How to Stay Organized if You Work in Marketing: 4 Tips from a Project Manager

by Emily Olmsted | February 16, 2021

In digital marketing, time is valuable. Launching new campaigns, sending emails and even making website updates are all time-sensitive. Many marketers today struggle with how to stay organized while juggling so many projects and deadlines. 

I’m a Project Manager. Keeping teams and coworkers on track to complete their goals is my job. Unfortunately, there’s no one big secret that can turn that endless Google Doc into a pristine library of valuable information. But there is hope. 

Here are four tips on how to stay organized and get your sprawling work life under control.

Use Automation to Keep Your Inbox Clean

I am a firm believer that there are two types of people in this world: inbox zero people and non-inbox zero people. You can probably already guess that I prefer the former. I love ending my day with zero unread emails in my inbox. If I see more than five unread emails, it can send me into a tizzy. 

I maintain an almost empty inbox by setting up folders. Once I’ve addressed an email, it can move into my “addressed” folder. This works great for me because my inbox doubles as my to-do list, so putting an email in its respective folder is my version of checking it off.

Okay, but what about those non-inbox zero folks, can they learn how to stay organized? Of course! With the right system in place, anything is possible. You can set up rules to identify emails by sender, recipient or subject line and automatically place them in the correct folder. You can prioritize using colors, flags or stars. There are even apps out there dedicated to organizing your inbox for you! Boomerang, Clean Email and Email Analytics are a few.

However, your email isn’t the only inbox you deal with on a daily basis. Instant messaging has become a part of every day workflow as well. Slack, Gchat and Microsoft Teams are perfect for digital marketing because they allow for instant communication. 

But it can be easy for budgets and launch dates to get lost among the “hi, how are you’s” and memes. I love to use the reminder feature in Slack. It’s useful for private messages, but also for reminding my team about a meeting or a deliverable in different channels. But it’s a good idea to move away from instant messaging for longer-term projects. This keeps the important information from getting lost and lets the team know that if I’m messaging them, it’s timely.

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Use the Right Context in Calendar Reminders  

There are many ways you can set up reminders throughout the day. The Slack reminder mentioned above is one of my favorites. If you don’t know how to stay organized with your work calendar, consider setting up reminders.

Wherever you choose to set up your online reminders, make them just for you. Take care to use the remind feature instead of the event feature when setting up your calendar. When you use the remind feature, it only shows up on your calendar. When you use the event feature, this can show up on your shared calendar and hinder your team from scheduling meetings during that time. 

Using the remind feature lets you keep track of everything you need without interfering with your coworkers. (Using the reminder feature on your phone is also great for those of you that do your best thinking outside of work.)

Don’t forget to include the right context. Have you ever looked at a reminder and completely forgotten what it was about? Seeing a reminder that says “Facebook Ad” might cause you to go down a rabbit hole to find what exactly you need to do. “Contact Jane Doe for approval on Facebook campaign” tells you what you need to do without too much detail. If you need to reach out to someone, include their name and what the reminder is regarding. You’re the only person who will see the reminders, so use whatever shorthand or acronyms you like!

Break Down Projects into Phases and Set Realistic Timelines

A timeline is key to any digital marketing initiative. Far too often, you’re asked to “get something launched ASAP” or “do this as quickly as possible” but then something comes up that throws your timeline out of whack. When you’re juggling multiple projects at once, learn how to stay organized by keeping your project timelines straight — and attainable.

In the fast paced world of digital marketing, it’s easy to look forward. But my No. 1 tip is to start by looking back. First, set up the timeline for your project. For example: “I want my campaign to launch by the end of the month.” Next, break down your campaign into smaller pieces. These can be key milestones or deliverables. Then, determine how long each of those elements will take to execute (important note: not execute fast, but execute well).

Finally, once you have a sense for how long the project will take, look at that launch date and count backward by deliverable. Do all of your milestones fit within that timeline? If yes, then you’re all set to get started. If you find yourself counting further and further backwards, so far back that you’ve actually passed today’s date, then you’ll need to revisit your timeline. 

Could you remove one of your campaign deliverables or milestones? Are you willing to sacrifice the quality of your campaign to get it out there quickly? Could it be time to talk to an agency for support?

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Go All In on a Digital Workspace

Working from home has been a major shift for most people, and many have not yet learned how to stay organized. For example, your child’s breakfast cereal bowl spills on your big presentation note cards or your new puppy may think it’s fun to shred your client meeting notes. These scenarios don’t seem so farfetched in today’s remote work lifestyle.

You can avoid those perilous traps by keeping everything online. It works wonderfully for me. My schedule, notes and reminders are all on my laptop. This isn’t without its challenges, of course. If I don’t schedule some time every month to reorganize, the ideas in my notes app can get lost just like if they were in an unorganized stack of papers. 

Going totally digital keeps everything in one place, and if your information is backed up online or on an external hard drive, even a computer malfunction won’t keep you down for long.

Conclusion

Many marketers today struggle with how to stay organized at work. But using digital tools and basic project management principles can help save marketers time, budget, and keep stakeholders happy.

Emily Olmsted

Emily is a project management pro. She works across multiple teams and departments to complete projects on time and on budget.

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