How do you prepare for the day ahead? In this episode, our hosts Molly Pittman and John Grimshaw share their 7 best tips for staying productive, energized, and efficient throughout the day. They discuss topics like scheduling tactics, hosting ZOOM meetings, half-day Fridays, and smiling (until it hurts). Use these 7 tips to help support good habits and conquer the day
- How to host work meetings that are actually productive
- John’s morning ritual that prepares him for the day ahead
- Why Smart Marketer implemented half-day Fridays
- What energizes Molly and keeps her engaged
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0:00 “I’m getting to see a lot of people that we used to work with and friends, and I’m realizing how important that is for me.”
0:30 Get things done faster and more efficiently with our 7 tips for productivity.
1:08 Host your next meeting like a pro. (Tip #1)
3:34 Batching — Here’s what it means… (Tip #2)
5:04 Having trouble sitting still during your meetings? (Tip #3)
6:11 Smile until it hurts. (Tip #4)
8:46 Being around others generates an energy that can’t be duplicated. (Tip #5)
12:02 Have a conversation with yourself in the mornings. (Tip #6)
15:06 Here’s why we have half-day Fridays! (Tip #7)
18:28 Thanks for listening! To share your feedback or get a question answered on the podcast, follow and message Molly on Instagram at @mollypittmandigital.
Transcript Of Episode 47
0:00 Molly: I’m getting to see a lot of people that we used to work with and friends, and I’m realizing how important that is for me. I mean, I get most of my energy from interactions with other people. And I don’t think I realized how tough the last year or so was for me professionally, because I was having to generate all of that energy on my own.
0:30 Molly: Hello, everyone, and welcome to episode 48 of “The Smart Marketer” podcast. Molly and John, back with you today for another not-business episode.
John: Not business.
Molly: For today’s episode, we wanted to share some productivity tips that are currently working in our lives. As entrepreneurs and marketers and people that work on the internet, or just live in the world today, I think we’re all looking for ways to get things done faster, more efficiently, and to feel better doing so.
1:08 Molly: So, John, you want to kick things off?
John: Yeah, absolutely. So, Molly and I were talking before this kind of about what we were going to touch on and she had mentioned something about meetings and I think that is a place I have done a lot of optimization as have you but we’ve done it in totally different ways. Day-to-day for me, I do a lot of people management, making sure that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be working on, that they don’t have any blocks that they need help with, that there’s no, you know, lack of communication between two people that need to chat.
So meetings are pretty important for me and I have made two big changes in the past, I would say 6 to 12 months that have made meetings so much less painful and so much more efficient. And the first one is probably the biggest one, and it is bringing an agenda to every meeting. I think a lot of people sort of get the idea that I need to sit down with some people and talk about XYZ thing. Talk about this new project that’s about to launch. Talk about this, you know, customer service issue. How do we wanna resolve it? Talk about this new product, whatever.
So people get the idea that you need to have some collaboration and communication, but setting up a Zoom link is not sufficient. If you take a little bit of time, spend five minutes before you start a meeting to sit down and say, “What is it we need to cover? What is it we need to walk away from this meeting having accomplished? You know, what accent do we want to build or what-to-do list do we need to have done by the end of this meeting?” It’s so much better. So when I’m looking at my day, the next day, right, so if it’s Tuesday and I’m looking at a Wednesday, I always sit down and say, “Okay, what are the meetings that I have? Do I have an agenda for each of these?”
And I want to know when I go in that, okay, these are exactly the points I have to share. These are the questions I need to ask. This is what I want to walk away with either having done, having scheduled for the next meeting, or having communicated effectively with somebody. That has helped a ton. And I actually think I can go deeper here and start sharing these agendas with people. There’s a few where we share the agenda, but oftentimes it’s just kind of notes for me. So that’s kind of my next level of change and improvement I’m looking for is, hey, I’m going to formally make an agenda for each meeting and share with the people and say, “Hey, this is what we’re going to talk about and cover and whatever thoughts you have that need to be addressed in it as well.”
Just to make sure you don’t miss anything, to make sure that the meeting doesn’t drag on or that everyone is sort of like, “Okay, I’m just going to wait for somebody else to start talking.” So that’s been really, really big.
