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8 Steps to Planning Digital Content in Less Time

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I’m a planner. I love writing things down and preparing myself for the work week in advance. Still, as a content producer myself, planning website content isn’t always an easy task.

When you do finally force yourself to sit down and start planning content for your website, blog, email list, etc. it can be a very time-consuming process. If the major brain dump method doesn’t work for you either, check out these 8 steps to planning digital content in less time.

Step 1: Use Current Copy as a Foundation

The best place to start is to look at your existing content for your business. Even if it sucks, you have someplace to start. Look at analytics to see which content resonated well with your audience and what didn’t.

For example, if you’ve been getting some great feedback on social media for a particular article, see if you can expand on the subject and plan to produce some follow-up content in the future. Keep a running list of topics whenever you gain inspiration or think of ideas that could be useful. It only takes a few minutes to do this each week and it’s the best way to jumpstart the content creation process.

Step 2: Make Sure You Understand Your Audience

Don’t waste time planning digital content before you get to know your target audience. Interact with them on social media, ask your email list questions, save helpful feedback, and ask your audience to a short market research survey every few months. 

This will help make the content planning and creation process much simpler because you’ll know who your audience is and what they want. Sometimes, I practically drive myself crazy trying to brainstorm content ideas. Ever since I started asking my audience what they wanted to see and listening to their recommendations, the digital content planning process has been pretty painless and quick.

If your audience is telling you multiple things, segment your website visitors into the primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences and determine how you’ll address their needs in future content types.

Step 3: Use a Calendar to Map Everything Out

If you’re planning digital content without a calendar, you’re doing it all wrong. Using a calendar tool can help you stay organized and begin to work ahead.

I like to set up days dedicated to brainstorming, outlining, creating/scheduling, polishing, and promoting. Yes, the content production process is pretty tedious, but having a solid plan laid out in writing can make all the difference.

Coming up with headlines and outlines at this stage is very important. It’s interesting to note that doing this in advance will literally cut a lot of time out of the content creation process and keep you focused so you can finish and release your content more efficiently.

By storing everything on a digital calendar, you can set reminders to hold yourself accountable for meeting specific deadlines and allowing yourself enough time to prepare what you need to complete the content.

Step 4: Work With Others

Ask others to help you research, edit and review when you’re planning digital content. This will save you a ton of time. For example, if you’re writing for search engines or trying to rank some of your web pages, you may want to have someone do SEO research. 

If you’re producing social media copy you may want to have a consult with a social media marketing expert to help you come up with a clear strategy so you don’t waste time making rookie mistakes.

This can be ongoing or just a one-time thing depending on your needs.

Step 5. Storytelling vs ‘Storyselling’

You don’t have to use your website to merely tell your own story. The stories that matter are those of the people who have used your products and services and found them beneficial.

Nobody is interested in knowing how wonderful a business you have. Give your audience results and evidence. The language you use should speak to them. Offer your products as the solution to their products.

One of the easiest ways I work storytelling into my digital content planning process is to simply be authentic. When I experience things or have conversations that I believe could be pivoted into inspiring content for my audience, I add the idea to my content calendar with a date and a brief outline. In less than 2 minutes, I have quality content planned that I can produce quickly.

Step 6. Write For Search Engines and Humans

SEO is important. However, crowding your content with too many keywords can only render it unreadable. Include the keywords as naturally as possible to avoid coming out as a robot. If anything, you don’t have to stick to your specific keywords. Use variations that will still give the same meaning.

As you’re planning your content for the web, it helps to determine a focus keyword ahead of time so you know what to base your content around. I like using the Google Adword Keyword Planner tool because it’s free and easy to use when you’re researching keywords and narrowing them down.

Step 7. Have an Action-Oriented Copy

All of your content should have a goal behind it. It’s likely that you want to help turn readers into leads and paying customers. To do this, you need to make sure you plan out content that has a clear call to action.

This will prompt your audience to do something. This is something I failed to do in the beginning stages when planning content for my business and I regretted it. It’s important to focus on providing value, but you also want to let people know what you want them to do. Is it to call you, email you, or make an online purchase? Show them the step they need to take next. Provide links or email address so that they can find it easy to reply and take action.

