Managing The 9-Hula-Hoop To-Do List


My husband and I are lucky enough to be raising a 10-year-old who fully intends to run a circus one of these days.  He’s already a performer who juggles, performs on the trapeze and aerial silks, takes pratfalls with a local clown company, and keeps up to nine hula hoops going at once, as shown in this photo of him rehearsing for his next show.

What does that have to do with the subject of this blog?  Well, I showed this photo to a friend who is CMO of a hospitality company, and she said, “Ha!  All those hula hoops remind me of my to-do-list.”

We’ve all become jugglers, struggling to do more with less.  Over the 3-day “holiday” weekend, I was talking to a friend of mine who is vice president of marketing at a Silicon Valley company.  We were comparing our weekend plans.  Between us the list included:

  • Two product launch plans
  • Copywriting for three microsites, four blogs, and four pieces of collateral
  • Reviewing proposals from five agencies or service providers
  • Editing four pieces of collateral prepared by others
  • 9 press releases or by-lined articles for publication in the media
  • 3 PowerPoint presentations for conference presentations

Good thing we both had three days “off”, huh?  The to-do list for each of us included many items we knew we’d never get to, even with the “extra time” provided by the long weekend.  Of the 27 items on mine when I walked out of my office at 6:30 last Friday, I was hoping to finish 12 by the time I got to work around 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday — but I actually finished only 10.  (That’s what I get for sleeping late on Monday morning:  I didn’t get to my desk until 10 a.m. — the first time I’ve been that late since I broke my pelvis four years ago.) 

The problem isn’t that I don’t have the technology or team to get the work done.  And it isn’t that I’m slow — I’m not.  It’s just that the multi-channel marketing process is more complex than ever.  There are so many opportunities, and so many mediums available, and so much that I want to say about the products and services my company offers. 

One thing is certain:  if I didn’t have access to a solid marketing automation platform (the Distribion Distributed Marketing Platform) that takes care of the tracking, reporting, asset management, compliance and list management that goes along with the job, I’d be sunk.  I rely on technology to schedule and automate many tasks (like sending email campaigns, creating microsites, letting sales people assemble presentations and proposals from approved content, complying with state and federal regulations, and providing management with the data they use to evaluate performance). 

Technology also allows me to do many things that I never thought I’d be doing when I first entered this profession — from laying out collateral to publishing web pages.  And I’m not 100% convinced that’s always a good thing.  Yes, I CAN do those things — but is that the best use of my time?  Trouble is, if I don’t do it, chances are it won’t get done because some time in the last 10 years, American businesses seem to have fallen prey to the idea that technology had done away with the need for secretarial, clerical and administrative support professionals. 

In an informal survey taken at a recent networking meeting for a marketing organization I belong to, only three out of 61 CMO’s, VP’s or directors of marketing in attendance had a dedicated administrative assistant.  (Who?  Fortune 100 company CMO’s or VP’s, of course.)  More surprising, only four others had a shared administrative assistant.  The rest, like me, muddle along with no administrative support at all.  (I have a great team of people to work with — but none of us have clerical or administrative support.)

I’s be lying if I said that everything on my to-do list gets done on time — and some of it doesn’t get done at all.  But it would get done faster if the team had a smart assistant to help.  Unfortunately, that isn’t an acceptable thing to tell management at most SMB’s these days.  We’re all supposed to be able to multi-task to the point where I sometimes wonder just how many hula hoops can fit. 

I once watched a Cirque du Soleil performer who works out at the gym where my grandson takes classes keep 18 hula hoops going for nearly 45 minutes.  She made it look effortless, barely moving her torso back and forth in a slow rhythm that kept her legs, hips, and shoulders motionless.  I was exhausted watching her after the first five minutes.   

How do you manage to keep all of YOUR marketing hula hoops from falling?  Are you part of the “I can do it myself” generation — or do you miss the support of a talented administrative assistant who can take the ball and run with it while you plan the next play?

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life.
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