increase-your-productivity-by-saying-goodbye-to-drains-and-incompletions

“It’s the end of the day and I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing.”

“My to-do list is constantly growing and I feel overwhelmed.” 

“I want to feel more productive and accomplished at work.”

“I’m spread so thin that I’m not successful at anything.”

Sound familiar? You’re not the only one. Over the past two years since beginning my coaching practice, I’ve worked with nearly 100 creatives. Many of my clients come to me feeling overwhelmed, distracted, and unable to find time in the day to do their most important work. One of the first places we start is to take a comprehensive look at how they are spending their days. More specifically, we examine the drains and incompletions that often leave them with little to no energy to complete the work that is their actual priority.

We have a finite amount of attention to devote to daily tasks. Research shows that, on average, in an 8-hour day, employees are only productive for 3 hours. According to the study referenced, the other five hours are littered with unproductive activities, like reading news websites, checking social media, discussing non-work-related things with co-workers, searching for new jobs, texting, smoke breaks, making coffee, and so on. 

***

Defining Drains and Incompletions 

What about the tasks, which may be categorized as productive, that drain the time and energy we want to spend on priority work? These drains actually include things we may have to do: commuting, personal admin, email correspondence, meetings, calls. It might not be an option to remove these items from our to-do list, but perhaps we can rethink how we do them. 

If drains take away our time and energy from important tasks, then incompletions take a toll on our mental bandwidth. How many to-do items are rolling around in your head at any given minute? I forgot to call so-and-so. I need to reply to that email from my boss. I promised my co-worker I’d get that report to them last week. And the list goes on. 

Incompletions are any items on our to-do lists that we have yet to complete. They can be related to work, but they can also be personal. Regardless, they take up room in our minds. Incompletions can be negligible, like responding to a simple email, or they can be acute, like dreams we have put off, conversations to be had, projects we need to wrap up, or promises we’ve yet to deliver on. 

List of drains and incompletions

List of drains and incompletions.

Identify What is Stealing Your Time, Energy, and Attention

Addressing both drains and incompletions can help you free up bandwidth and be more present and productive in your day-to-day. In his book, Deep Work, author Cal Newport reminds us that, “Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.” If you are spending your time, energy, and attention on tasks that don’t support your overall mission or key priorities for your work, it’s time to re-evaluate where your energy is going. Here’s how you can start: 

Step 1: Identify your drains and incompletions 

Set aside 15-20 minutes on your calendar and minimize distractions for this check-in with yourself. Spend five minutes listing down all of your drains and incompletions. There’s no need to categorize them. Write every last item you can think of, from the light bulb that needs to be replaced in your bathroom to that conversation you need to have with your colleague, until you there is nothing left swirling around in your mind. 

Step 2: Understand what you can and cannot control

Before you begin to decide how to address the items on your list, there’s a critical step. You must determine what you can control and what you cannot. How much time do you spend worrying, problem-solving, and fixating on what you cannot control? This can leave us feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and disempowered. 

Drains and incompletions within your control and those outside your control.

Drains and incompletions can be divided by those within your control and those outside it.

Even when it feels like you have no control, you can still choose how you engage, respond, or proceed. It’s more fruitful to spend your time, energy, and attention on what you can do something about. 

Take a look at the drains and incompletions you listed. Now, cross off all of the items you have no control over. It’s time to stop giving away your precious resources to these things. Commit to redirecting your energy to addressing the things you can actually do something about. 

Step 3: Make a plan of action that works for you

Take a look at the drains and incompletions items left on your list. Confirm they are all items you can directly address, meaning you have some level of control over them. Now, spend ten minutes going through your list and deciding how you will tackle each item. 

A few ways you could address incompletions include:

  • delegating or outsourcing 
  • stop procrastinating and do it
  • identifying if you’re missing a resource to complete the item and, if so, how you’ll find the resource(s)
  • let it go altogether 
  • putting an end to perfectionism that causes you to wait until the “perfect” time or until you can do the task “perfectly” 
  • automating the task on your calendar if it’s something that needs to be done on a regular basis so you don’t forget 

To address drains, you could consider: 

  • setting clear boundaries around what you are available for and when (i.e. scheduling time on your calendar to work without distraction)
  • shifting the way you use your time (i.e. finding a way to make your commute more enjoyable or using it as an opportunity to decompress)
  • limiting time spent on drains that can consume your day (i.e. only checking email at certain times throughout the day)

Motivation for Change 

The biggest hurdle in beginning to address drains and incompletions is that it’s a process that will require your time, energy, and attention. It may feel like an overwhelming request at first, especially if you already feel depleted of energy. However, the short-term investment will create long-term rewards as you take action and see results. Addressing drains and incompletions may seem like a small, simple idea, but it can dramatically improve your workflow and increase your energy and feelings of productivity. 

