It’s no secret that agency life is fast-paced. We manage multiple deadlines, orchestrate complex marketing campaigns and constantly jump from one highly technical industry to the next—all without breaking a sweat (most of the time). One of the most valuable skills I’ve developed during my time at Idea Grove, and other PR and marketing firms, is time management.
Some people are more wired for this world than others, but time management is certainly a skill that can be learned and improved upon. If you can master a few of the essentials, you’ll be sure to find success in any industry.
Know how you work best
There is no “one-size fits all” method to time management because everyone works differently. And since you know yourself best, you’re ultimately responsible for achieving a healthy work-life balance through the effective management of your tasks.
I’ve heard quite a few people mention that they do their best writing in the morning. So much so, that I had come to accept this as a rule that could be applied across the board. But when we recently discussed time management as a team and shared tips and tricks for working efficiently, several people offered alternatives to my theory that writing was a task best suited for the start of your day.
With this in mind, I encourage everyone to conduct a bit of self-reflection to identify when they’re in the ideal mindset to perform certain tasks. Once armed with that information, you can use it to better plan how best to tackle certain activities.
If you aren’t careful, your inbox could drive the tasks we focus on daily. To avoid this, I find it helpful to spend 10 or 15 minutes each morning reviewing my work across all accounts and determining which activities are the most important. During this time, I create a to-do list with items ranked by priority, keeping in mind that what’s urgent isn’t always what’s important.
While to some people, 15 minutes might seem like too much time to be spent planning how to conquer the day, I often gain this time back in the efficiency that is created through staying organized. In addition to keeping my to-do list in order, I’m a stickler for file management and a tidy inbox. If every time someone asks you for a document, you have to spend several minutes searching your computer or rummaging through email, that time can add up quickly.
In the same way that time management is not one-size fits all, neither is file management. Find a system that works with you and stick with it. Do the same for your inbox and consider taking advantage of the rules feature to automatically sort lower priority messages to specific folders. It may take a while to set up, but you’ll thank yourself one day when you can find any file at the drop of hat.
Conduct efficient meetings
Another thing that can chip away at our time is a calendar full of meetings. While face-to-face communication is important, avoid getting trigger happy when it comes to scheduling meetings.
Meetings are necessary to collaborate on, but they need to run efficiently. There are a few ways we can keep the calendar in check:
Plan shorter meetings: Outlook defaults to 30-minute meetings, so try scheduling 15-minute meetings to accomplish the same tasks more quickly.
Have standing meetings to keep everyone focused: People are less likely to get off topic if they’re on their feet.
Create an agenda and stick with that agenda: Know the specific action items that need to come out of the meeting in order to keep it on task
While you're typing up a quick meeting agenda, if you realize a meeting may not be needed, don’t be afraid to cover the topics in an email or your favorite messaging platform. At Idea Grove, we use Slack.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes the to-do list, inbox and crowded calendar get the best of us, and that’s okay. Another important skill is to know when to ask for help, and at Idea Grove we’re all about collaboration.
Our collaboration doesn’t just benefit us as an agency, it benefits everyone we do business with because it ensures we spend most of our time on what’s important: getting results for our clients.
Brittany is an integrated marketing professional with a background in public relations and a passion for communicating complex stories to unique audiences. Working primarily in an agency setting, she has experience serving clients from a range of industries, including unified communication, enterprise information management, retail technology, healthcare, and commercial and residential real estate.