It is the quietest time of the year.
While people take their days off, few remain at work during the days after Christmas and before New Year’s Day.
If you’re one of the few working during this week, you may feel stuck. Emails go unanswered. No comments arrive, so you cannot move this article or video to the next stage. New projects are still useless and waiting for necessary stakeholders to return.
Browsing the web and editing death fills only so much time. What should a content marketer do in these no-meeting days? Instead, plan your expected downtime—whether it’s now or some other time of the year—to improve your skills and get things done that you don’t have time to do.
I asked the #CMWorld Slack community and Twitter followers to share what they plan to do at work when there are a few others around.
Spend time on professional development
“Slow periods are great for education,” says Danielle Love, content marketing strategist. “It’s a great time to see content marketing sessions that I’ve missed. I also have an email folder for webinars that I have subscribed to but never had the opportunity to watch live.”
Hint: Content Marketing World participants have until December 31, 2021 to watch any of this year’s presentations.
Orlando Wirt, fellow content marketing strategist, agrees. “I have a degree that I hope to wrap up during that ‘quiet’ time of the year,” she says.
While this may keep Ali busy, she thinks slow times are good for thinking about an idea or strategy that you haven’t had time to work on. It says, “I have an inactive list.”
Hannah Szabo, who has worked in content marketing, says she spends this time studying topics outside of marketing. (She says it’s about Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.) For example, I recently completed a 30-hour course on financial statements from LinkedIn Learning.
Connect with the old and the new
Content analyst Brian Piper takes the time to research conferences he might like to attend or where he might like to present. But it doesn’t stop there. He searches for new communities and online events and connects with people in his network he hasn’t contacted in a while.
Content community builder Vanessa Kariba does something similar. “I make sure to greet my networks or find new alliances to meet on Zoom. As a freelancer, communication is a bridge of opportunity,” she says.
Analyze numbers and operations
Content marketers know the value of data and analytics, but the time to work on them often slips away. It helps that technology never takes a vacation. You can access the data even when no one is working.
Data scientist Christopher S.
Cathy MacPhillips, Chief Growth Officer, takes the time not only to organize her files but also to think about and tweak her systems. For example, it takes time to figure out why it downloaded the same report 12 times rather than remembering where you put it.
“I am thinking about my goals for the next year and how I can set myself up for success,” Kathy says, noting that she also intends to dive into the three-foot-long collection of books waiting to be read.
SEO copywriter Adam B. Newton can relate. He says he uses his time to read his backlog of articles from the Content Marketing Institute, Jay Aconzo, Andy Christodina, Ann Handley, and more.
Focus on creating content
Content marketing strategist Maureen Gan sees the quiet of downtime as ideal for continued focus. “I always gravitate toward turbulence. This is the time of year when I can head into production mode without being tempted to interact,” she says.
And CEO Katie Robert spends time writing — mostly ugly drafts that she collects in a file. “When I need to put a polished post together, I go back and see the most shaped ideas,” she explains.
get it done
As great as these suggestions are, some people struggle to get things done during those quiet days. Try these ideas to avoid feeling like you’ve wasted your valuable free time when the new year begins:
- Set small goals. Be realistic about what you want to achieve. You won’t see every webinar you missed in 2021. However, you can practically watch three 60 minute webinars. Pick one thing to complete each day.
- Select the time on your calendar. Allow no more than 90 minutes for each task. Write details of exactly what you will be doing in the appointment entry. Make sure notifications are turned on so you get a warning 10 minutes before the start time. (Schedule at least 30 minutes between these appointments so you can take a break.)
- Plan for the next day. About 15 minutes before you finish each day, look at the remaining scheduled tasks. Do you still want to do the things you held back time to work on? Is there anything you would prefer to do? Make sure you set time slots to work on the things you want to achieve. Otherwise, you will ignore those calendar notifications and end up not doing anything productive.
And while most people want to be productive during their downtime, make sure you handle it with ease as well. If you just go, go, go, you may not be taking advantage of that “single” time. Instead, make sure you feel comfortable and ready when your co-workers bring the bustle of work back into your workdays.
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Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute