Since joining the social team at Sprout, I’ve grown a lot—both as a social media practitioner and as a creative contributor. Learning to maximize my bandwidth is an ongoing journey, but it’s been one of the most important ways I’ve found more time and space to grow.
I’ve always heard the saying, “I wish I had more hours in the day,” but that mentality always led me to burnout. So instead of wishing for more time, I learned how to streamline my workflow. In this post, I’m sharing four of the ways I prioritize and manage my time every day so I have more time to strategize, grow professionally and keep up with the speed of social.
1. Rise and time block
To-do lists were my way of life, until I learned how to time block. I’d start my days writing out the tasks that I thought needed to be done that day, but as new social requests from other teams trickled in throughout the day, I would continue to add them to my list.
By 5:00 p.m., I would have a number of items on my list that remained—usually the items I had initially mapped out and planned for. Leaving the office with tasks left unfinished made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough, built pressure to work outside regular hours and fueled burnout mentality. Can you relate?
According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, 59% of marketers say they don’t have enough time in the day to build out their social strategies.
I knew I needed to find a better method for managing my time, so I found time blocking. It’s the one skill that has made the largest impact on how I manage my workload and communicate my work to other teams.
Time blocking is a productivity strategy for your calendar where, instead of remembering what you need to do every day, you schedule time on your calendar to do specific tasks. In social, there are a lot of small tasks that aren’t a priority, but seem important because of how timely they are. By setting time aside to work on specific tasks, you can better prioritize and plan your days, weeks and months—and reprioritize when timely projects pop up unexpectedly (which is all the time in social).
Try this: Spend 20 minutes on Monday morning looking at the week ahead and time blocking your major tasks that need to be completed on certain days. Then, spend 10 minutes in the morning during the rest of the week to schedule time to complete more specific tasks throughout the day, accounting for every free minute. (i.e. check your email, curate a new story in Bambu, fulfill new content requests, etc.) See how it goes and iterate on your approach for the following week.
2. Build up content sourcing systems
Publishing a high volume of quality content is crucial to meeting our goals for social impressions and engagements. While there are infinite sources of content, as a social media manager, you have to learn how to wrangle them and find the best quality. Otherwise, you’re either going to get a flood of “can you post about this?” requests or you won’t hear about important projects, despite all the amazing work going on that could become part of social.
The solution? Create a content curation system for your team. At Sprout, we have dedicated Slack channels for our broader team to share UGC from events, conferences, team outings or industry content. These channels make our social team more accessible, don’t require us to field as many individual posting requests and give us one place to source content from our broader team.
Try this: Take some time to write down all the types of content that you source every day. Can you find any patterns in where you’re sourcing from? If some of the sources are your team, create one central place for them to submit this content like a Slack channel or email alias. If you find content by exploring the web, give Sprout’s Find Content tool a go!
3. Create templates for your social media posts
I’m not exaggerating when I say that social media templates have changed my life. If you follow Sprout on Instagram, you’ve seen these templates in action.
It’s no secret that social teams have a lot to do and sometimes struggle to find resources. In fact, 31% of social teams find it difficult to secure budget and resources for social projects. Enter: templates.
There are a few different types of content that we share on social, and we wanted to have a polished, on-brand way to easily create and share engaging visuals. Our creative team designs these templates for us, and our team edits them and shares each completed template for a quick design review before we post. These templates have increased our bandwidth as a social team and improved our relationships with the creative team. We’re able to easily communicate what’s working and what’s not working from a visual design perspective, receive feedback, share data on how this content performs and brainstorm new ways that we could be using them across social. It’s a collaborative effort, not an asset hand-off.
Why are templates so amazing? If you need an extra asset for your campaign to publish in the moment, there’s no need for a request from your creative team. You can simply fill in the template that’s pre-designed for exactly that. Over time, we’ve built a library of these templates for different campaigns that we’ve run: see the Index, Social Spotlights, Brands Get Real data and even our Adapt content!
Social templates require some up-front design resources, but the payoff is well worth it. Once the templates are designed, you’re empowered to create more content that is in-line with your brand standards, saving resources and time for your whole team.
Try this: If you have your own designer or creative team, work with them to create a Keynote or Illustrator template. If you don’t have these teams available, you can use a tool like Canva and work from their provided templates or create your own branded templates that you can reuse over time. Facebook also just released a line of free templates for Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, so you can find plenty of inspiration around the web.
4. Plan to flex
My final tip for expanding your bandwidth is collaborating with teams across your organization. Our 2019 Index survey found that 47% of social marketers find it difficult to develop social strategies that support their overall business goals. Meeting with teams across your organization on a regular basis and learning how to use insights from those meetings to support your goals will save you time while helping you do more impactful work.
Tapping into other teams will increase your bandwidth so you have time to plan and prioritize accordingly. Having this insight will help you be more strategic and weave these initiatives in your overall social plan to fuel your goals, and theirs. And remember, building an authentic brand on social isn’t only the responsibility of the social team. Every team has a hand in shaping the communications that influence your customers’ experience and perception of your brand.
One way I do this is by scheduling regular meetings with different teams, sharing what I’m working on and actively listening to others at our weekly stand-ups, where our squad made of different teams comes together to share progress on different projects. You’ll have the opportunity to be more proactive and nimble, so you can avoid those last minute requests and have time dedicated to being strategic with your content.
Try this: Plan to be agile, and get to know your team! Schedule recurring meetings with different teams and block off time to capture content that will support their goals and your own. Incorporate these efforts into your time blocking plans to make sure you’re rotating through different kinds of content your audience wants to see.
How will you maximize your bandwidth?
As I incorporated these practices in my day-to-day, I found that I had more time to strategize, create content and be agile. I hope that these tips will help you streamline your workflow and maximize your bandwidth as well, so that you have the opportunity to grow in your career.
I can’t wait to see what tips you’ve tried. Share with us on social or in the comments below!