t make you an expert. You need to train with it, learn from masters how to wield it, and eventually pass your expertise down to others as you transform from pupil to master.
When your productivity is as sluggish as Jabba the Hutt, here’s what you can do:
- Put down your phone. If you find your day-to-day responsibilities are slipping, this may be a big culprit.
- Limit your social media interaction – even if it’s your job! Are you really only roaming Pinterest just for your clients?
- Check out upcoming deadlines and review your long-term projects. Basecamp has a handy tool where you can see your to-dos from today, tomorrow, this week, next week, or later. Sometimes you may forget about a big project that is extended over several months. Click out of Mashable’s blogroll and knock out some of those to-dos while you have the chance!
- Be realistic about training periods. Do you really need 8 hours to check out the new social media management tool? I didn’t think so.
- Think about which tools people may or may not use. We get asked to demo tons of tools every month, and if we all tried them all out, we’d never actually get anything done! Consider its true value to each individual and only select the top-notch ones you see a future with.
However, if you tend to gloss over the evolving trends and remain archaic in your knowledge, you’ll quickly find yourself becoming obsolete in the interactive marketing community with little to offer your peers. If Luke had stayed on Dagobah learning from Yoda indefinitely, he would have never defeated the Empire and saved the galaxy. Training without advancement will never bear fruit, ultimately rendering itself meaningless by disuse.
Find Your Force
Finding that work/learn balance is a delicate dance that takes time to perfect. Shifting trends along with individual availability and willingness all contribute to the mix. However, nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it. Hopefully these tips will help you find that harmonious middle ground of productivity and professional progression!