When you think of your ideal day, it likely doesn’t include back-to-back meetings, endless calls, being stuck in email land, or completing urgent, but unimportant tasks that don’t support your main work. What if you could feel more productive, less distracted, and have an increased ability to give your most important — and finite — resources to the work that truly matters? Not only is a more productive, focused, fulfilling day within your reach, but you’re the only one who can make it happen for yourself. No one else will value your time, energy, and attention as much as you do. It’s time to rethink the way you spend your days, one drain and one incompletion at a time. 

Tina Essmaker

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Tina Essmaker is a New York City-based coach, writer, and speaker.

how-to-increase-adoption-of-branding-guidelines

You know that everybody within your organization is responsible for representing your company’s brand at various opportunities — whether it’s meetings, lunches, conferences, or presentations. Yep, it’s important that everybody is part of showcasing your brand identity.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not cringeworthy every now and then.

You see PowerPoint presentations that use random colors and fonts. You see your logo stretched and pixelated on a variety of one-sheets. You see messaging that isn’t at all aligned with the voice and tone you worked so hard to cultivate.

This total disrespect for your branding guidelines keeps you up at night. Yet you’re stumped as to how you can encourage everyone within your company to stick with the rules and really do your brand identity justice.

You aren’t alone. Pretty much every marketer across the globe can relate to this struggle. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can put into play to increase adoption of your corporate branding guidelines so you can rest assured that your company is presented in the best way possible — regardless of the who, what, and where.

What should be included in your branding guidelines?

Maybe that above scenario made you think, “Oh, shoot. We should probably start by actually creating some brand identity guidelines for people to reference.”

If you don’t already have those down on paper, that’s where you need to begin. What are brand guidelines? Think of this as your chance to document all of those rules and best practices for representing your business the way you intended.

While we won’t dive into the nitty-gritty details here, there are a few things that your branding guidelines should absolutely include:

Messaging guidelines

  • Brand history (what led to the creation of this brand?)
  • Brand personality (for example, is your brand more like a thought leader or a close friend?)
  • Brand message or mission statement (why does your brand exist?)
  • Brand key values (what things are important to your brand?)

Visual guidelines 

  • Logo usage (including sizes, placements, etc.)
  • Color palette (what colors are acceptable?)
  • Typestyle (what fonts are acceptable?)

You can even go into more detail with things like letterhead design, accepted photography and images, and more. But the above basics are the things you absolutely need to cover to start with. 

7 tips to encourage people to use your branding guidelines

You have your branding guidelines mapped out. But that’s only half the battle. Now you need to encourage people in your organization to actually abide by them.

How do you make that happen? Here are seven different tips to put into play — starting now. 

1. Provide the necessary context.

You’ll notice that the brief branding guidelines template above mentions things like brand history and a mission statement. Those elements may seem like a formality, but they’re actually an important piece of the puzzle.

That’s because those pieces give everyone across your organization the context they need to better understand those guidelines, which already puts you a step ahead of everybody else.

According to research from Gallup, only 41% of surveyed employees agreed with the statement, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors.” 

So rather than just handing out a list of arbitrary rules, empower people to understand the “why” behind those guidelines. Why does the color palette really matter? Does the placement of your logo really carry that much importance?

Spell this out. After all, to someone not in marketing, directions like those are going to seem like really inconsequential details. But tying them to a greater objective or purpose serves as extra motivation to actually stick with them. 

2. Use layman’s terms.

You can’t expect anybody to use your branding guidelines if they can’t actually understand them. That means that if you anticipate everyone across the organization following these directions, they can’t be heavy with jargon and marketing lingo that requires an advanced degree to understand.

For example, that person in the finance department might not know what to do with that color code (it looks like a jumble of letters and numbers to them). That other employee in human resources might not immediately know what a logo is and what isn’t — which explains why they keep using that promotional graphic instead. 

This is why it’s important to have people from a few outside departments proofread your branding guidelines and highlight any areas that are unclear or confusing. This way you can make sure you’ve pulled together guidelines that are easily understood — and not just within your own department. 