Step 8. Make It Visually Appealing

Content and visuals go hand-in-hand. When you’re planning digital content, be sure to include ideas for illustrations, charts, and images to support the text. Alternatively, use testimonials, bulleted lists or larger pull quotes. Divide sections with subheadings and use short paragraphs.

Again, planning all this out on a calendar will help you stay organized and on track. Remember, you don’t have to actually follow through will all of your ideas for content, images, SEO, etc. All you have to do is jot them down and organize them. 

The whole process can be done in under 20 minutes weekly or once a month as a huge content overhaul.

Do you plan out your content at all for your business? If so which one of these steps to you find most valuable?

 

Originally posted here.

How to Create A Time Budget (And Stick to It)

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When most people hear the word “budget” they think of their finances. It makes sense because money is a resource that needs to be managed. However, your time is a resource too. In fact, I would argue your time is even more valuable because you can’t get it back. That’s why it’s important that you also create a time budget for your life.

What is the purpose of a time budget?

I like to think of a time budget as a guideline that helps you spend your time the way you want to spend it. Granted, sometimes there are things we don’t want to do – like go to the dentist or pay taxes. But, for everything else, it’s important that we find time for the things that matter to us. For most people that looks like relationships, health and their careers. The only way to do this is to manage our time wisely and with intention.

How do you create a time budget?

The first step is already done – which is to determine what matters to you in life. The next step is to figure out what each of these important things looks like. Remember, your time is a limited resource so it must be used wisely. Let’s start with career since that takes up a lot of our time each week. What does being intentional in your career look like? What tasks will actually move you forward with your goal? What tasks are a waste of time or cause you to move backward? When do you stop working each day. The last one is especially important because you have other areas of your life that matter to you as well. Chances are you didn’t go into business for yourself to work all the time, especially because many people crave work life balance. Once you determine when you work, you also need to determine when you do other things. For example, I go to a fitness class on Mondays and Thursdays. I also dedicate weekends to friends and family.

How do you stick to a time budget?

In order to stick to your time budget, you need to have certain things in place. Just like you use apps and boundaries for finances, you also need them for your time. Here are some things that will help you stick to your time budget:
  • A calendar application. Let’s be real, if something isn’t on your calendar it doesn’t actually exist. Furthermore, a calendar application can help you time block tasks and activities. It can also let others know when you’re not available.
  • Very strong boundaries. People will take advantage of your time if you let them. That’s why it’s up to you to have very strong boundaries. Don’t hand over control of meetings and learn how to say no. Otherwise, you give away too much of your most valuable resource.
time budget is just as important as a budget for your finances. Both resources need to be managed to the best of your ability for a balanced life. It’s up to you to determine how you want to spend your time and protect it.
Originally published here.

Productive Things to do During Downtime

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15 Ways To Kick-Start 2021

Even the busiest workers have a noticeable amount of downtime. Yet, there are ways to still accomplish productive things in that downtime. Whether it’s been scheduled or it’s your body’s way of saying “slow down, take a break” downtime during your workday can often be used as an opportunity to tie up loose ends and be productive with low-effort tasks. Here are 5 productive things you can do that make you feel good whenever you find that there’s downtime in your schedule.

Exercise

Exercise has a ton of benefits which is probably why successful people make time to stay active. While I used to find it easy for me to get lost on YouTube to start binging Netflix during my downtime, I started breaking up my day to exercise during the early afternoon slump instead. Exercise will help you stay healthy and keep your mind sharp and motivated to crank out some more great projects during the remainder of the workday. It doesn’t require a huge time commitment either. Even if you only have a few minutes, you can go for a walk around the corner or do a few exercises before starting back up again.

Read

It’s no secret that successful people read. The average millionaire is said to reads two or more books per month. Take the time to read blogs, news sites, fiction, and non-fiction during downtime so you can soak in more knowledge. If you’re often on the go, you may want to try audiobooks or listen to podcasts for fun or to learn about things like personal development, personal finance, or entrepreneurship.

