How much time do you spend managing content? Do you spend all day fielding the same questions over and over? Are you scrambling to keep up with a voracious publishing schedule? For too many of us, busy work makes it a real challenge to cross anything off the to-do list. Here are a few ideas that can make space for the important stuff.

1. Change your email newsletter format

I tend to write longer, single-story emails to my subscribers and it takes up a lot of time (there’s a reason you only get these intermittently). But when I’m slammed, digest emails save me a ton of time. Digest emails are generally faster to produce because they reuse content that already exists. Presenting a lot of content via short blurbs or even just headline teasers, encourages readers to skim to the items that matter to them. The trade-off is that these may have slightly lower engagement, so you’ll need to decide how important your time really is to you. Give it a shot for a few issues and see if your numbers (and hours spent) shift at all.

2. Develop a style guide—and enforce it

Screenshot of several pages of the GoPro App Copy Guidelines, inclusing Design Principles, Table of Contents, and a TL;DR:.

Style guides tell staff how to treat specific types of content. They improve the quality of content by keeping it consistent and on-brand. Better still, they reduce the amount of decision-making that has to happen every time someone tries to produce a piece of content. Style guides let you move away from having the same conversation over and over again to determine whether or not that headline should use title case or sentence case, or if “Oops” is acceptable language for error messages.

3. Build a production workflow into your CMS

Many moons ago, my high school auto mechanics teacher watched me struggle to loosen a lug nut. He leaned over my shoulder and instructed me to “let your tools do the work for you.” That advice never left me. Your CMS should be set up to manage roles and permissions, publish states, and email notifications. If you really want to go the extra mile, incorporate style guide enforcement rules into the authoring experience. When we integrated these features into the CMS at Net Impact, we saw web content production drop from two weeks to two days.

4. Identify your bottlenecks

Snapshot of a white covered in post-it notes, masked against a swimlane diagram breaking down the content development workflow for a team.

Pick one of your processes—creating a new blog post, for example, or producing your annual report. Document each step you go through, who’s involved, how long it takes, and any observations about what works and doesn’t. This kind of process mapping makes the invisible visible, so you can identify opportunities to streamline, places where tools aren’t working, and so on.

5. Repurpose your best content

Look for ways to repackage content and deliver it via different channels. The trick here is to make sure the format suits the value of the material. Webinars, for example, are prime candidates for repackaging. The original medium is so restrictive—they require the listener be available at a specific time, have a large chunk of time to spare, and either have access to headphones or be in a room by oneself. Repackaging the recorded content can open it up to a much wider audience. You could create a blog post of the top three takeaways or a condensed summary, tweet notable quotes, or create shorter video clips for sharing on Facebook.

All of these tasks require a bit of planning and implementation time but once set up, the amount of time you save in the long run is invaluable. It can mean the difference between leaving that big campaign on the back burner or constantly fighting a slipping deadline and actually getting shit done.

If you want help working through any of these things, or figuring out the most effective content changes you might make to save yourself time and headaches, grab 15 minutes on my calendar and we can talk about it. But you get paid too much to spend your time on busy work—and you deserve the space to focus on the work you’re really there to do.

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