Editor’s Note: This is a new series we are testing out here at SPI, and you know how much we love experiments! We’re inspired by other journal-like content we’ve seen around the web like the Money Diaries and Feel Good Diaries from Refinery29, as well as the standard format of the much-loved “How I Work” series from Lifehacker.com. In this series we hope to capture a vast array of not only different types of work that people do in the online space, but also the different ways we all work toward our goals and positive impact with our jobs, businesses, or brands. We’re starting off this series with the members of Team SPI and, if it’s a hit, we are kicking around the idea of turning this series into an ongoing feature by expanding it to include reports from you, Team Flynn! So let’s get right to it with another “Week In the Life” with our content director, Janna Maron.
- Name: Janna Maron
- Location: Sacramento, California
- Company: Smart Passive Income (Flynndustries, LLC)
- Role: Content Director
- Current technology: 13” MacBook Pro with Asus 27-Inch monitor, Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard, Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones, iPhone 7 Plus
- Favorite tools/resources: Slack; Airtable; CoSchedule; Google Docs, Sheets, and Calendar; Pocket; Later
- Currently reading: Becoming by Michelle Obama (Amazon link), Inheritance by Dani Shapiro (Amazon link), Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber (Amazon link)
- Currently listening: On Being, You Made It Weird
[Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through some of these links.]
As the content director, I’m responsible for overseeing all of the content production we do here at SPI, from blog articles and podcast episodes, to emails and lead magnets, online courses and book projects. Not only do I establish and support implementing workflows and systems, I work with Pat to create our content strategy and plan blog topics and podcast guests for the year. Once the plan is in place, I hold the team accountable for executing and meeting our publishing deadlines. Additionally, I take on special projects as needed (like managing the team for FlynnCon, our upcoming conference event at the end of July). It’s definitely a lot to keep track of, and can be hard to find focused work time when a lot of my work day is spent in meetings with the team.
7:15 a.m. One of my goals for 2019 is to establish and maintain a consistent morning routine incorporating movement and meditation. I started slowly, with a short commitment of five to ten minutes a day and continue to build on it incrementally when I feel I’m ready to add on. I’m proud to say that so far I have built the routine to include about fifteen minutes of yoga and stretching, ten minutes of meditation, and fifteen minutes of listening to an affirmations recording. I’m fiercely protective of this time, restricting any use of devices until after my routine and a smoothie for breakfast.
9:30 a.m. Mondays are my busiest day of the week, with meetings starting right at 9:30, going straight until 3:00 p.m. depending on the week. This schedule gives me about thirty minutes in the morning to check email and Slack messages that have already come in, as most of my team is on Eastern or Central time and are two or three hours into their day by the time I start. First up on the calendar is a senior staff meeting with Pat, Matt, our COO, and Karen, our marketing manager. We use this time to sync with Pat on priorities for the week. Immediately following that meeting I meet with Matt for a one-on-one, focused on my development as well as any challenges I’m having or support that I might need. From there it’s off to our full staff meeting, and then I wrap up with one-on-ones with my direct reports. It’s a packed calendar and I frequently feel rushed and behind on Monday mornings, but once I get to the afternoon things will quiet down and the rest of the week will be much less hectic.
3:00 p.m. Finally done with meetings for the day and now I have time to focus on getting corrections for Superfans wrapped up and delivered back to the layout designer. We’re in the final stages of review before sending the book to print, which is always exciting but also stressful because if things go wrong at this stage (as they often do) it means rushing and long hours to prevent delays in the schedule. There are about ten more pages of the back matter that I need to review, plus my final punch list to double check. I have an hour now before I go to yoga and I’ll finish when I get back to my computer around 6:00 p.m. I should be done just before dinner with my husband at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., when I’ll call it a day and shut down for the night.
