What do you find most rewarding about your role? Most challenging?
If I were tasked with only being one thing (marketing professional or agrarian) I would be bored. So bored. I love and appreciate tremendously the work I’m able to do for various clients and agencies - it energizes me when I then turn my attention to the passion projects that I hope will one day be more of a business and less of a hobby.
On the other hand, if I were still living downtown or commuting to an office each day, unable to have time for - or be legally allowed to - keep goats and chickens...I’d be restless and unfulfilled in other ways that I firmly believe would make me less inspired in the work that I do every day on a computer.
It can be extremely challenging to maintain a schedule on any given day. We also have a young daughter so usually I block in a 30 minute buffer on either side of meetings/conference calls to make sure that I’m not on the phone or Skype for an extended period of time without having a minute to check on something outside, nurse my daughter or...oh grab something to eat? Pour another cup of coffee?
The days can be a bit long but what we get out of it - the ability to grow our own food, connect with these fantastic animals and raise our daughter in the wilderness...without having to sacrifice career ambitions - makes the whole experience worth it entirely.
How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?
Lately I’ve been working through how my different ‘social media selves’ fit best for my work, my life and what it is that I’m talking or thinking about. Every day I scan through my personal Twitter to see what people are talking about, whether there’s ‘new news’ I need to be up to speed on...but then for the remainder of the day I mostly devote my attention in social media to my blog about our little homestead/farm.
There are also a few newsletters I’m subscribed to and blogs that I might check out, but I feel lucky that at least four times a year I’m challenged with doing a bit of a refresh/overhaul with my UBC courses to make sure the materials are still current. Social media and content marketing change incredibly fast (obviously) and digital project management is growing exponentially. So it’s necessary - and very gratifying - to take that opportunity before the start of each term to really dig in and evaluate what’s changed in the previous three months.
What are your top five applications or programs?
Only five! Okay, I really had to think about this one…
GatherContent. I often work on web projects or course development projects that require a tremendous amount of content development. I started using GatherContent last fall for a client where we were developing a 15 module training series. Without this tool - if we tried instead to deal with version control/file management over email or even on Google Drive...it would no doubt have imploded the project. Since then, I’ve worked to integrate this tool on as many projects and with as many clients as possible.
The Google Ecosystem. I am a very happy member of the Google ecosystem. Google Drive, Google Inbox, Google Docs, Google Hangouts. It’s all solid, works together and is only becoming more and more integrated. You could use each tool piecemeal but...why would you?
Slack. I started using Slack for one client a few months ago and it’s been incredible to see what it does for our workflow as a team and my workflow as a contractor. It’s made me much more mindful of when/how I’m accessible (instead of being always/never really 100% available because I’m relying on email) and cut down on a tremendous amount of back and forth about minor things making everyone more collaborative.
Asana. My project management software of choice. Intuitive, rewarding, pretty to spend time in. If you’re going to be a project manager, you better have a pretty space to work. I’ve had to use a number of different tools over the years and this is the one that always keeps me coming back. I literally can’t help but let out a “squee!” when a client tells me they’re already using Asana too.
Momentum. Even though I have Asana for the long list of milestones and deliverables, I find it very centering to have a local ‘to do’ list pop up every time I open a new tab. This Google Chrome addition has been a great motivator for me to really hone in on what my biggest focus of the day is (sometimes that may not be work related) and what are the most pertinent to-do’s that absolutely must be completed in the next 24 hours.
Best way to stay on top of email?
Use a web based mail system (Ahem, another gratuitous mention of Google Inbox) and figure out when/how often you’re going to check it. We all have those days where email is going off non-stop, but try to only check it at the top of every hour for a few days. I find it’s much more effective to batch your efforts instead of having to flip back and forth between “I’m working on this document”, “I’m researching this topic”, “I’m responding to this email” non-stop for 8-10-12 hours.
What is your best time-saving trick?
Stop reading articles that tell you people are more effective in the morning or work best at night. When do you work best? I know my best writing is at night. Late, late, late at night sometimes. Is this what I would have said a few years ago? Probably not. But I’m at a time in my life with a young child, lots of animals to tend to and during certain seasons a garden to care for. I find opening a document I intend to write at 8 am...only to find a mere sentence added by 6 pm...to be one of the most demoralizing things.
Figure out how your day will work best for you and all the competing priorities you no doubt have...then be willing to change that model if and when it inevitably doesn’t work anymore.
One non-tech thing you can’t live without?
Goats. (sorry, chickens.)
What does your workspace look like?
It looks a lot like my dining room table! Because it is my dining room table. And sometimes my couch, occasionally when I need to sneak away for a business call our bedroom. Eventually it will be the studio we have conveniently situated 30 feet from our small home. But that’s a work in progress.
Usually I move around during the day depending on where I need to be and how much I’m able to multi-task. If I’m in the mood and have the type of tasks that can require a little bit of split attention...then I can successfully work in the front room where my daughter/baby sitter are hanging out. If I need to focus...a quieter, lower traffic space is needed.