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Manager and Maker Tasks; how to create more strategic thinking time

Manager and Maker Tasks; how to create more strategic thinking time

Feeling like you lack time to spend on creative and strategic thinking? You’re not alone! This was the key finding of a recent education survey conducted by Net Natives and Akero, our in-house built CRM and marketing suite for education marketers. We wanted to really understand the common pain point and share best practice in marketing tools to support daily tasks.

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The responses to the survey represented nearly 80 institutions, which has given us some fascinating insights – you can register for a copy of the report at the bottom of this blog.

Overwhelmingly, the biggest wish of the vast majority of marketing professionals was for more time to spend on strategic and creative thinking. What gets in the way are all of the ongoing tactical tasks and a never-ending stream of communication (both internal and external).

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Now, some of these challenges can be solved using technology. It’s now possible to set up automated communication workflows that are triggered based on user activity (opening emails, SMS, looking at certain pages on your website, at key times in the year), as our own technology, Akero, demonstrates.

But this doesn’t solve the whole problem. A technique I have recently adopted (having being taught it by another CEO who had read Paul Graham’s original blog) has helped me tremendously, so in true Natives’ style, I wanted to share…

It’s a simple process of segmenting your day into “manager” and “maker” time.

Every day we have to fight that internal battle between the tactical responses and strategic tasks, made all the more difficult in today’s immediate expectation to respond to emails (or, in Net Natives’ case Slack). However, by segmenting tactical and strategic tasks, dedicating the time and creating the environment (more on that in a minute) to focus on the “making” tasks, I have found that I am far more productive and creative.

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Here’s how it works.

“Manager” tasks are your day-to-day tactical communications. It doesn’t matter if you don’t manage people through traditional reporting lines – most people in their jobs have to respond and update. Whether it is internal communications to stakeholders, or external (for example, in the education space, to potential students), these tasks take time.

The problem is ongoing noise that interrupts our ability to “make”, to be strategic, to create. Getting into the zone of creativity takes effort – you can’t just turn it on.

That’s why I’ve adopted the technique of setting aside specific “maker” time, with the right environment and am encouraging all of Natives to do the same.

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Putting it into practice

Here’s what I do and I respect it when a Native does the same (they are in the zone and shouldn’t have their flow disturbed)…

I find a quiet space – we have created spaces in our office for quiet working. We have invested (substantially!) to have everyone working from a MacBook (not just because we want to be trendy, but because we want to encourage everyone to be free to work where they want).

  •       I take my time – sometimes it takes a long time to get into the zone, so I always allow a little longer than expected to get me there.
  •       I turn off distractions – that means the email is off with an out of office message, my phone is on silent and I put Slack on do not disturb (bliss).
  •       I put the time in my diary – we share diaries at Net Natives, so people know when I am in “maker mode” and not to disturb.
  •       I focus on single tasks – this is important. Our mantra here at Net Natives is what does good look like?’ and for me to know if I have been successful as a maker when I am in the zone, I need to put my tasks into bite-size chunks.

It sounds simple, but it takes effort, and for me it’s still a work in progress*, but already I’m seeing the benefits and it’s provided me with more time to be strategic and creative.

The future of your working day

I want everyone at Net Natives to adopt similar techniques, so I’m sharing this today to help you too. If you are a client, I want you to know why your contacts at Net Natives are so keen to fix times for contact, because the rest of the time, they are in “maker” mode and working in a creative and strategic way to get the best results for you.

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I hope that by using this technique (or a technique like this), coupled with the right use of marketing software to automate tasks, you find more time to be more strategic and creative.

Let me know what you think or please comment with your own techniques.

* I planned my “maker” time to write this blog post on the hour’s Amtrak train from New York to Philadelphia, but I ended up distracted by an email (classic) and so have had to finish it on the return journey. So not quite practising what I preach, but I am trying!

If you want to register for a copy of the report and get the insight from the marketing survey, then click here.