What do I do as a content marketer and creator? It would probably be easier to tell you what I don’t do, since that’s a much shorter list! I bet that you feel the same way, especially if you’re part of a small team or work on a contract basis for several clients.

With an ever-growing task list, it can feel impossible to make headway. Have you ever gotten to the end of a day and thought, “Man, I worked so hard today, but I don’t know what I accomplished!” – because I know I have!

The solution – and the very best way to create more content – is to “chunk” your time.

I’ve been chunking my time for years. I guess I’m a natural chunker. But the first time I ever heard this term was from John Lee Dumas, creator of the podcast Entrepreneur on Fire. His claim to fame is that he releases a new episode every day. Every day. And we’re not talking 5-minute sound bites. He does high-quality interviews with some of the top entrepreneurs in the world.

When he first came up with the idea, some of the most influential podcast instructors were naysayers. They’ve all had to admit that they were wrong, since his podcast is a smashing success! But what eludes most people is the understanding of how John creates so much content.

How does he record, edit, publish, and promote hundreds of episodes every year?

How do I (and many other bloggers) write, edit, publish, and promote hundreds of blog posts every year?

How do we still have time for a life or…sleep!?!

The answer is time chunking. Essentially, time chunking is grouping like tasks to make them go faster.

Let’s think about this on simpler terms to illustrate how it works. Imagine that you’re an executive assistant for a high-powered CEO, sitting at your desk, and he gives you a list of five things to do:

  • Pick up my dry cleaning.
  • Drop off a batch of files with the secretary.
  • Call a cab for my 3 PM meeting.
  • Take my wife to the airport.
  • Read over the speech I’m delivering next week and make recommendations for changes.

He tells you that since it is Friday, you can leave when you’re done with these tasks.

Now, would you do these tasks one at a time, in the order given to you? Or would you try to “group” tasks in a way that makes sense? Let’s say that you just run down the list. Your steps would go something like this:

  1. Walk downstairs to parking garage.
  2. Drive to dry cleaners and retrieve items.
  3. Drive back to office building
  4. Walk upstairs to office and hang items in closet.
  5. Pick up files from your desk.
  6. Walk to secretary’s office and give her files.
  7. Walk back to desk.
  8. Call cab company and schedule pick-up.
  9. Walk downstairs to parking garage.
  10. Drive to airport with wife.
  11. Drive back to office building.
  12. Walk back upstairs to desk
  13. Read over speech and email CEO your recommendations.

Finally done – you can drive home! Depending on traffic, it might take you all day to get these tasks done, and your feet are probably sore.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to do things this way:

  1. Call cab company and schedule pick-up.
  2. Read over speech and email CEO your recommendations.
  3. Walk downstairs to parking garage, dropping off files on the way.
  4. Drive to dry cleaners and retrieve items.
  5. Drop wife off at airport.
  6. Drive back to office.
  7. Walk upstairs to drop off dry cleaning.

You just went from 13 tasks to 7 tasks – a reduction of almost 50%. Instead of working all day, you get to leave at lunchtime, simply because you re-organized tasks in a way that made more sense.

Most of us do this automatically without realizing it, but it often pays to consciously think about how to organize your day, because you can find ways to be even more efficient.

Chunking your time isn’t just about organizing your day more efficiently, though.

It’s about looking at the bigger picture and organizing your entire week – or even your entire month. As you’ll notice in our example, most of the extra time that can be cut out of the executive assistant’s day is spent walking or driving from one location to another. Your brain has to make this kind of mental “walk” every time you switch tasks. So, even if you’re doing the same number of tasks, reordering how you do them can cut time out of your day, since you don’t have to wait for your brain to “walk” to the next task.

Can you guess which list of tasks would take you less time to do? Is it this list:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for Post #1
  2. Write Post #1
  3. Edit Post #1
  4. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #1
  5. Brainstorm ideas for Post #2
  6. Write Post #2
  7. Edit Post #2
  8. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #2

Or is it this list:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for Post #1
  2. Brainstorm ideas for Post #2
  3. Write Post #1
  4. Write Post #2
  5. Edit Post #1
  6. Edit Post #2
  7. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #1
  8. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #2

If you jumped to say the second list, you have great instincts, but the right answer actually depends on what you’re writing about. If you’re writing two posts on similar topics, it might make sense to stick to the second task list – do all of your brainstorming, then all of your writing, then all of your editing, then all of your publishing and promoting. When you’re in writing mode, don’t jolt your brain out of it. Write, write, write!

However, if you’re writing on two very dissimilar topics – say, content for two different clients – it is just as hard for your brain to make the topic switch as it is for your brain to make the task switch. In this case, it might make sense to stick to the first task list, where you do all of the work for one client first, then all of the work for the second client afterward.

So what’s the catch?

The downside of chunking as a content marketer is that clients/employers are often not used to freelancers and consultants who work in this way. It makes them extremely nervous to see no movement on projects for days at a time, even if you know that you have your entire Thursday, for example, scheduled to work on their content.

When I start working with a new client, I like to explain this system to them and schedule time to start working on their project the very first day we start, even if it means rearranging my schedule a little. It puts people at ease to see that you’ve started working, even if you then don’t work on the project again until next week.

My best advice? Work with clients who “get” you and always remember – you are a contractor, not an employee. If a client starts demanding that I keep certain hours or work on their projects in a way that is counterproductive to the way I work, I remind them, politely, that I’m not an employee with benefits and an office. Don’t be afraid to part ways with a client who treats you like an employee, but refuses to actually hire you as an employee. Be accommodating, but firm, and schedule your time in a way that makes sense for you, while still allowing you to hit your deadlines.

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