3:34 And the other one is a quick one, and I think this will be a good lead into one of yours but it’s called batching. Adjusting my schedule where I don’t have a meeting every two hours, because when you just are in the cycle of, you know, meeting, break, meeting, break, you feel like you can never really sit down and get creative.
Having a big dedicated chunk of time to think or to write or to work is so much better than doing 30 minutes meeting, 30 minutes of creative work, meeting. That is a really bad structure. And I used to just kind of be like, “Oh, whatever works for you guys, it’s fine. Like, we’ll schedule a meeting on your agenda.” Honestly, I wanted to make it work for people but I started to say, “No, this is a dedicated time that I’ve blocked off with a meeting but it’s a meeting with myself.” That nobody can schedule during that. And that has been huge to have just like a four or an eight-hour chunk every week of time where I am setting up analytics or I’m doing some writing or I am sitting down and thinking about, “Okay, what is our 12-month timeline? Like, do I think we’re on track and what do I need to change if I don’t think so.”
Because if you don’t do that, don’t make the time, you know, you control your schedule or your schedule controls you. And I think this is my sort of like I’m putting my foot down and changing this so I can be more efficient and less stressed out. And it’s really helped.
Molly: And feel better.
Molly: And especially with a virtual company, I mean, meetings are life. Zoom is life. That’s where we live. So the boundaries around your time are important or you’re just on calls all day.
5:04 Molly: So, my first one also revolves around calls and meetings, and something that I used to do when I lived in Amsterdam but I had gotten away from moving to Kentucky, some because of the weather and like just sort of the way of life there, was actually walking around during calls where I don’t need to have my video on. And that’s been huge because it allows me movement, some exercise, which I find clears my mind, decreases stress, of course, but I’m also more engaged on those calls. And I think I’m just operating at a higher place than when I’m just sitting in front of my computer call after call in the same spot. And I know this isn’t for everybody like John, you really like to be at your desk.
Molly: And some people love that. They need that but I’m the opposite. I get so antsy and I feel stuck and I just feel lower energy when I’m not able to at least get up a few times a day during calls, for example, with you or internal team calls where I can just take that, you know, with some headphones and walking around. So that’s been huge for me.
6:11 Molly: And also along the same lines here, for the last few years really, as I’ve started to produce more content, podcasting courses, etc., calls more responsibility, I started to notice that by the end of the week, my face actually hurts. Like this is a problem. And I realized, thanks to my friend, Bethany, that a lot of that had to do with being on so many video calls, especially where I’m smiling or I’m experiencing or having a lot of facial expressions.
I mean, that is literally tiring. Your face gets tired. And our friend, Bethany, she was a teacher and she said, “I used to have this problem because I was in front of a class all day. And, you know, I was smiling and engaged.” She said, “Try to really select which calls you’re going to have video on and turn your video off for the calls that you don’t need to have video on for.” And while I like seeing others and I, you know, like to show my face, this has been really helpful and it’s actually almost solved this problem completely. So really just decreasing the amount of video calls, which has probably also increased the amount of calls I can take while walking. So those two things really go together.
And I think when you are on video calls, you don’t realize that you are expending energy being on video. You know, even if you aren’t aware, you are subconsciously aware of the facial expressions that you making or, you know, what you’re showing to other people on the calls. So, I think, especially with COVID and online businesses and that so many of us are completely virtual, it’s something to think about, especially if you’re finding yourself really drained after a bunch of video calls, or if your face hurts like mine. Just try to cut down on that and it doesn’t mean you’re being rude. Other people will understand.
John: Totally agree. And one other tip on that for you or anyone else is if you do feel like you have to have video on, another way you can make it a little less painful is to hide the video of yourself from yourself because we are not designed as humans, they did a study on this, to look at ourselves. Having your face, your picture there in the meetings…
Molly: It’s distracting.
John: …is incredibly distracting. And is part of the reason you’re performing these facial expressions. You do the normally day-to-day, but I think they get heightened is what the study was saying when you do them. So if you hide your video from yourself if you have to have it on, you will be in a much better place at the end of the call.
Molly: And less focused on the faces that you’re making.
8:46 Molly: And then my last one is pretty simple but it’s something that’s helping me a ton, and that’s just getting back in person with people. So, a few episodes, we talked about our trip to New York, getting to see Ezra and Russ and some of our team for the first time in over a year. Now we are in person here in Austin where you live, which is so fun and exciting. And I’m getting to see a lot of people that we used to work with and friends, and I’m realizing how important that is for me.
