Despite your best intentions to set your marketing team’s priorities and tasks, your team is always being asked to do more.

Sales needs a new one-sheet. HR requests a revamp of their hiring materials. An executive requires graphics for a big presentation.

And all of these requests are also urgent. 

Your team is soon buried under an avalanche of work, trying to figure out what’s a priority and what’s not. They’re unsure whether to start on what was already on the docket or tackle those incoming requests. It’s a game of whack-a-mole you feel like you’ll never actually win. 

Some of the most effective marketing leaders use systematic ways to manage their team’s workload and still accommodate a reasonable number of unforseen requests.

Think that sounds impossible? We promise it’s not. Let’s dive into everything you need to know. 

Frustrated worker on laptop

Overwhelmed and Overworked: The Dangers of Too Much to Do

Constantly overwhelming your team with a seemingly endless pile of tasks does more than just lower morale and contribute to the frantic stress-eating of those stale break room bagels.

For starters, too much stress can be hazardous for your employees’ health. The Mayo Clinic explains that stress can have numerous effects on the body—from headaches and fatigue to more serious conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.

High levels of stress send your team’s productivity levels into a nosedive. According to an aggregated Health Advocate report, stress results in up to $300 billion in lost productivity. So overwhelming and overworking your marketing team is something you and your company can’t afford. 

When we surveyed more than 1,400 business professionals, 52% of workers said that “missing information” was the leading cause of stress at work. The second leading cause: trouble prioritizing tasks. 

Performance and work quality will suffer when your team has too much on their plates. They’ll power through things at a faster (and, as a result, less cautious) rate. And that increases the chances of mistakes and subpar work. 

5 Tips to Manage Your Marketing Team’s Workload

Fortunately, as a leader, you can take steps to ensure a realistic workload for your employees with those last-minute requests from other departments. 

Here are five different tips to put into practice today. 

1. Calculate Bandwidth

You can’t maintain a realistic workload if you don’t define what realistic means in the first place. Calculating the bandwidth of your team is an important first step in ensuring that nobody is spread too thin.

“Estimate hours for repetitive tasks like creating a flyer or designing an image,” explains Charu Babbar, Co-founder of Productivity Spot

Don’t forget to involve your team in your calculations. They’ll have much greater insight into how long those routine to-dos actually take. 

One thing you can do: Create a cheat sheet of common tasks and the time it took to complete them. This allows you to estimate how much time an incoming request will require. You’ll be able to quickly know whether it’s something your team could realistically accommodate within a specific timeframe.

Beyond that, calculating your team’s bandwidth involves some simple number crunching to confirm you aren’t attempting to cram 60 hours worth of work into a 40-hour week.

Be sure to note task lists and any backlogs for individual team members. “If there’s a mounting list, queue, or projects that just seem to never move, there’s a sign that work prioritization and clarification are needed,” explains Josh Braaten, CEO and Co-founder of Brandish Insights

2. Keep Strategy Top of Mind

You already have an overarching strategy or plan that dictates where you should be focusing your time, energy, and attention. However, those larger objectives and your extensive marketing manager experience can easily fall by the wayside when you get buried in the day-to-day tasks and the needs of other departments.

Keep one eye on the strategy so your team doesn’t stray too far off course. Use it as your benchmark to decide whether a request actually merits your team’s immediate commitment.

Chess pieces

“When a new urgent request comes in, it’s as simple as explaining what the team is currently working on and why these projects have to take precedence over any last-minute urgent requests,” advises Jodie Shaw, Chief Marketing Officer of The Alternative Board

It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and what’s not when there’s a deluge of tasks. A focus on strategy will help you combat that and ensure your team works on what matters most.  

3. Maintain Separate Workflows

Creating separate workflows for planned strategic work and ad-hoc production requests is another trick you can use.

“The latter always tends to prevent you from tackling the former,” says Braaten. “Keeping the workstreams separate is a simple way to make sure the biggest things needed to move the marketing needle actually get done while keeping other stakeholders happy and satisfied with your output on day-to-day requests.”

Utilizing different labels or folders within your project management software allows your marketers to know which category specific tasks fall into. Some tools, such as Wrike, allow you to create your own custom workflows. 

Or you could create a specific request process for ad hoc projects—such as a templated marketing brief that departments need to complete to request work from your team. 

4. Create a Marketing Brief

We won’t leave you hanging on that last point. Creating a marketing brief—a document or form anyone making a request must fill out beforehand—is a great way to keep the workload streamlined while also saving time.

“The marketing brief should contain comprehensive details of their request including what it is, why it is important, who the desired target audience is, how success will be measured, budget, and timeline,” says Shaw.

According to Shaw, you’ll accomplish a couple of crucial things for your team with a creative brief: 

  • Others within your company will be more thoughtful when requesting new work and will “understand that an idea is often the easiest part of marketing and a lot more thought needs to go into new projects or campaigns,” Shaw says.
  • With all the necessary information to do the work, your team will be empowered to do their best work. They’ll more easily decide how to balance the project with their other work. And they won’t waste time with a lot of back-and-forth conversations about details they should’ve received in the beginning.

Creating that template marketing brief will only require a little time upfront. But it will save plenty of hours and headaches for your team—as well as everyone else within your organization. 

5. Learn to Say “No”

As part of your role as a marketing leader, you need to be willing to accommodate requests from outside departments. However, that doesn’t mean you can never say no or push things to the backburner.

Stop walking sign

“Saying no is an inevitability because we only have a finite amount of time,” Braaten explains.

If and when you do turn down a request or adjust the timeline, Braaten says it’s important to provide context on what is a higher priority so you can clarify the real constraints placed on the business.

“Embracing resource constraints and proactively planning for them can be uncomfortable, but it’s much better than burning out people or diminishing your ability to plan for projects because you’re not being honest about the resource availability,” Braaten adds.

With all of that said, you don’t want to develop a reputation for continuously turning down requests. So, if outsourcing some marketing tasks is a viable option for your business, that’s an avenue worth exploring.

“Ask the requester if outsourcing the project is an option and if they have the budget,” advises Shaw, “If they don’t have a budget for outsourcing, they may acquiesce and give a more realistic timeframe for project delivery.” 

Moving Forward

As much as a realistic workload is important for the sanity and productivity of your marketing team, Babbar offers a reminder that marketing is science and art in equal parts.

“It may be easier to think about hours for a lot of marketing tasks, but at the same time there should be enough flexibility for creativity and innovation,” Babbar explains. 

This means you don’t need to track your team’s every task or initiative down to the hour. It’s alright to leave yourself a little breathing room. And that’ll allow your team to tackle innovative ideas when they come up—whether they’re from your own team or a different department.

“You do not want your colleagues to feel that the marketing department is not open to new requests, because—who knows—the next idea could revolutionize the business,” Shaw concludes, “I think everyone in your organization can appreciate having time and budget restraints in being able to deliver every single request they receive. It’s just a matter of negotiation with your colleagues.”  

Use the above tips to do just that, and you’ll strike an appropriate balance for your marketing team—as well as your entire organization.