Network

Networking can be valuable when done correctly. It shouldn’t always be your main focus but it’s important to squeeze in time to attend networking events and reach out to other either online or in person. Downtime is the perfect time to do some networking, maintain current relationships or follow up with people you’ve reached out to previously.

Open and Respond to Emails

Checking emails throughout the day can be tempting, but it’s an easy way to waste time and energy. I check and respond to my most important emails when in the morning and toward the end of the workday. I save the rest for small moments of downtime when I just need to do something easy and catch up. Managing emails can definitely become overwhelming if you don’t take time to stay caught up throughout the day. However, this doesn’t mean you have to waste time by checking in every 10 minutes. Focus on what’s important throughout the day, then save the rest for downtime.

Reorganize Your Calendar

Unexpected downtime like a meeting cancellation can be a great time to look at your calendar to make sure you’re on track and even plan for the next day. Planning your days in advance is one of the best ways to stay organized, motivated, and get a lot done. Successful people don’t waste time wondering what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it. They already have a plan scheduled out and ready to execute. If you are experiencing way too much downtime throughout the day, you may want to reorganize your calendar and make sure you’re working efficiently and making the best use of your time.

 

What productive tasks do you do during downtime?


Originally published here.

5 Ways You Can Communicate Effectively in a Business Meeting

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If you’re like most business professionals, the majority of your day is spent in meetings. Sometimes you can get a lot accomplished during this time. However, they are often ineffective. If you want to get more accomplished in your business meetings you need to communicate effectively. You need to communicate the purpose of the meeting and the actionable takeaways when it wraps up.

Here are five ways you can communicate effectively in business meetings.

Take the time to prepare.

Before delivering a speech, you always take the time to prepare what you’re going to say. The same thing applies to your business meetings. Before you even schedule the meeting, prepare what you’re going to say. The reason you should do this before the meeting is scheduled is because it forces you to find a clear value or purpose for the meeting. If you have trouble preparing useful content for the meeting, it’s maybe best to hold off or cancel it all together. Once you’ve prepared, gather your thoughts into key bullet points you can reference throughout the meeting.

Don’t talk over others.

If two people are talking at the same time, odds are neither one is being heard. As excitement (or tension) rises in the room, people tend to talk over each other. This is extremely unproductive. If you get interrupted, refrain from trying to battle the other person for the ears in the room. Let them finish their points, and make sure to address them afterwards. If they try to interrupt you again, respectfully tell them to let you finish before they respond.

Pay attention to body language.

Body language is a huge part of effective conversation. When you’re speaking, make sure you are making eye contact with others and that you are sitting in an upright position. When looking at someone in the eyes, it builds trust and makes you seem more sincere. Additionally, you should gauge the body language of your listeners as well. If they are looking off into the distance or slouched in their seats, odds are they aren’t picking up what you’re saying.

Always try to mix things up.

Business meetings, especially long ones, can get very dull very quickly. Sometimes, that’s just the nature of the content being discussed. When you sense things start to go dry, try to mix things up a bit. If you need to, you can take a break completely from what’s being discussed. Open up the floor to discussion and get everyone reengaged. If you’re diligent about keeping track of where you left off, these breaks won’t serve as a distraction.

Always summarize and repeat key points.

This is something you need to learn for any kind of communication. People often underestimate how well their points are received by who they’re talking to. To be honest, people are generally bad listeners. While you can’t make them “listen better” you can take it upon yourself to hammer home your key points. After you’ve delivered your message, you should always summarize and reiterate your key points. It will help both you, and the audience retain what’s been said. Before you head into your next business meeting, make sure you remember the five points listed above. It will help keep your business meetings organized and productive.
Originally published here.  

6 Tips for Successful Calendar Sharing

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Busy companies that employ large groups of people have their challenges. That’s probably why many of them are moving toward shared calendars among their staff. Sharing calendars affords plenty of advantages that make it desirable. For instance, you can more easily oversee staff, prepare for meetings, and manage your day. However, to be effective in a business setting there are 6 tips for successful calendar sharing you should use.

1. Block Time for Your Own Work

One of the first tips for successful calendar sharing is to block time for your own work. Of course, depending on the business this may not be needed. Then again, in a very hectic, meeting packed business environment it may be necessary. In fact, it could be the only way to ensure your own important projects get completed.

