One of the biggest myths is that a structured day is inherently the basis of good time management. This couldn't be further from the truth. Productivity, effectiveness, efficiency and time management require individualization for maximum results. Hence, one has to experiment to find what works for him/her. It is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. - Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/11/05/11-time-management-myths-that-are-hurting-your-productivity/#4a3793324f80
You've just created a solid piece of content that you're excited to share with the virtual world. You're sure that whoever sees it will be eager to share it. But you aren't sure of how to get the word out, where it should go or whom it should go to.
What you need is a content distribution plan.
Content distribution is just as essential as content creation, because there is no point in content existing if people are not seeing and sharing it. One strategy is the 80/20 rule: Spend 20 percent of your time creating content and 80 percent of your time promoting it.
So how can you ensure that your marketing materials are seen and acted on?
Research your audience
The best way to gauge what content to produce is to create a buyer persona, which is a profile detailing your ideal customer based on market research.
You want to know as much as you can about your ideal audience. Think about who you want investing in and sharing your content. How old are they? What do they do? What are their interests and hobbies? You have to create and distribute with your buyer persona in mind, always.
A good way to learn more about your audience is through Google Analytics. Pay attention to what content is performing better than the rest. Look at how each piece of content is doing based on how many visitors there were, how long it was until they abandoned the page and if they were converted into subscribers.
If you invest time in creating a buyer persona, you're able to tailor content to your audience's specific needs so they are more inclined to interact with it. And with that, you'll increase your promotion and distribution.
Create specific goals and KPIs
Once you create one or two solid buyer personas, you'll want to set goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are specific measurements of performance that show you how well your goals are being met.
Think about how many shares you'd like across each platform you distribute through. How much engagement do you expect from your audience? What number of views do you want to reach monthly and yearly? Think about the percentage of growth you'd like to see in the upcoming year and write a number down.
Now create a schedule for your content using a content calendar. Schedules are important, because they prevent your promotion process from getting stale by planning distribution in advance. Content calendars let you see weeks, months and maybe even years ahead so that you can plan your content strategy accordingly.
The key is to optimizing your distribution strategy from the beginning to ensure actionable results and meet your goals.
Promote content through various channels
You can't publish a blog post and then sit back waiting for the views and shares to trickle in. You have to take action every step of the way. So what can you do?
First, post to various platforms that suit your audience. If you're a flower shop trying to get the word out about your new seasonal bouquets, platforms like Facebook and Instagram might be great options for promotion while Pinterest and LinkedIn might not. Always keep your targeted buyer in mind when promoting.
Next, let's review some different channels you can use to promote your content.
But sharing your content once and then forgetting about it won't get you the traffic you want. Remember the 80/20 rule? You have to spend most of your time promoting your content if you want tangible results.
Social media automation tools give you more time by allowing you to schedule what's going to get posted, when and how often. This lets you post at the most engaging times during the week since research shows that, generally, weekday afternoons are best.
When consumers were asked how they wanted businesses to reach out to them, 72 percent said email was their preferred format. This beat social media, television ads and print media.
Email marketing is essential in distributing content. For every $1 spent on email marketing, there's a $38 return on investment (ROI). Your subscribers are already invested in your business because they chose to opt in to your emails.
If you already have an email list, email your subscribers each time new content is published. You can also add it to your newsletter if you have one.
Editor's note: Looking for an email marketing service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.
Another way of getting your content noticed is by promoting it through question and answer platforms. Quora and Reddit are great for content-sharing and allow you to form genuine connections with potential customers while organically growing your subscribers.
Quora is a simple question-and-answer site, while Reddit uses threads, or subreddits, to ask for input. Users on these sites follow threads and subreddits specific to their interests. You can look at categories that match your content and read through the questions. Then respond with your expertise and use backlinks to your site or product.
If you're evaluating how to organize a content marketing distribution plan, there are a few key things you have to do. Know who it is you're targeting as customers, create goals you can measure specifically, and utilize different mediums to promote your content or product. The more you plan how to distribute content in advance, the better your results will be.
Marketing has gone through many changes over the years, but the philosophy and basic theories largely remain the same. Why? Because human nature is a constant, and the goal of marketing is to appeal to human nature and connect with an audience.
Print advertising and other traditional forms of marketing may have given way to digital marketing, but these basic concepts can help brands get the word out about their products and services while capturing consumers' interest and attention.
The basic philosophy of marketing
When you boil it down, the concept and philosophy of marketing is to cater to customers' needs while serving the needs of the business. If you offer a product for free, that might serve customers' needs, for example, but the organization will not be able to stay in business. On the other hand, pricing the product higher than what your customers are willing to pay will ultimately lead to the same result. That might seem simplistic, but many businesses don't survive simply because they lose sight of customer needs while serving their own vision.
