managing your workload
May 7, 2018

The Oscar Madison Guide to Managing Your Workload

Today's marketing world almost requires professionals to be not just plugged in, but highly organized, overly detail oriented, and malleable enough to move from task to task in lightning speed, never missing a beat, a deadline, or a task at hand.

If you're an Oscar Madison, managing your workload in this environment can be a problem.

Watch our on-demand webinar, "Increase Productivity by Breaking 5 Common Habits," for tips on how you can be more organized and efficient.

(Let's take a culture break for a moment to bring our younger readers up to speed. Oscar Madison was the laid-back, slovenly half of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, played by Walter Matthau in the 1968 film.

The play and movie captured the polar extremes of the human condition. Oscar was recently divorced, easy going, never stressed, and unconcerned with the details.

Felix Unger (played by Jack Lemmon), his roommate and counterpart, was uptight and anal retentive—a task master who never missed a detail, assignment, or deadline.

If you have never experienced The Odd Couple, go Amazon Prime that stuff. You'll seem less millennial to us as a result.)

Sadly, or gladly (depending upon your perspective), I'm much more of an Oscar Madison. Certainly, I am very productive and focused on work, but details and organizational skills are not my strong suit. Still, I cannot afford to let my colleagues at Elasticity, or my clients, down.

So what's an Oscar Madison to do in order to keep up with workflow and efficiencies in today's always-on world?

Six Secrets to Managing Your Workload (as an Oscar Madison)

Schedule Time to Work

The one thing I've conditioned myself to pay attention to is my calendar. If I have an appointment, event, or deadline, and it's not on my calendar, I miss it.

Most disorganized people have developed a singular coping mechanism like this because we just can't afford to not have some method to keep us on track. A calendar at least reminds you where to be and what should be done by the time you get there, if you track it correctly.

So, about five years ago, I started blocking off one-hour, two-hour, and even three-hour chunks of time on my calendar for "Client Work" or "Writing" to ensure I had that time built into my own expectations of myself for that day or week.

I have regular windows of time scheduled mornings and afternoons, five days a week. If a meeting comes along that might conflict with this time, I go to the meeting, but the sheer fact that these blocks are on my calendar often keeps the internal team at Elasticity from double-booking me.

That ensures I have much of that time to get work done rather than run from call to call or meeting to meeting.

Use an interactive calendar to make managing your workload easier

Include Calendar and Note Review on Your Calendar

Yes, you read that right. Enter a calendar item at the beginning and/or end of every day to review your calendar entries. While this may seem like an unnecessary or redundant step to take, remember, you're dealing with you—someone who can't stay organized or on-task.

Forcing yourself to follow a schedule that includes reviewing your schedule is going to help you break the mold and actually know your schedule.

Repetition feeds learning. Put that to use for your to-do list and you'll find managing your workload easier.

Use Notifications

Every calendar item you enter can be set to email or text you (in most calendar software solutions) with reminders a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days before the event hits.

Learning to manage and program your notifications—even those from apps on your phone—to remind you the doctor's appointment is in an hour or the TPS report is due Friday helps the disorganized mind remember those tasks are coming and they should do something about it.

Yes, I know the constant barrage of pop-ups on your desktop or phone are annoying. But you need consistent reinforcement, annoyance or not.

Ignore Tech; Write Stuff Down

Remember the teacher who told you to take good notes because writing everything down helped you remember it? Yeah, me too. Well, she's not nearly as nuts as you once thought.

Note-taking can be useful in managing your workload

And don't rely on the notes section of your phone, an Evernote or even Google Doc, either. Carry around a journal (Moleskin if you wish to appear pretentious) and pen.

Remember to remove the cap on the pen. Your hand will feel awkward and hurt the first few times. But, eventually you'll get the hang of writing again. And you'll remember more of what you wrote down than you think.

Match Your System With Your Company or Client's Technology

While writing things down does help you remember and stay on task, the more complex your business, the more you'll rely on software (frankly, like Workfront) to manage projects, time, and resources.

The good news is that almost all software like this has sync functionality with your calendar and inbox of choice.

Take the time to set up calendar sync for meetings, task lists, and even contacts, so when you open your calendar (home base for work), you have the proper links, tasks, and even meetings and projects accounted for.

I often used to lament that all I really needed was someone to organize my tasks and tell me each morning which ones to complete that day. If you use technology as it was intended, you can have your day's calendar and task list presented to you each morning automatically.

Just print it off, and you'll have your old-fashioned checklist in hand. When those items sync with your company's project management solution, you have what we Oscar Madisons call "workflow magic."

Delegate The Busy Work

The last tip might prove cost- or resource-prohibitive, but it's an absolute lifesaver.

I once estimated that I spent five to 10 hours per week doing administrative tasks—booking travel, sending invoices, making bank deposits, pulling together slide decks—that could be more efficient if handled elsewhere.

Back in my consultant days, that was anywhere from $750 to $3,000 in revenue I was passing up by working on administrative busy work.

Allow me to introduce you to two of the most magic words ever: virtual assistant.

For as low as $25 per hour, you can find someone to take those five to 10 hours per week of tasks off your hands, essentially managing your workload for you.

I pay about $40 per hour for about five hours per week at the moment, and don't have to worry about scheduling, travel, invoicing, or basic information sharing (bios, head shots, speech descriptions).

Even paying out of pocket is worth it thanks to the additional productivity you get with the real job.

Certainly, prices and value vary, but there are plenty of reputable virtual assistant firms out there.

A virtual assistant can make managing your workload easier

That's Not All

Those are my six suggestions for being more productive and managing your workload, geared specifically to all the Oscar Madison types out there.

But, I know you have a tip or two to add to it, right? So get off your butt, Oscar! Drop your tips in the comments and we'll wind up with one heck of a list. Productivity, here we come.

About the Author

Jason Falls is a digital strategist whose work has touched a number of large brands including Maker's Mark, AT&T;, CafePress and Humana, to name a few. He has co-authored two books and is a professional public speaker. Jason focuses on digital marketing with a specific niche expertise around social media and content marketing. Jason's day job is as senior vice president for digital strategy for Elasticity, an integrated digital marketing agency based in St. Louis.

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