2. Stay Up To Date

Remaining current with your own scheduled events is important to successful calendar sharing. If you do not create an event in a shared calendar you run the risk of double scheduling something. For example, the best time to schedule another group meeting is at the end of the meeting you’re at. But if you don’t have your calendar up to date it will frustrate and disrespect others who do. Also, whenever possible, preschedule meetings and appointments that are recurring. This is an additional way to prevent scheduling something else over the top of routine meetings.

3. Eliminate General Entries

Successful calendar sharing is easier when you think about what other people in your workgroup will see. Using general entries such as “Appointment” should be avoided. From that entry it’s unclear whether it’s a personal appointment or a business appointment someone else made with you.

4. Let Others Know Your Scheduling Preferences

If you generally follow the same daily routine the odds are high that close colleagues have noticed. Be that as it may, it’s possible that they don’t know your scheduling preferences. Obviously some shared calendar apps allow certain preferences, such as time slots, to be preset. Nevertheless, if yours does not you might need to let others in your workgroup know your scheduling preferences.

5. Keep Private What Should Be Private

Certainly privacy could be an issue for successful calendar sharing. But many people merge work and personal calendars without issue. It’s commonplace for calendars to have settings that let you make some entries private and others shared. This can prevent co-workers from seeing personal information they do not need to know. However, not all calendars have the same capabilities. Therefore, you can permit everyone to see personal appointments, make entries vague, or not put them on work calendars.

6. Create Gaps Between Events

Most people dislike back to back meetings, but at times they are necessary. Whenever possible, though, try to create at least a small gap between events. As an example, if your workgroup is conducting hiring interviews, try to allow 15 minutes between them. This way if you run over on time you will still stay on track. It also allows others in your interview team to grab a quick drink, use the restroom, or make a call. Of course, effective and efficient business management is important to your career success. For the best shot at successful calendar sharing, try using these tips.
Originally published here.

3 Common Time Wasters for Your Business

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I often coach business owners through the best ways to use their time. It’s too often that they come to me having an idea of what they should be doing, only to find out most of their tasks are time wasters. I understand why people are confused. They think that certain things like spending your time on social media lead to money in the bank. They also think their email will catch fire if they aren’t logged into it all the time. I get it because I get caught up in it too sometimes. However, there comes a time when we need to get rid of the time wasters in our businesses. This starts by determining one main thing: What actually leads to money in the bank? Everything else comes second. That being said, here are the most common time wasters in your business.

Social Media

This may sound strange coming from someone who uses social media marketing, but it’s a time suck. More specifically, social media channels are time wasters when you don’t know how they fit into a marketing plan. For example, spending your time on Facebook looking at memes is a waste of time. Posting on Instagram with no call to action is a waste of time. Posting random stuff that doesn’t drive traffic or build your email list? Also, a waste of time. On the other hand, if you know how to use social media as a part of your marketing funnel, then it’s worth spending some time on it. You may even want to consider outsourcing this important task to a marketing professional. Just because it can lead to money doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your time.

Meetings

Most meetings are time wasters. There, I said it. Let’s be honest, how many times have you sat in a meeting that could have been an email? Or how many times did a meeting run longer than it had to? How many times did a prospect waste your time with meetings that went nowhere? Probably several times. This is why I say to avoid meetings if you can. At the very least, avoid having meetings in-person since you have far less control over your time.

Email

Similar to meetings, emails are time wasters too. This is especially true if you have a busy inbox. Unfortunately, most people treat their inbox like a to-do list. When something pops up, they handle it. The problem is this takes time away from important tasks that can move your business forward. For example, you need to create a new service offering but your time is being spent on email correspondence. One way to fix this is to hire a virtual assistant who can handle email communication for you. They may not be able to handle everything, but they can at least sort through the unimportant stuff so you don’t have to.

Final Thoughts

The ironic thing about these common time wasters is people think they need them to make money. This is only half true. There’s a difference between efficiently using these things and wasting your time. Once you figure out the fine line, then it becomes easier to stick to the important stuff.


Originally published here.

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