4 productivity tips that work great for church marketers like you
January comes with numerous productivity tips. Many articles help those with work that looks nothing like the world of church communications and marketing. What can someone do when their job is more creative and project-based?
Fresh out of college, my first job involved processing ads of all sizes and types for the media company I worked at. Highly deadline-driven, lots of pieces to coordinate, and all needing to perform as expected.
These early years had a completely different setting and goals from the church communications work done now. These years were also when I learned several productivity tips I still use today. My co-workers back then taught me how to keep up with everything. They showed me how to break down projects and move pieces along. And how to manage it all within a 40-hour week.
Ultimately, any kind of work in communications and marketing involves a lot of moving parts and pieces. You may describe it as herding cats, spinning plates, etc. And it all has to keep going, with one project completed and another handful coming your way.
Here I’m going to share with you the tips I learned to keep it all going, project after project.
Productivity tip #1: Break projects into smaller tasks.
Knowing what needs to happen and when allows you to keep a project on track. You have lots of projects going on at once. Looking at each one in detail makes it easier to prioritize all of your tasks and make decisions along the way.
One of the best ways to break a big project down into smaller tasks is to work backward from when the project completion date.
Example: Invite card project and mini-deadlines.
Let’s say you have a request to design and produce invite cards with an Easter theme. The cards need to be passed out four weeks before Easter. On the 2020 calendar, that would be Sunday, March 15. If you read this in mid-January, two months feels like a lifetime away. Especially given your to-do list for this upcoming Sunday!
To best manage the details of the request, walk backward from March 15. You’ll be able to look at the steps along the way and the tasks to accomplish to get there.
- Cards need to be delivered Thursday, March 12 because the office is closed on Fridays. You need time to get the cards distributed to the appropriate places for staff and volunteers to hand off to members.
- The printer you’ll be using has a 1-week turnaround from when you submit the artwork. And because the printer is located up in the northeast, you’ve learned to build in extra time for bad winter weather. You decide to give yourself some buffer room and make it 10-days. That means you need to submit artwork on Monday, March 2. You note that you need to submit artwork by the 10 am deadline.
- The final design should be approved by leadership before the end of the day on Thursday, February 27. Again, you know you can get approval through email, but want to have a bit of buffer room. Just in case.
- You want to give time for revisions. You set a proof (or draft) deadline for yourself to show that minister early conceptual pieces on Thursday, February 13. At that time, you know you’ll want to present three concepts that align with the mission of your church. It will be helpful to get feedback on the overall look and if this fits with the stated goal of the piece.
Now that you’ve walked backward, you can see that March 15 will get here faster than you think, and realize that you need to start collecting ideas for concepts so that you can be ready to show those in three weeks from now.
Once you’ve done this a few times for various projects, you’ll start to get a feel for how long it takes to “ideally” take a project from concept to completion. Knowing this timeframe helps both you and those making the requests plan and work to develop solutions if needed proactively.
Productivity tip #2 Organize workflow using due dates to prioritize and manage tasks.
Going deep into the details on your projects gives you the necessary information you need to put tasks in order with deadlines and help you prioritize your workday.
Refer to those due dates and block off the necessary time to accomplish the smaller tasks in between. Use whatever tools work best for you, whether it’s an app or pen and a calendar. This detailed planning allows you to easily go from one project to another because you know when those mini-deadlines occur. You’ve taken steps to keep everything moving forward and on time.
Productivity tip #3: Go visual as much as possible.
Being able to see what’s due and what’s coming up helps keep those projects and timelines time of mind. You’ll want to have it out somewhere that you can see it easily. This visual allows you to more quickly make decisions for requests (including late ones!) Looking at it repeatedly throughout the day also reinforces those deadlines in your head.
Tools like Asana, Trello, and others can provide that kind of visual project management. A big calendar that you physically write on also provides that at-a-glance 10,000-foot view of what’s going on and helps keep significant dates to keep in mind.
Productivity tip #4: Plan before you leave for the day.
I understand if you’re groaning over this recommendation. The last thing you want to do at the end of the day is plan tomorrow. Based on my experience, planning the next day has great benefits! It leads to less worry at night, clarity the following day of what needs to be done when, and heads off preventable problems.
Plus, you can do this in 10 minutes or less.
First, write down the ONE big thing you need to get done for the day. That will help you to prioritize and focus your energy.
Second, look at the overall day and prep for what you need. Gather materials for meetings, note upcoming deadlines, etc. Make any necessary notes and reminders for yourself.
Third, tidy up your workspace so you can dive in when you arrive the next day without the clutter or having to search for that one piece of paper.
Planning out your workweek also helps to keep things in perspective. The week takes a higher view and focuses more on overall project timelines than specific tasks. Still identify the one big thing you need to get done for the week, along with 2-3 smaller things. This workweek planning is also a great time to block off time to produce content if you haven’t already done so. Design, writing, editing, etc. Close it out by setting up any necessary meetings lingering in your brain that need to get time on your schedule.
You can even take it further and plan out your month!
If you’re a software/digital tool person, you can use your office calendar or a project management tool to set your plans. If you enjoy writing out a to-do list, use whatever pen and paper work for you.
Having tried a ton of pen and paper options, these planners developed for creatives works well when you don’t have a job tied to the clock. Scroll down on that page to get to the free daily, weekly, and monthly calendar print offs.
A reminder of your top priority.
In all the work and deadlines that need to be met, it’s important that we encourage one another and keep the main thing, the main thing. Making time to rest and spend time with God in prayer and in His word will go a long way to helping you do the good work you’re meant to do!
Give Him your first and best! And then wrangle those projects and tasks armed with these productivity tips.
Feel like no matter how much you produce, work remains? If you need help to accelerate your process and better reach and retain guests, read about how the Firm Foundations team can help.