9:00 a.m. I’m in crisis mode because I ended up working until almost 9:00 last night wrapping up my review of Superfans and troubleshooting an issue I was having with Dropbox. With a remote team, we rely heavily on technology platforms to allow us to collaborate on our work. For example, when more than one person needs to review a PDF, we host the file on Dropbox which allows multiple people to review simultaneously and collect comments all in one place. Dropbox isn’t the most ideal solution because it can be slow and buggy at times, but it’s the only way we can do this work. And, as if I was foreshadowing from yesterday’s entry, while I was wrapping up my comments last night, the comment feature on Dropbox broke. As in, all the comments were there but their corresponding highlights were not displaying so there was no way to see what the comments referred to on the file. With more than 250 comments, this is a nightmare. Last night I sent an email to Dropbox support right away and also messaged them on Twitter. This morning there is a reply saying they are aware of the problem and are working on it. But that doesn’t help me decide if I have to redo all of the work because I don’t know if the issue will be fixed quickly. I have to jump into a meeting for FlynnCon now and so I’ll have to worry about this later.
10:00 a.m. Since I had already emailed our layout designer with the Dropbox file last night, I call her and fill her in on the issue with the broken comments. She assures me that even if we have to redo the work and deliver corrections by Friday or Monday at the latest, we should still be on track to meet our print deadline. That’s good to hear, but I’m still pretty stressed about the issue, so I send another email to Dropbox to ask for a status update and refresh the webpage to see if the problem has been resolved. It hasn’t. I go refill my water and make some tea in the kitchen. Back at my desk I look at my to-do list for something to distract me from Dropbox.
4:00 p.m. Distracting myself with my to-do list worked because I knocked out a bunch of items this afternoon including some writing for FlynnCon, finalizing a contract for a designer we are on-boarding this week, typing up our podcast production workflow in preparation of transitioning our audio production to Music Radio Creative, and getting started on this post. By the time I checked Dropbox again, the comment feature was back to normal—WHEW! I called the designer to let her know and now I’m going to take a break!
11:00 a.m. Every other Wednesday morning our team has a sprint review meeting, where we present and review the work that we completed in the previous sprint (past two weeks). This week is not a sprint week, and so I had a quick check-in with my colleague, Karen, to ensure we’re keeping each other informed on overlap between content and marketing and what we need from each other for our respective projects. I also took a call with a contract writer/editor who I’ll be on-boarding next month to help with some of our ongoing content production, which is additional support we need with one of our team members moving on at the end of June. Now I’m looking forward to some quiet, focused time for the rest of the day.
1:45 p.m. The first half of the day flew by and I am just now taking a break for lunch, which I usually try to do around 1:00. This is what happens when I have uninterrupted time to get deep into planning and strategy mode, and I’ve made good progress on a plan for the 2019-20 content strategy I presented a few weeks ago. I’ve also updated CoSchedule, the tool we use to manage our content production schedule, with some changes to upcoming podcast guests.
6:10 p.m. One of the things I appreciate most about being part of a distributed team and working remotely from home is the flexibility it affords in my schedule. I go to yoga at 4:30 in the afternoon two to three days a week and it’s not disruptive to my coworkers or our workflows. As soon as I get home, I check back in on the computer for any messages and to get my work to a place where I can easily pick it right back up first thing tomorrow. I’ll spend about thirty or forty-five minutes wrapping up before dinner.
10:00 a.m. Just wrapped up a meeting with Music Radio Creative and I feel really good about their team taking over our audio production. I think this is the long-term solution we’ve been looking for, which will help to alleviate some capacity issues for our internal team. I’m expecting an email from Izabela at Music Radio Creative tomorrow to finalize a few details and then we’ll be all set. The rest of the day now is clear for more focused work.
11:00 a.m. I had to take a couple of phone calls about the Superfans book, which is in the hands of our publishing partner for print layout corrections. There were a few corrections that I needed to clarify, and then I also talked with my contact who’s handling the book distribution. He called to tell me about two promotion opportunities for getting the book into airport bookstores, which is exciting for Pat and SPI because we haven’t had this opportunity with any of the previous books we’ve published. It’s fascinating to learn how all of this stuff works, because for self-published authors this type of distribution is usually not something they have access to. It’s super interesting to learn about how the industry is changing, and how the playing field is getting more and more level between traditional and self publishing.