Marketers need to always remember why people choose their product or service. An organization needs to have a unique selling proposition (USP) and have a deep understanding of who their customer base is and what they want. Successful marketing also requires that brands connect with customers on an emotional level through tactics like storytelling.
Strategies marketers can use
So if the basic concept of marketing is to put the customer's needs first, what are the strategies companies can use to market their products effectively? Fortunately, the multitude of digital tools that are now available allow marketers to reach their customers on the platforms they already use.
From professional networks like LinkedIn to just-for-fun platforms like Snapchat, a huge percentage of the population now uses social media. Marketers can use social media to informally connect with an audience, share stories and get more eyes on their content.
Editor's note: Looking for the right social media management service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.
Today, email marketing is one of the best ways to get in front of potential customers directly. Although spam filters can make it more difficult to reach consumers' inboxes, those that get through can have a powerful effect and create a massive return on investment. It's easy to personalize email messages through automation software, making email marketing a great option for businesses of every size.
Collecting email addresses ethically takes some work. Many marketers use a lead magnet, a free resource like a short e-book or a checklist that's given in exchange for a person's email address.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is still a cornerstone of digital marketing strategy, but it's constantly evolving as search engine developers adjust their algorithms to filter out irrelevant content. By producing valuable, optimized content, companies can get the right kind of attention from search engines, driving up organic traffic.
Different kinds of content
Content marketing is huge now, and creating a mix of content that tells a story is key. Videos, blog posts, podcasts, interactive content – the possibilities are endless.
Create measurable goals
Marketing is like any other aspect of business – it's most successful when goals are set and measured along the way. This helps ensure that the money put into marketing is well spent and allows marketers to create more focused strategies. It's not just enough to have the goal of "more sales." It's also important to know how many more sales and in what time frame. This helps keep everyone on track and constantly moving forward.
Use public figures to gain the attention of your target audience
One type of marketing that never goes out of style is word of mouth. People are more likely to buy something when it's offered by someone they trust, like a friend, family member or even a celebrity or athlete. Brands can leverage the social power of public figures to get the attention of their target audience – a tactic called influencer marketing. These kinds of partnerships can pay off big – Nike's Jordan Brand pulled in around $2.8 billion in 2015.
Trusting brands to deliver
Marketing sends a message to consumers, and that message always includes a promise of some sort, implied or explicit. When marketing is successful, brands deliver on that promise and customers leave happy. That kind of trust takes a long time to build, but brands that put customers' needs first will ultimately be the most successful.
To meet the qualifications for a patent, your invention or discovery must be new, useful, an improvement on prior processes or techniques, nonobvious and/or novel. While it's unlikely this caveat will affect you, it's worth noting that "The Atomic Energy act of 1954 excludes the patenting of inventions useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy in an atomic weapon." For a more comprehensive outline of the parameters for patentable inventions and concepts, check out the website for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Do I need a patent lawyer?
No, you are not required to hire an attorney to file for a patent. However, there are patent attorneys for a reason. The way a patent application is written can impact the outcome of the application, and the more technically complex your invention is, the more likely you are to benefit from hiring a patent attorney.
You may also take a middle-of-the-road approach and write the patent application yourself and then have a patent attorney review it, which can save you some money on the legal side of things. In general, however, if you are serious about obtaining a patent, you should seek some form of legal counsel.
What types of patents are there?
There are three primary types of patents: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Utility patents are the most common patent type. There is also something called a provisional patent, which is not a full patent but can be useful for those in the early stages of obtaining a patent.
What is a utility patent?
A utility patent "protects the way an article is used and works." Anything from a unique invention to a technical process to a machine might fall under the utility patent umbrella. Utility patents are unique in that they may include multiple claims. In other words, the item or process you attempt to register can contain more than one unique part.
What is a design patent?
A design patent "protects the way an article looks." However, not just any design can be patented. According to the U.S. government, "The ornamental appearance for an article includes its shape/configuration or surface ornamentation applied to the article, or both. Both design and utility patents may be obtained on an article if invention resides both in its utility and ornamental appearance." Additionally, the design aspects of the object must be irremovable from the object. In other words, you cannot obtain a design patent for an aesthetic adornment that is removable; the aesthetic design must be an intrinsic part of the object in question.
What is a plant patent?