3. Keep your guidelines accessible.

People not only need to be able to understand these guidelines — they need to be able to find them. You need to keep this list of rules and expectations somewhere that’s centralized and easily accessible so people don’t have to go digging for them when they need them.

Research from McKinsey states that the average employee spends 19% of their work week searching for and gathering information. That’s a lot of time (and probably more than people will spend voluntarily tracking down your branding guidelines — they’ll more than likely just give up altogether).

So keep them somewhere easy and immediately obvious for everyone. Also, don’t neglect your other assets, such as logos, image files, and templates, that people might need to access when referencing those guidelines.

Our suggestion? Set up a Space in Wrike where you can easily drop and organize your guidelines and all of those other supporting files.

4. Create various templates.

We just mentioned templates in the above tip, and they’re a great way to ensure your brand guidelines are being followed on a repeated basis. Yes, it will involve a little upfront work from you, but it will make things so much easier in the long run.

Create simple templates for resources that are commonly created across your organization — things like PDF sheets, slide decks, social media posts, and more. By doing this, you’re giving people more than just branding inspiration. You’re actually offering them the skeleton of what they need to create. 

Of course, those templates can be customized by different employees for their specific needs. However, the important elements like colors, fonts, spacing, and more will be pre-set — meaning people don’t even need to worry about them the way they would if they were starting completely from scratch.

Just remember that you’ll need to update these templates if and when any of your guidelines change (more on that in a moment!). 

5. Provide a friendly nudge.

Here’s a question: When’s the last time you looked at your employee handbook?

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? You probably haven’t so much as glanced at it since your first week on the job. 

Well, most people probably think of your branding guidelines in the same way. They take a quick skim through them once out of a sense of obligation, and then promptly forget about them in favor of more pressing things.

It’s your job to keep those guidelines top of mind for everyone. So, whenever you see something being used incorrectly or know that the end of the quarter is coming up and the sales team will be pulling together a lot of sales sheets and other assets, drop in with a friendly reminder.

This can be as simple as a polite message in your company Slack channel or a brief email with a link to your guidelines. Here’s what this could look like: 

Hey, team!

I know many of you are hustling to create slide decks, sales sheets, reports, and other assets for your own department. So I wanted to stop by with a friendly reminder to reference and abide by our branding guidelines, which you can quickly access [right here](link to guidelines). 

Following these rules (it’s easy. I promise!) ensures that we’re presenting our brand in the best possible way. 

If you have any questions about the guidelines, please reach out to me or someone else on the marketing team. We’re more than happy to help!

Thanks,

[Your name]

Easy enough, right? Basically, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can share the guidelines once and watch as everything falls into place. It’s going to require some pretty consistent reminders on your part. 

6. Announce when updates are made.

Your branding guidelines aren’t set in stone, which means you’re bound to make some changes every now and then.

Whether it’s something small like a tweak to your logo placement or something major like an entire rebrand, don’t assume that people are keeping a watchful eye on your guidelines and will see those updates on their own.

You need to proactively announce when changes are made by sharing what changed and why. Again, this can be done in a quick email or instant message that looks something like this:

Hey, team!

I wanted to let you know that we’ve made a couple of updates to the [branding guidelines](link to branding guidelines) to reflect our new company color palette. 

For reference, the changes are on page 8 and are highlighted in yellow so you can easily spot them. All templates and supporting resources have been updated as well.

Thanks,

[Your name]

See that line about how the templates have also been changed to reflect those updates? That’s important! Make sure you include those as part of the process so that everything stored with your branding guidelines is current. 

7. Set up a review and approval process.

One surefire way to make sure that everything that leaves your company adheres to your branding guidelines? Require that you put your stamp of approval on it before it heads out the door. 

Create an approval workflow (you can easily set this up in Wrike!) that requires that your department signs off any assets like slide decks, flyers, letterhead, and more before they’re marked as finalized and ready to go. 

Sound like a lot of extra work on your plate? Rest assured that this doesn’t need to be anything overly complex. Even just a simple glance can help you catch any glaring issues that might undermine your brand identity. 

Make this even easier by using Wrike Proof, which centralizes your comments, allows you to leave visual feedback (even on images!), and helps shorten and streamline the entire process. 

Your branding guidelines aren’t suggestions — they’re rules

Designing a brand is hard work, and when people within your company don’t represent it the right way, it’s more than enough to haunt your dreams.