3:00 p.m. I’ve spent most of the day finishing up the content strategic plan that I started yesterday. Using a trick I learned from Pat, I’ve got a bunch of hot pink Post-it Notes up on an empty wall in my office so that I can visualize when projects in the plan will launch and when the work will need to start. I move them around to keep too many from stacking up all at once. After the Post-it exercise I input everything into Airtable, where it will be easy to keep track of and share with the rest of the team as soon as it’s ready. We started using Airtable about a year ago for project management (anything that isn’t ongoing content, which we manage in CoSchedule), and it’s now one of my favorite tools. Think of it as spreadsheets on steroids, with a dynamic and modular interface that is more user-friendly for moving things around and manipulating the data to display in various ways depending on how you want to sort and organize. The content plan is almost in a spot to share, and will be ready by our sprint review meeting on Wednesday next week. I’ll spend a few more hours working on getting this organized before I call it a day.
9:00 a.m. Every Friday starts with our team retro, which is first thing in the morning for me being on Pacific time. I grab my smoothie and tea to take with me to the computer and boot up for the call. Although it is another meeting, this is a great way to end the week as a team. Each person takes a turn to share their highs and lows, both work and personal, for the week, and it’s an important team and culture building time for us because it gives us a chance to hear what everyone’s got going on both at work and outside of work. I think it’s more important for us as a remote team, because we don’t interact in person on a regular basis, so this is a time when we can really get to know each other and connect on similar personal interests beyond the work we do together.
11:30 a.m. I took a couple more calls regarding the airport store promotion for Superfans. We’re going to move forward with the opportunity, and I’m excited to see what comes of it. We have to think of it as paid advertising for the book, but there is also the chance that books will sell and then the stores will continue to order it on their own. I could definitely see that happening; Pat has a way of activating and moving his superfans to action. We’ll see what happens come August when the book is out.
4:00 p.m. It’s been a long week and after putting in a couple of longer days, I’m wrapping up a bit early today to hit the road. I’m driving up to Nevada to visit a writer friend of mine and we are going to have a writing retreat at her house. I’m working on a book of my own, and since the beginning of 2018 the way I’ve been able to make progress on it is to block off dedicated weekends, get out of my house, and focus solely on the project. I should get in somewhere between eight to ten hours on it this weekend, which I find much more productive when I’m able to batch the time in to dedicated blocks like this rather than trying to sustain an hour a day over an extended amount of time.
4:00 p.m. I’m back home after my weekend writing retreat. I was near South Lake Tahoe in Nevada, and ended up driving through snow over the mountains (not usual for late May in California)! Getting away from home for dedicated writing time is a strategy I started last year, and it does a couple of things for me: 1. When I know I have dedicated writing time planned and scheduled, it takes away the pressure I feel during the work week to find time for my personal writing, and 2. I find that I’m much more productive when I can dive deep for eight or ten hours at a time rather than short spurts of an hour or less during the week. The one challenge for me is that I do use my computer to write and work on my book, which means that I won’t have a true break from screen time for twelve days or more. It sometimes makes me feel like I have been working all weekend, which I have been, just not on work for my job. I know I will feel it for the next couple of days, with lower energy and being extra tired. Regardless, it’s my heart work and I have to make time and sacrifices for it, just like I do with my job sometimes, and ultimately I know that it’s a small price to pay for the reward I’m working toward.
End of Week Retrospective
Summary: Even in spite of the Dropbox snafu that caused a mini panic attack, it was a solid, productive week for me. Things with Superfans are progressing, and we’re still on schedule. In fact, I’m pretty proud of how I handled the Dropbox issue. It’s something that would normally throw me off course for the entire day, and instead I took the time to shift my focus, take my mind off of the issue, and complete other important items while waiting for the issue to resolve. Yes, I had a couple of late nights, but I compensated for it by prioritizing my morning routine and my weekend writing retreat, both of which always help me to feel like I’m able to give my full attention to work when I sit down in front of the computer each day.