Throughout his career, Phil Ayres has learned that success is won or lost in the details.
A former naval officer and attorney, Phil fell into digital marketing back when the internet was just beginning to hit its stride. There was no rulebook to follow when it came to growing businesses online. “I learned through the school of hard knocks. It was a point where there weren’t any classes or textbooks related to digital marketing,” Phil remembers. “It was truly, the wild west.”
Twelve years later, Phil leads the digital marketing efforts at Travelocity. His team is responsible for optimizing the Travelocity site for organic traffic, managing affiliate marketing, running retargeting campaigns—and a little bit of everything in-between.
It’s a fast-paced environment that requires clear communication of priorities, expectations, and responsibilities, within the team and with the external vendors they oversee.
“Whether it’s personal development, working out, or maybe a new hobby, Todoist is a great tool”
Phil knew that he needed a central system, simple enough to not bog down his team in bureaucracy, yet robust enough to keep track of the details of multiple projects.
That’s when he started using Todoist. “If you don’t have one centralized place for organizing all the tasks that you’re delegating, things are going to get dropped along the way,” he says. “One thing I’ve coached to the folks that work for me is that we shouldn’t ever drop anything. When we talk about something one-on-one it needs to be accounted for somewhere. I tell them they need to have a centralized place to not only capture tasks, but also keep track of routine checkpoints and milestones so that you know you’re making progress.”
With Todoist, his team rarely misses a step or detail. “Todoist has had a huge impact on how we manage tasks,” Phil says.
Having a reliable, easy-to-use system for organizing tasks helps give him peace of mind at home too. “Frankly, you get busy at work and can be very concerned about organization in your professional life, but you shouldn’t forget your personal life either,” Phil says. “Whether it’s personal development, working out, or maybe a new hobby you want to take on, Todoist is a great tool to meet your goals. In the past year, I’ve managed my 10 year-old daughter’s soccer team. Todoist was very effective in helping me manage all the things I needed to do—making sure I had the paperwork ready for tournaments, etc. It’s just a really effective tool.”
Whether it’s managing his marketing team or his daughter’s soccer team, Phil uses Todoist effectively to set and achieving goals.
He was kind enough to share exactly how he keeps his digital marketing team focused, productive, and in sync.
Phil Ayres’ tips for using Todoist
I’m a huge fan of Todoist. It’s become an invaluable tool in my arsenal for managing my digital marketing team and my personal life.
I use it to setup reminders, manage projects, and delegate tasks and projects to team members. I use several different Todoist apps every day to keep my life in order: iPhone app, Apple Watch app, web app, as well as the Outlook app.
It’s very simple to use. But, to get the most out of Todoist, I’ve developed an effective system that works best for me as a manager.
1. Get a due date on every task as soon as possible.
For me, having something in the inbox is a good first step with any task. But, for a task to actually get done, it has to have a date. Every week, I set a reminder to go through my inbox to look for tasks that don’t have a due date. You can also easily create a “no due date” filter. Once a week, click on that filter to make sure that all tasks have a due date. No due date tasks are liable to fall through the cracks.
Todoist tip: Think of filters like saved searches of your tasks. Do you find yourself running the same search over and over again (like Phil’s “no due date” search)? You can create a filter to find those tasks more quickly in the future.
2. Use Todoist labels to organize your team’s tasks and prepare for meetings.
When I assign a task to a member of my team, I immediately use an “@” followed by the person’s name to indicate the team member I’ve delegated it to. You can use these people labels to help you prepare for meetings with your direct reports or even your own manager. If I need to have an impromptu one-on-one, I’m always ready to go. I simply click on that person’s label to pull up a list of items assigned to that team member or the list of items I need to go over with my manager.
3. Set recurring tasks for daily or weekday activities.
If I have a task that needs to be handled on a daily basis, I simply enter “ev day” or “ev weekday” when I’m adding it. I can then follow up on that task every day.
Todoist tip: Add recurring due dates (e.g. ev weekday), labels (e.g. @phil), and priority levels (e.g. P1) faster. Type them right into your task name. Intelligent input will automatically recognize and categorize the information.
4. Use comments to provide additional follow-ups for a task.
For managing a small series of tasks that do not rise to the level of a project, I simply use a task and the associated comments. As I go through my day, I think of sub-tasks or pieces of information that comprise a larger task. I take those sub-tasks or files and add them right into the comments for a particular task. Then when I get together for one-on-one’s, we can go through the comments and see what’s been taken care of and what still needs to be followed up on.
5. Use the Outlook extension in the day-to-day management of a team.
I use the Todoist for Outlook app all day long. I find the proximity of Todoist in Outlook to be very convenient. It’s also very simple to click from an email in Outlook and send it right into Todoist. I find myself using this feature on a daily basis. It is very easy to turn an email into a task, assign the task to a team member with a tag (e.g., “@[name]) and follow-up with the team member at a later date.
It’s also very helpful when the due date arrives to be able to click on that task name and have the Outlook email pop up. From there, you can reply or forward the email on to the team member to inquire about the status of the task. This is a great way to de-clutter your Outlook inbox, but also make sure you follow up on the right things when the time comes.
6. Create a filter for “no label” so you are aware of items that need to be delegated to a team member.
On a routine basis, you might want to check for tasks that have not been assigned someone. Todoist can help you with this. Simply create a filter for “no label.” From there, you can look for tasks that have no label or that haven’t been assigned yet. You can then decide whether to assign a particular task to a team member.
7. Use projects for managing the big stuff.
I have discussed the benefits of the label feature for organizing one-off tasks. But, sometimes, you have larger projects you need to manage. The “projects” feature can be a valuable tool in helping you manage the many tasks associated with a particular project. Just create a new project, name it, and organize the associated tasks in a hierarchy that makes sense for the project. Then you can click on the project to get an overview of the project.
Todoist tip: To organize larger projects, it can be helpful to organize tasks into various sub-sections. For example, a marketing campaign project might have “design,” “copywriting,” and “social media” sections. Turn a task into a section title by adding a “*” and a space at the beginning of the task name. This makes the task uncompletable; for example: “* design”.
8. Use Todoist for personal development.
To be successful in your professional life, you have to keep your personal life in balance. I have found Todoist to be a tremendously valuable tool in reminding me to get that workout in or to prepare for the next activity for the kids. It can be very motivating and helpful to see that personal task on the list each day. And, of course, since you can make it a recurring activity in Todoist, you can customize the frequency of the task to align with your personal goals.
You can use Todoist at varying levels of complexity. But, with a few key changes, it is very easy to incorporate some new methods for using Todoist to manage a team and take your managerial skills to a whole new level!