The good news is there are several strategies you can rely on to encourage people to follow the rules and present your brand identity the way it was originally intended. To recap, these tactics include: 

  • Providing the necessary context
  • Skipping the jargon and using layman’s terms
  • Keeping your branding guidelines readily accessible
  • Creating templates that people can use
  • Providing friendly nudges and reminders that your guidelines exist
  • Announcing when updates or changes are made
  • Setting up a review and approval process

Do those things, and you can rest easy knowing that your brand is being presented in a cohesive and positive way. Goodbye, pixelated logos and wonky fonts, and hello brand consistency. 

Need a centralized and accessible place to keep your branding guidelines and supporting assets? Start your free trial of Wrike today.

increase-wordpress-maximum-file-upload-size-–-qode-interactive

To ensure your WordPress website looks attractive and engaging, you have to put a lot of thought into the kind of content to add to your pages. Videos, images, audio files and other types of media can help you better present the products or services you’re offering to your client base.

Luckily, WordPress comes with its own media uploader, so you don’t have to bother with using different file managers. However, there’s a limit when it comes to the maximum file size you’re allowed to upload. This can be an issue when trying to add large video files or sizeable images to your site, but it can also create problems when installing a theme or plugin.

But don’t fret! There are actually several ways in which you can change this. We’ll show you just how to increase the maximum file upload size in WordPress, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

7-tips-to-increase-engagement-on-your-site

engagement on site

We hear a lot about increasing engagement on social media, but it’s rarer to hear about increasing engagement on your site. Yet, the engagement of your website visitors is incredibly important to the success of your company.

Engaged visitors are more likely to buy your product, recommend you to a friend, and stick around longer.

Let’s take a look at 7 ways to increase engagement on your site, and then we will show you how to measure all the progress you’re about to make.

How to increase engagement on your site

increasing engagement on your site

Let’s start by looking at some great ways to increase engagement on any website and then we’ll look at the tools GoSquared offers to measure engagement in real-time.

1. Make the content flow

content marketing for increased site engagement

Starting with something that sounds simple but in reality is difficult to get right.

Your website needs to flow. This is about your content and your navigation. Making it easy for visitors to your site to find what they’re looking for is the easiest way to keep them engaged.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Navigation should be, well, easy to navigate and offer a continuous flow that aids the visitor in getting from one place to the next.
  • Use tagging and smart recommendations to help a visitor get the most out of their own visit based on their own interests. This kind of data-backed tailored marketing is much more effective than a mass approach.
  • Break up long pages of texts with images, pull out quotes and other design elements.
  • Avoid splitting articles up onto multiple pages. For a while people thought that this would help the powers-that-be-at-Google up you search rankings but it’s just irritating for visitors and is the perfect way to encourage them to leave your site.

2. Use automated email to encourage people back

use automated email

Website engagement is not a one-time-only thing. We want visitors to return to our websites again and again. When only 2% of visitors become a customer on their first visit this is something you can’t afford to overlook.

Once you have engaged with a customer and have their email address on file it’s important to keep interacting with this person when they display interest. For example, by setting up an automated email that sends out after a known visitor comes to the website but does not complete an action such as buying or downloading an e-book.

3. Use chat prompts when visitors show exit intent

time spent on site

Some live chat tools offer the option to place chat prompts across your site. You’ll see one in the bottom right-hand corner now.

You can edit these prompts to say absolutely anything you like and they are a great way to grab your visitor’s attention or start a conversation. One of the options we have with the GoSquared Live Chat – which you can use for free to try this out – is to set a chat prompt to appear when the visitor shows what we call ‘exit intent’.

This is pretty much what it says on the tin – the visitor is displaying signs that they are about to leave your website.

By interrupting them with a chat prompt you avoid the forcefulness annoyingness of a mid-screen pop-up whilst still reminding them there’s more to explore.

4. Reduce page load times

reduce load time for better engagement

A really easy way to stop a visitor giving up before they’ve even reached your site is to have it load quickly.

A site like Pingdom has an excellent suite of tools to measure how quickly a site loads and importantly they measure this data constantly and from across many locations around the world. It’s important to remember that just because a site loads quickly in your home or office it doesn’t mean it does in Europe, China or Australia.

Trim down your web site by removing unnecessary scripts. Remember that a lot of your visitors will be using a mobile device so it’s important – actually, it’s crucial – that any website you run is optimised for different devices.

If you want to get technical we’ve written a post over on our Engineering Blog which will show you exactly how we keep our own JavaScript light and fast.