A plant patent is not common for individual inventors or business owners, and if you haven't heard of plant patents already, it's unlikely you'll ever apply for one. A plant patent allows an individual or organization to patent a new variety of plant that was "invented or discovered and asexually reproduced." Such patents protect the patent-owner's right to "exclude others from asexually reproducing the plant, and from using, offering for sale, or selling the plant so reproduced, or any of its parts."
What is a provisional patent?
A provisional application for a patent may be submitted by an individual who wants "to file without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or any information disclosure (prior art) statement." As the name implies, a provisional application is not a permanent solution. A provisional patent provides some exclusionary protection for a 12-month period, during which a full patent application must be filed if a patent is to be obtained. A provisional patent cannot be extended.
How do I know if someone already patented my idea?
The cost of obtaining a patent varies widely. If you hire a patent lawyer, there will be extra costs, and different types of patents have different associated fees. The legal costs associated with obtaining a patent (with help from an attorney) vary based on how complicated the patent is and how complex the invention or discovery is.
How do I choose a patent lawyer?
If you use a patent lawyer, make sure you find an attorney who has filed similar types of patents in the past. For example, if you are a scientist and your discovery or invention is highly technical, make sure you choose a lawyer who has experience with other highly technical patents. If you are confident that you can write your own patent application, you may also seek online legal services to file your patent application for you.
In his introduction to Working, the landmark 1974 oral history of work, Studs Terkel positioned meaning as an equal counterpart to financial compensation in motivating the American worker. “[Work] is about a search…for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor,” he wrote. Among those “happy few” he met who truly enjoyed their labors, Terkel noted a common attribute: They had “a meaning to their work over and beyond the reward of the paycheck.”
More than forty years later, myriad studies have substantiated the claim that American workers expect something deeper than a paycheck in return for their labors. Current compensation levels show only a marginal relationship with job satisfaction. By contrast, since 2005, the importance of meaningfulness in driving job selection has grown steadily. “Meaning is the new money, an HBR article argued in 2011. Why, then, haven’t more organizations taken concrete actions to focus their cultures on the creation of meaning?
To date, business leaders have lacked two key pieces of information they need in order to act on the finding that meaning drives productivity. First, any business case hinges on the ability to translate meaning, as an abstraction, into dollars. Just how much is meaningful work actually worth? How much of an investment in this area is justified by the promised returns? And second: How can organizations actually go about fostering meaning?
You and Your Team Series
Making Work More Meaningful
We set out to answer these questions at BetterUp this past year, as a follow-up to our study on loneliness at work. Our Meaning and Purpose at Work report, released today, surveyed the experience of workplace meaning among 2,285 American professionals, across 26 industries and a range of pay levels, company sizes, and demographics. The height of the price tag that workers place on meaning surprised us all.
The Dollars (and Sense) of Meaningful Work
Our first goal was to understand how widely held the belief is that meaningful work is of monetary value. More than 9 out of 10 employees, we found, are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. Across age and salary groups, workers want meaningful work badly enough that they’re willing to pay for it.
The trillion dollar question, then, was just how much is meaning worth to the individual employee? If you could find a job that offered you consistent meaning, how much of your current salary would you be willing to forego to do it? We asked this of our 2,000+ respondents. On average, our pool of American workers said they’d be willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful. The magnitude of this number supports one of the findings from Shawn’s recent study on the Conference for Women. In a survey of attendees, he found that nearly 80% of the respondents would rather have a boss who cared about them finding meaning and success in work than receive a 20% pay increase. To put this figure in perspective, consider that Americans spend about 21% of their incomes on housing. Given that people are willing to spend more on meaningful work than on putting a roof over their heads, the 21st century list of essentials might be due for an update: “food, clothing, shelter — and meaningful work.”
A second related question is: How much is meaning worth to the organization? Employees with very meaningful work, we found, spend one additional hour per week working, and take two fewer days of paid leave per year. In terms of sheer quantity of work hours, organizations will see more work time put in by employees who find greater meaning in that work. More importantly, though, employees who find work meaningful experience significantly greater job satisfaction, which is known to correlate with increased productivity. Based on established job satisfaction-to-productivity ratios, we estimate that highly meaningful work will generate an additional $9,078 per worker, per year.
Additional organizational value comes in the form of retained talent. We learned that employees who find work highly meaningful are 69% less likely to plan on quitting their jobs within the next 6 months, and have job tenures that are 7.4 months longer on average than employees who find work lacking in meaning. Translating that into bottom line results, we estimate that enterprise companies save an average of $6.43 million in annual turnover-related costs for every 10,000 workers, when all employees feel their work is highly meaningful.
A Challenge and an Opportunity
Despite the bidirectional benefits of meaningful work, companies are falling short in providing it. Our study found that people today find their work only about half as meaningful as it could be. We also found that only 1 in 20 respondents rated their current jobs as providing the most meaningful work they could imagine having.
This gap presents both a challenge and an opportunity for employers. Top talent can demand what they want, including meaning, and will jump ship if they don’t get it. Employers must respond or lose talent and productivity. Building greater meaning in the workplace is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s an imperative.
Among the recommendations we offer in our report are these critical three:
Bolster Social Support Networks that Create Shared Meaning.
Employees who experience strong workplace social support find greater meaning at work. Employees who reported the highest levels of workplace social support also scored 47% higher on measures of workplace meaning than did employees who ranked their workplaces as having a culture of poor social support. The sense of collective, shared purpose that emerges in the strongest company cultures adds an even greater boost to workplace meaning. For employees who experience both social support and a sense of shared purpose, average turnover risk reduces by 24%, and the likelihood of getting a raise jumps by 30%, compared to employees who experience social support, but without an accompanying sense of shared purpose.
Simple tactics can amplify social connection and shared purpose. Explicitly sharing experiences of meaningful work is an important form of social support. Organizations can encourage managers to talk with their direct reports about what aspects of work they find meaningful, and get managers to share their perspectives with employees, too. Managers can also build in time during team meetings to clearly articulate the connection between current projects and the company’s overall purpose. Employees can more easily see how their work is meaningful when team project goals tie into a company’s larger vision.
Adopting these habits may require some coaching of managers, as well as incentivizing these activities, but they can go a long way toward building collective purpose in and across teams.
As Shawn’s book Big Potential demonstrates, social support is also a key predictor of overall happiness and success at work. His recent study of a women’s networking conference demonstrated that such support outside the workplace drives key professional outcomes, such as promotions.
Make Every Worker a Knowledge Worker.
Our study found that knowledge workers experience greater meaning at work than others, and that such workers derive an especially strong sense of meaning from a feeling of active professional growth. Knowledge workers are also more likely to feel inspired by the vision their organizations are striving to achieve, and humbled by the opportunity to work in service to others.
Research shows that all work becomes knowledge work, when workers are given the chance to make it so. That’s good news for companies and employees. Because when workers experience work as knowledge work, work feels more meaningful.
As such, all workers can benefit from a greater emphasis on creativity in their roles. Offer employees opportunities to creatively engage in their work, share knowledge, and feel like they’re co-creating the process of how work gets done.
Often, the people “in the trenches” (retail floor clerks, assembly line workers) have valuable insights into how operations can be improved. Engaging employees by soliciting their feedback can have a huge impact on employees’ experience of meaning, and helps improve company processes. A case study of entry-level steel mill workers found that when management instituted policies to take advantage of workers’ specialized knowledge and creative operational solutions, production uptime increased by 3.5%, resulting in a $1.2M increase in annual operating profits.
Coaching and mentoring are valuable tools to help workers across all roles and levels find deeper inspiration in their work. Managers trained in coaching techniques that focus on fostering creativity and engagement can serve this role as well.
A broader principle worth highlighting here is that personal growth — the opportunity to reach for new creative heights, in this case above and beyond professional growth — fuels one’s sense of meaning at work. Work dominates our time and our mindshare, and in return we expect to find personal value from those efforts. Managers and organizations seeking to bolster meaning will need to proactively support their employees’ pursuit of personal growth and development alongside the more traditional professional development opportunities.
Support Meaning Multipliers at All Levels.
Not all people and professions find work equally meaningful. Older employees in our study, for instance, found more meaning at work than do younger workers. And parents raising children found work 12% more meaningful that those without children. People in our study in service-oriented professions, such as medicine, education and social work, experienced higher levels of workplace meaning than did administrative support and transportation workers.
Leverage employees who find higher levels of meaning to act as multipliers of meaning throughout an organization. Connect mentors in high meaning occupations, for instance, to others to share perspectives on what makes work meaningful for them. Provide more mentorship for younger workers. Less educated workers — who are more likely to work in the trenches — have valuable insights on how to improve processes. They’d be prime candidates for coaching to help them find ways to see themselves as knowledge workers contributing to company success.
Putting Meaning to Work
The old labor contract between employer and employee — the simple exchange of money for labor — has expired; perhaps it was already expired in Terkel’s day. Taking its place is a new order in which people demand meaning from work, and in return give more deeply and freely to those organizations that provide it. They don’t merely hope for work to be meaningful, they expect it — and they’re willing to pay dearly to have it.