I mean, I get most of my energy from interactions with other people, and I don’t think I realized how tough the last year or so was for me professionally because I was having to generate all of that energy on my own, which is a lesson in itself. But I just feel reinspired and re-invigorated, and I knew this would happen. Getting back in person, there’s just an exchange that cannot be replaced. You know, like Zoom is great but there’s something special about spending time. You know, right now we are recording but the purpose of this trip was also to just hang out and have fun and enjoy life. Like, why are we doing this if we’re not enjoying it?
So I think with, you know, everything sort of getting back to normal, I’m just really seeing the benefits of getting to have this type of interaction again. And next week, I’m going to speak at my first event in over a year.
Molly: That’s exciting. I mean, that’s so important for me. I get so much energy from sharing information in person and helping people and getting to have that face-to-face interaction with students and colleagues and other people in the industry. So, I’m really excited about that. Then we have another New York trip coming up where we’re going to shoot some new products, which is exciting. Then a trip to the beach. So, yeah, just encouragement to get back out there if that sounds exciting to you and if not something that you benefit from professionally and personally.
John: Yeah. And I think it’s super fun that you’re getting to, you know, dot the U.S, going kind of all-around but especially for people that are maybe adjusting to being remote employees after the coronavirus when you had done that before, even just going and meeting a co-worker for a cup of coffee is huge. You and I, Molly, we used to sit next to each other for eight hours a day and just talked about all kinds of random stuff. We’d have our seventh or eighth or ninth espresso.
Molly: It’s how we became such close friends.
John: Exactly. You’re going to really miss that if it’s something that you’re not used to. You know, and we’ve kind of been away because of corona but like we can start seeing people again. Things are getting better in the U.S at least. So really good to schedule some time for this, even if it’s something you’ve never done before. So I really recommend it.
Molly: And I know, Danny, our marketing manager just recently went back to a co-working space so that she can just be around other humans. Just remember that’s important. And it’s something that, you know, you might benefit from also. And I think I also realized I loved living in Amsterdam, I loved being in Europe and I made great friends there but I didn’t have the connections in the amount of human interaction that I now have living back in my hometown and back in the U.S and easily being able to travel and see all of you. That’s been a huge improvement in my life.
John: Nice. Awesome.
12:02 John: Well, my last productivity tip kind of goes back to what I was talking about the idea of having some focus time. But what I’ve started doing is something called morning pages. And I didn’t invent it but I did start doing it, which to me was a big step. And the idea is just every morning you spend somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes writing, and your goal is to write 3 pages worth of stuff, and it can be what did you dream about last night? It can be, you know, oh, what are you thinking about, what meetings do you have today? What are you stressed about?
Just the practice of sitting down and organizing your thoughts on paper, I find it to be incredibly helpful to get clarity on what is I want to do. Whenever I’m stressed or not sure about how I want to handle some conflict that I need to resolve or when I’m a little bit blocked from a creative perspective, this practice never fails to get me unstuck. Just because I’m forced to sit down and not just sort of think in my brain where it’s, you know, Instagram problem, here’s the dog. What am I having for lunch? Super scattered. I put it on a paper, it’s still pretty scattered on the paper, but I can then look at it. And I’m having a little bit more of a conversation.
It’s certainly not the same as talking through with a person but I find this practice so helpful. And the idea is you’re supposed to do it every day. I have not been perfect at that but I know every day I do it. I feel like I get more done that day and I’m less stressed out because I’m emptying my brain of stresses and anxieties, or I’m taking uncertainty and I’m if not resolving the problem in that moment, at least giving myself a little bit of structure for how I think about it. So it’s a really, really good concept for anybody.
It’s from this book called, “The Artist’s Way.” And she talks about doing it as an artist. And I was like, “I’m going to be writing more books because I look around.” And so, I started doing it for that but I found it does just as much for me from a business perspective as it does for, you know, being a creative individual. So, you know, if you’re an executive, if you’re someone that only lives in the land of data, numbers, or creating ads or whatever, making a little bit of time to do this and not treating it like you need to be writing the most crazy, thoughtful, meaningful things ever, it’s just like, “I’m gonna write the grocery list down.” Just the practice of writing is unbelievably helpful at getting your brain going.
