How to ditch the marketing backlog and change everything.
If you have marketing responsibility, chances are you are overwhelmed.
As marketers you must think strategically. And fill the funnel. And meet the day-to-day needs of your team. And deftly handle emergencies.
It’s easy to throw strategic thinking aside and bend to the tyranny of the urgent. Often our day ends and we aren’t sure that we actually accomplished anything meaningful. And our to-do list gets longer. We struggle under the weight of it all.
I have good news. You can take control by letting go. And by letting go, you can be free to thrive.
Here’s how to get there:
1. Start with you
We are wired with specific gifts, skills and interests. Titles are shortcuts to communicating areas of responsibility; but each of us is unique, and a title can’t capture your one-of-a-kind mix of abilities and experience. The title “Vice President of Marketing” communicates authority, but the people behind these titles come in all kinds of flavors.
Take inventory of your gifts, skills and interests. Write them down. And be generous. High-functioning people are often critical of themselves. Modesty is admirable, but now’s not the time.
Maybe you are creative thinker or a gifted communicator. Perhaps you are a problem solver or analytical thinker. Write down 3–6 gifts.
Your skills will likely outnumber your gifts by 2–3x. These could be things like market segmentation, communicating technical concepts, illustration in Illustrator or project management.
These tend to be much more fluid than gifts or skills. Your interests may change over the course of weeks, months or years. It could be that you are most interested in driving awareness within a certain market segment or how to deal with the current challenges of digital advertising.
Now that you have you have your lists, you have a foundation for prioritizing your work. It’s the zone in which you’ll thrive.
(By the way, this exercise works just as well for a team as it does for an individual.)
2. Embrace constraints
Emergencies happen. Tasks need to get done. We can’t ignore all that. And our time and energy is finite.
But rather than shun these constraints, you can embrace them. If you do, you’ll be forced to dig deep and find creative answers. Keep in mind, though — this is important — if you spend your time focused on projects or problems outside of your Thrive Zone, you’ll be sucked dry. You’ll be tired, burnt out and frustrated quickly.
This means that as you plan your work, focus on work in the Thrive Zone, and offload the rest. It still has to get done, but you aren’t the ideal person to do the work.
3. Sort your work
If you are leading marketing, chances are you’ll have some sort of system for organizing plans and work. Even if you do, it helps to step back and simplify.
Segment your initiatives into discrete areas of focus. I recommend that you concentrate on areas of outcome (drive 500 MQLs), rather than functional buckets of work (product marketing), but do whatever makes sense for you. We’ll save this topic for another time.
Log those areas of focus as columns in a tool like Trello or a spreadsheet.
Then simply list the high-level activities to be accomplished for each area. Try to prioritize based on potential impact or things that might impede or accelerate the progress of high-impact activities.
Any items that don’t fit nicely in an area of outcome should placed in a backlog called “Someday.”
4. Thrive, delegate or cut
The next step is to select those areas that match your Thrive Zone. If they do, highlight them in green.
If they don’t match, you have two options: delegate or cut.
It doesn’t mean that areas outside your zone aren’t important. It simply means that you need to find a team or person that will get this work done for you. You have three options here: find an existing employee or team to take this work, hire a new employee or team, or outsource the work to a third party.
If it’s not critical or you don’t have the ability to delegate, you must cut it. This is the time to embrace constraints.
Now use this same process for each activity under each remaining area. However, in this case I recommend that you cap your list of zone activities to 5. Delegate or cut the rest. You can always add things back into the list later.
Oh, and just cut the Someday list. You’ll never get to it.
5. Run the machine
Now that you have your priorities set, it’s time to put everything in motion.
It’s good practice to run through this exercise and budget time on a weekly (or at least bi-monthly) basis. The discipline will pay off and keep all team members in sync. Once in a rhythm, this can generally be done in 20–60 minutes for most people and teams. A longer session should be done every 30–120 days.
If new activities arise during the week, either re-evaluate and re-slot them using these same techniques or simply push them to next week’s planning.
It also helps to use productivity techniques like time-blocking to keep focus.
You will want a good adjunct partner for all the work you need to delegate and to help when you don’t have the right talent or availability within the organization. It’s why we formed Adjy.
We are a community of strategists, creatives, writers, coders and architects that find joy in doing world-class work — with each other and outside the walls of a single company — across industries and from the far reaches of the world.
We can even help you get a handle on your backlog and prioritization strategy with the methods described in this post.
If you’d like, just reach out here: https://www.adjy.com/backlog.
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Love and peace.