Most of us wish there was either more time or fewer things to do in a day.
No need to tiptoe around it: we’re overwhelmed.
This has been a worsening problem for years, even before we entered a global pandemic.
Content marketers face the same problems at work like everyone else.
And in general, job stress is one of the most common times of stress, according to the American Institute of Stress.
Of that job stress, the most common cause is workload.
It’s clear we need less on our plates.
But how many of us can just Slack our boss and say, “Hey, I’m going to do less this quarter, cool?”
How many of us work in a company culture that prioritizes mental health and self-care enough to give us fewer projects when we’re burnt out?
Unfortunately, not enough.
So we need to come up with other solutions, too.
For example, when you can’t take on fewer projects, you can find ways to complete those projects in less time.
To streamline, organize, and optimize your marketing processes enough to get the same results your bosses need, without so many hours worked.
And there are ways to do this at every step of the content marketing process, every type of work you need to do.
Sure, it might not seem like a lot to shave off five minutes here and 15 minutes there.
But when you do that with every step of your process, it can add up to saving hours per week.
Here are a few places to start to save time content marketing.
How to Plan Content More Productively
First, let’s talk about the idea stage.
Even planning and ideating can be done more productively. Increasing efficiency doesn’t have to come at a cost to creativity or effectiveness.
1. Brainstorm Content Ideas in Batches
When you or your team sits down for dedicated brainstorming or idea sessions, make the most of that focus on creative thinking.
Once you get into “the zone,” don’t stop at one idea. Come up with as many as you can.
For example, instead of coming up with content ideas a post at a time, or even a week at a time, sit down, and come up with ideas until you run out.
Because if you’ve ever had a deep brainstorming sesh, you know the first idea is the hardest one to come up with.
Take the first idea and follow it down whatever path it takes you.
This will help you plan and come up with content ideas a whole campaign or quarter at a time, instead of one by one.
2. Learn to Capture Ideas as You Have Them
Even with dedicated brainstorming batches, you’re still probably going to come up with a lot of ideas on the fly.
In fact, I recommend it.
I’ve dubbed it “living in idea mode.” But you need to be sure to capture those ideas.
For example, when you’re talking to a coworker or customer and realize, “oh, this should be a blog post,” write that down.
When your brand receives a social media mention that makes you say the same thing, screenshot it.
All the day-to-day customer feedback and insights need to be captured in an idea file to reference when it’s time for your next dedicated brainstorm.
3. Plan Out Promotion Before You Create
Finally, planning shouldn’t end at your long-form pieces of content like blog posts and emails.
Plan in advance how you’re going to promote and repurpose those, too.
That way, you’re not scrambling wondering what to do next once you hit “publish” on something new.
This planning can include:
- Where you’re going to promote your content.
- What format that promotion will take.
- When promotion will take place, both short-term and long-term.
- How you’re going to repurpose your content.
- When that repurposing is going to happen.
In fact, there’s almost more planning and project management at that point in the content lifecycle than there is in the writing process.
How to Create Content More Productively
That said, the content creation process is still a lot.
Fortunately, there’s also a lot to streamline to save time.
Let’s talk about a few of the ways you can do that.
4. Use an Outline as a Skeleton
Let’s be clear: outlines are essential.
A lot of people think it’s a waste of time to think and map out what you’re going to say before you dig in.
But that’s like saying it’s a waste of time to figure out your route or look at a map before starting a road trip.
Realize that for every five minutes you spend outlining your content, you can likely save 10 or 15 in mind wandering during the writing process.
I like to call outlining content developing a skeleton before adding meat to the bone.
5. Separate Research From Writing
Another way to save time on the actual writing is to perform any research and collect any links you need before you start forming full sentences.
This research can include:
- Pulling the links to any existing blog posts you’ll want to reference.
- Finding examples that prove your points.
- Interviewing experts or asking for written quotes.
You want to do whatever you can so that once you get “into the zone” and start creating, you won’t have to open up Google in a new tab to look anything up.
Research is full of rabbit holes and other ways to get distracted to pull you out of that focus mode writing cultivates.
6. Create Long-Form Content in Short Sessions
Finally, once it is time to start writing, don’t spend hours upon hours on writing binges when you can help it.
Just like with the finished content itself, writing time has a point of diminishing returns.
If your content is going to take more than a few hours to produce, break it up into shorter sessions with breaks in between.
I’m a fan of the Pomodoro technique, but other writers find that 25 minutes isn’t long enough to get into focus mode.
If that’s your case, feel free to extend your writing sessions to what works for you.
How to Distribute Content More Productively
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, there’s still a lot to do once you press “publish.”
Yet so many marketers lack any sort of system or process for it.
If that’s you, any organization of systemization will save time.
And better yet, in a way that has a compound interest, so they save more time the sooner you do them.
7. Create a Repeatable Process
First, get the overall content distribution and promotion process organized.
Decide on an overall checklist or system to use as a starting point for each piece of content, that includes things like:
- Where and when to post on social media.
- Where to schedule those social media posts.
- List of communities or forums that can be used in distribution.
- Relevant influencers to email with outreach.
- How to email your newsletter subscribers about the content.
This can be customized for specific campaigns or pieces of content, but having a system to start with will save time spent scrambling.
8. Reuse Copy from Base Content
Next, don’t try to write all your social and promotional copy from scratch.
Take advantage of copy-and-paste.
Yes, you’ll need to customize the copy a bit after you paste it from one platform to another.
But that will still take less time than starting from zero.
Always make sure to have the content itself open in another tab when drafting promo to pull quotes and wording from.
9. Build in Future Buffer Time
My final promotion tip for you is to block out time a month, three months, etc. after a piece of content has gone live.
This gives you time to re-promote, repurpose, and update or optimize things to keep them fresh.
Optimizing and repurposing tend to be “one of those things” that easily gets pushed to the back burner or tomorrow’s to-do list because we don’t plan for it in advance.
These buffer time blocks can change that.
Start Shaving to Save Time Content Marketing
Like I said before, these changes are ones that will add up.
They address content marketing time-sucks from the root causes.
So while you might not see a huge immediate difference, know that you’re saving your future self days and weeks of stress over the course of the next year or more.