Molly: Yeah. And the practice of emptying your mind because subconsciously our mind is continuing to cycle through the things we need to do, our worries, our stresses. So it’s literally taking that out of your brain and it doesn’t mean you won’t think about it, but you will think about it much less because you feel as though the problem is solved or at least addressed, or there is some awareness around it.
John: Yep. That’s exactly right.
Molly: It’s like a conversation with yourself every morning.
John: Yeah. I think that’s a good way to think of it. And I think it’s pretty helpful, especially if you’re [inaudible 00:14:42]. That doesn’t mean I don’t like people. I love people. I’m so happy you’re here in Austin but it is helpful for me to kind of think through things internally. And my wife is totally the opposite. She always wants to talk through it with me, which is great. I love helping her talk through stuff, but I don’t do that as much with her. For me, it’s I need to kind of do it internally. So this is a really, really good tool for me to do that more easily.
Molly: Awesome. I want to give that a shot.
15:06 John: Yeah. And then I have one last one that’s not for either of us but it’s our company. And it is this really, really great concept that again, didn’t invent it but we practice it just like…you know, we preach it and it’s this idea of making time for life. And so, during the summer, which kicked off for us on Memorial Day, it’s kind of what our official start is. We started doing half-day Fridays, and it’s an idea Ezra had a few years ago, and last year, we really committed to it and said, “Hey, from Memorial Day through Labor Day,” I think it is, “Friday is a half-day for everybody.” And we’re all different time zones. So it doesn’t mean that you’re working from 9:00 to 2:00 or 9:00 to 3:00, like, you need to fit this into your life somehow.
But the idea is instead of working eight hours, you’re just going to work four. And we had such positive response from our team members and everyone gets to spend more time with their family or their friends or pursuing their interests and passions. And they bring that renewed energy and joy and excitement back into the business. And summer in our industry especially, it’s a little bit of a slower time in general. It doesn’t mean we’re not all doing stuff but…
Molly: It’s why I’m traveling right now.
John: So it’s a good time for us to make this space for ourselves and for our team members. So it’s been really, really fun. And the only thing I ever say about it is I ask all the team members to tell me what it is you’re doing, right, or when I’m doing one-on-one calls. I don’t need everyone to slack me with how they’re taking their day off but it’s such a fun conversation starter for everyone to be like, “Hey, I went to the lake with my family.” Or, “I read this really great book.” It’s giving you a way to have some connections with people that are not all based around projects or work stuff.
Molly: And I think it’s even more than just giving the time off. We also encourage them to be intentional about using that time for whatever you need. So if that’s relationships, if that’s alone time or whatever that is that you are currently, you know, wanting or needing in your life, “Hey, here’s some extra time back, go do this, be intentional about it.” And I think that continuing conversation about how are you spending this time really helps keep it that way.
John: Yeah. And I think it’s kind of like how I said I have four hours blocked out to do work. Having four hours that’s blocked up normally for work that you suddenly have available, it’s not going to be like filled up with just the stuff of life. It’s not going to be, all right, go get the medicine, got to go take the dog out, whatever. It’s like, “Hey, this feels like bought-back time that I can really spend on myself or my family or my friends.”
Molly: Don’t use this time to stress.
John: So I think that’s a cool concept. Obviously, not everybody can do that in their business. It’s easier for us for services or remote but if you feel like it’s something you can fit in, you might want to pilot it, even just for a week or two and see how much energy it brings back into your team because they’re going to be so excited about it. You are going to feel connected to them in a different way. And really you can’t be a good worker, you can’t be a good creator or problem-solver or anything like that if you are totally drained. And this is just one of those small ways that you can help people refill themselves a little bit.
Molly: Absolutely. Well, thank you, John. This was fun.
John: Yeah. A good episode.
Molly: Yeah. I hope you guys enjoyed it.
18:28 Molly: Thanks as always for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and review the podcast on whatever platform that you choose to listen. As always, thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of “The Smart Marketer” podcast. For any resources mentioned on the show today, please visit our show notes at smartmarketer.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us an honest review on whichever platform you are listening. Thanks again. And we’ll see you next time.