Meaningful work only has upsides. Employees work harder and quit less, and they gravitate to supportive work cultures that help them grow. The value of meaning to both individual employees, and to organizations, stands waiting, ready to be captured by organizations prepared to act.
Companies benefit when employees speak up. When employees feel comfortable candidly voicing their opinions, suggestions, or concerns, organizations become better at handling threats as well as opportunities.
But employees often remain silent with their opinions, concerns or ideas. There are generally two viewpoints on why: One is the personality perspective, which suggests that these employees inherently lack the disposition to stand up and speak out about critical issues, that they might be too introverted or shy to effectively articulate their views to the team. This perspective gives rise to solutions such as hiring employees who have proactive dispositions and are more inclined to speak truth to power.
By contrast, the situational perspective argues that employees fail to speak up because they feel their work environment is not conducive for it. They might fear suffering significant social costs by challenging their bosses. This perspective leads to solutions focused on how managers can create the right social norms that encourage employees to voice concerns without fear of sanctions.
These two perspectives aren’t mutually exclusive, but we wanted to test which one matters more: If personality is the primary predictor of speaking up, situational factors shouldn’t matter as much. This means that employees who are inherently disposed to speak up will be the ones who more frequently do so. By contrast, if the situation or environment is the primary driver of speaking up, then employee personality should be less important – employees would speak up, irrespective of their underlying dispositions, when the work environment encourages speaking up, and they would stay silent when the environment doesn’t.
In our research we collected survey data from a manufacturing plant in Malaysia in 2014. We surveyed 291 employees and their supervisors (from 35 teams overall). We asked employees how likely they were inherently disposed to seeking out opportunities in their environment (also known in psychology as their approach orientation); this was how we assessed whether employees had a personality inclined toward speaking up. We also asked them whether speaking up is expected as part of their everyday work, and whether it is encouraged and rewarded or punished; this was how we assessed the situational norms associated with their work environment. Each employee rated their approach orientation, as well as the expectations in their job, using validated measures. For each employee in the team, we asked their supervisor to rate the frequency of speaking up.
The firm was responsible for manufacturing and sales of soaps, detergents, and other home cleaning products, and employees often encountered situations where there was compelling need to speak up about issues around current work operations. For instance, employees could suggest novel approaches to stacking raw materials, improving equipment layouts, or enhancing coordination during shift changes. They could also call out problems such as faulty safety gear or violations of standard operating procedures on the shop floor.
When we analyzed the data, we found that both personality and environment had a significant effect on employee’s tendency to speak up with ideas or concerns. Employees with a high approach orientation, who tend to seek opportunities and take more risks, spoke up more often with ideas than those with a lower approach orientation. And employees who believed they were expected to suggest ideas spoke up more than those who didn’t feel it was part of their job.
But we found that strong environmental norms could override the influence of personality on employees’ willingness to speak up at work. Even if someone had a low approach orientation, they spoke up when they thought it was strongly expected of them at work. And if someone had a high approach orientation, they’d be less likely to speak up when they thought it was discouraged or punished. Our data supported the situational perspective better than the personality perspective.
This finding suggests that if you want employees to speak up, the work environment and the team’s social norms matter. Even people who are most inclined to raise ideas and suggestions may not do so if they fear being put down or penalized. On the flip side, encouraging and rewarding speaking up can help more people do so, even if their personality makes them more risk-averse.
We also found that the environment could influence how employees spoke up. Employees voiced their opinions in two different ways—by identifying areas for improvement at work, and by diagnosing potential threats to the organization and calling out undesirable behaviors that might compromise safety or operations. We found that when norms at work encouraged detection of potential threats or problems, employees spoke out more on issues such as safety violations or breaches of established work practices. But when such norms encouraged improvements and innovation, employees more often spoke up with novel ideas for redesigning work processes that promoted innovation on the shop floor.
This suggests that work norms can not only encourage all employees to speak up but also focus their voice on specific issues confronting the organization. Managers working in contexts where innovation is important would do well to create an environment that specifically encourages employees to come up with ideas that can offer new opportunities for success. On the other hand, managers working in contexts where reliability is critical would do well to specifically create an environment where employees are focused on forecasting and speaking up about potential threats that can hinder or disrupt work operations.
Though we find convincing evidence in favor of the situational perspective for why employees do or don’t speak up, our study has its limitations. For instance, it was conducted in East Asia, where people ascribe to cultural value of collectivism and social norms might play a stronger role than in the more individualist West. Despite this caveat, our research suggests that if you want your employees to be more vocal and contribute ideas and opinions, you should actively encourage this behavior and reward those who do it.