Small and lean marketing departments with support from contractors, vendors and freelancers seem to be the future, especially in a “post” COVID world where budgets are still in recovery. Most of my career has been spent on two-person teams, and we’ve made it work. The best part of that small team environment is getting to really dive-in and learn every aspect of marketing, not just what you already know.

And if you really want to make it interesting, be a marketing department of one. That’s me right now (although that’s set to change soon) and while it can be tough, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Especially for those of us who love to control it all, which is completely on-brand for me.

I do see this question come up often in marketing groups, which is how the heck do you organize yourself when it’s just you (or maybe you and one other person). This is tough, but I have 3 tips (plus 1 bonus tip!) that have worked exceptionally well for me that I think any small team could take and use to organize themselves.

Don’t Skip on Planning or Reporting

When you are a department of one, or maybe even two, you feel like you have a pretty good sense of what you need to work on. But often, you end up reacting to tasks as things sneak up on your calendar or unexpected projects are dropped on you rather than proactively knowing what you are doing each day. While we can’t prevent every surprise, if you have a documented plan, it’s a lot easier to stay in front of these things!

In my role, we work in four-week periods. And every four weeks, I have a new plan to work through for each of my brands. I document special dates, objectives, strategies, tactics, deliverables, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that I will measure at the end. This is my foundation for those four-weeks, and I rarely deviate from that plan because most times, there is no need to.

And then, once that four-week period is up, I take the time to review my KPIs and provide a report on everything I did. This is important not only for my boss, but it gives me some time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what I can improve the next time. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re bound to repeat them, am I right?

Invest the Time/Energy into a Project Management System

I cannot stress this enough… find a system, take the time to build it out and live in it every day! You’ll never miss a beat and will surprise others with how on top of everything you are. Do I remember everything? Heck no. Do I set tasks to remind me of everything? YES!

Example… we had a December meeting. Someone mentioned redesigning holiday banners, but that it was already too late in the season. I added a reminder in my project management system to bring up the topic that following summer, and just like that, six months later I was reminded we needed to have that conversation again. We were then able to get those banners redone with plenty of time before the holidays.

Which system should you use? In short, whatever system excites you and you’ll be willing to dedicate the time to build the foundation of projects, templates, etc. I use Asana, and for me, it is perfect. I have built templates, utilize the function of creating emails into tasks, and have a daily to-do list that ensures nothing is missed. Utilize a free trial and see if it will work for you! I could do a whole other blog with Asana tips (and maybe I will in the future).

Organize Yourself with a Tul-Style Notebook

I have lived in planners and calendars. And for the most part, my calendars are still my lifeline for what I have on my plate each day, both personal and professional. I used to utilize a daily planner when I worked for an agency, but now that I am back on the corporate/brand side, I find that Asana tracks those daily tasks just fine for me.

However, I have annual plans, period plans, two brands, and a calendar of my life and I still needed a very visual view on the daily. I couldn’t find a planner that really suited my exact needs anymore. Insert a customizable Tul disc-bound notebook. You guys, I am obsessed with this thing. I was able to purchase some annual monthly planner inserts, notes pages, dividers, and page dividers to make it work perfectly for me. Plus, you can get a disc-bound hold punch and add whatever documents you need. I absolutely love it, and one day I will blog on how easy and awesome it is, maybe even video it because honestly, I am proud of how organized it makes me feel.

BONUS TIP: Coordinate with your team member through one on one meetings

If you are lucky enough to have a team member helping you out, then one-on-one meetings are a must. As a manager of employees and a director of a department, meeting with your team to touch base once a week is so important. You can review tasks together (preferably utilizing your plans and a project management system), determine if anyone needs help, prioritize, and then just generally talk and ask each other how they are doing. I cannot stress this enough… make time in the meeting to just chat about life. Don’t be afraid to use a few minutes to work on your personal relationship before you dive back into the professional. Below is my basic meeting outline:

  • Check-in on Each OtherWhat’s going on personally in your worlds? Doesn’t have to be work-related, but also respect boundaries and don’t get too personal. You still need to keep that professional relationship first. (5-mins)
  • Updates on the Company Share any company updates you can, but also be wary of what you can’t share! You want to be transparent, but don’t reveal more then you should. (5-mins)
  • Project UpdatesReview this week’s tasks together. What help does anyone need to meet their deadlines? Is there anything that needs to reprioritized to help alleviate the workload? (15-mins)
  • Wins & Lessons LearnedWas there a win from last week? A social post that went viral? A campaign that had high ROI? In the same vein, what didn’t work and what did we learn from it? PRO TIP: Never discuss a loss without talking about what can be done better the next time. (5-mins)

As you can see, the meeting should really take no more then 30 minutes. Depending on projects, it could be a little longer (or shorter), but keep in mind that you want to be respectful of each other’s time and workload.

What are your tips and tricks for staying organized at work? Are you in a small department like mine? Anything you’ve learned that has really made your life easier? Share in the comments below!

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