5. Make it accessible with design and function

accessibility for site engagement

Much the same as making the content easy to get to and easy to follow, the content should be accessible and legible.

Your website should be tested for basic functionality in as many browsers as possible and that includes mobile browsers. We are all used to a very high standard of web design and functionality these days. We expect sites to load in fractions of a second and for design to be beautiful and easy to use.

devices used analytics site engagement

Good, accessible design rarely means complicated design.

The content on your site should be designed to be read. Think about these things:

  • Use large and spacious fonts that render well on displays both big and small.
  • Help the text readability with neutral background colours that don’t overwhelm the text or the visitor’s eyes.
  • Make headings clear and bold to break up the sections of text and space things out with clear and relevant images.
  • Get the point across. Use images, use diagrams and use uncomplicated language. Your topics might be complex, but your words should be easy to understand.

6. A/B Test

testing your site engagement

The best solution to understanding how different designs work is to A/B test them.

This simple method shows a different layout to different visitors (usually just two are tested at the same time).

So, let’s say you wanted to increase the number of users commenting on your site, you could create a design that has a stronger emphasis on commenting and deploy it alongside your existing design.

Tools like Google Optimize, VWO, and Optimizely can test variations of a page against live traffic and return measurements on how each design performs. You can then use this information to choose which version of your site to roll-out for all visitors.

7. Be social

be social for higher site engagement

Making it easy for readers to share pages from your site on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the rest is a great way to ensure higher engagement.

A tweet from an industry big-wig recommending a product, or a post from a friend enthusiastic about an article are great forms of social marketing.

Social media not only encourages further sharing with a level of peer-to-peer trust involved but it also helps build an audience of long term readers and loyal users.

How can you measure engagement?

measure site engagement analytics

So, you’re ready to try out some new things on your site to increase engagement time, but you’re also going to need a way to measure if your work is having any effect.

If you’ve not already got an analytics tool set up on your site then you can give ours a go for free. It’s really simple to use and quick to get started. What are you waiting for?

Got it? Ok, let’s look at how we can measure all this new engagement you’re about to get.

We’re going to use our own dashboard in these example as it’s what we know best, but you should be able to find similar features in other tools you might be using.

Time on Site

average time on site engagement

It’s impossible to use traditional ideas of bounce rate to define the engagement on a page.

What’s really important to know here is that the majority of tools register a bounce when the user only visits a single page before leaving your site. This isn’t necessarily a negative action, especially if you have a one-page website, or if your landing page gives a comprehensive overview of your offering.

Instead at GoSquared we use time as a measure of bounce, so a legitimate visit will be registered if your visitors look engaged, even if that’s only with one page of your site.

You’ll often see this referred to as “stickiness” – simply, how long does your visitor stick around for. If it’s not clear – you want a sticky site. The stickier the better in this case.

Using time on site as a core engagement metric is a great indication of whether the changes you are making are helping to keep people online longer.

If you’ve got to this point and are thinking “What on earth is a bounce?” you might find our analytics guide useful. You can download The Fundamentals of Analytics for free and get to grips with all the basics of measuring your site’s success

Depth of Visit

time spent on site engagement

Depth of visit is a way to see how many pages of your website the average visitor looks at. Whether this metric is important to you will really depend on the type of website you have. Our post on the metrics that matter to your site will be helpful in figuring this out.

Active vs. Idle

time spent on site engagement

Our visitor activity detection is incredibly accurate and powerful – we think it’s some of the best analytics software available today.

An “active” visitor is someone who has your website open on their current tab or window. AKA they are looking directly at your website.

An “idle” visitor might have your tab open in the background whilst they are looking at something else or comparing your product to someone else’s, or have gone off to make a cup of tea.

This is an important engagement metric for a lot of businesses because the higher percentage of active visitors you have it’s safe to assume your website content is more engaging and more effective than if you had a large percentage of idle visitors.

Remember that idle visitors doesn’t mean uninterested or failed visits – your website is just not grabbing and keeping your visitors in the way you might like it to.

At the core of it “Active vs. Idle” helps you understand more than just how many people are online, but how many people are actively engaged by your content right now.

Start using GoSquared to measure engagement today

start with GoSquared

We love hearing from businesses who have tried out the tips we share so please do get in touch on twitter or via live chat.

If you want to try out any of the tips in this post you can get our free Analytics tool, our free Live Chat tool, or sign up for the beta version of our Marketing Automation tool.