4 hacks for managing your workload that actually work
Saying that agency life is fast-paced is like saying that free holidays are ‘okay’ or people are ‘kinda into craft beer right now’: a big, fat understatement. Stress levels are skyscraper high, jobs are constantly added to your workload, and deadlines are yesterday. Clients push, project managers push harder, and between all this, you still have to squeeze in three-hour strat meetings.
How are you supposed to complete anything at all, let alone everything? With some smart workload management — like this:
Write it all down
This sounds kind of obvious which means most people skip this step altogether. But don’t, because that’d be a mistake. When you have so many critical items to conquer, things can easily fall through the cracks. At the start of each day or week, put together a comprehensive list of all your tasks, organise them by client, and actually record it all — preferably so you can see it all on one page/screen. Keep the list up to date and refer to it often, re-ordering items as priorities change. This list is your lifeline — don’t let go of it.
Learn the art of prioritisation
Speaking of priorities, figuring out how to separate the important from the haemorrhaging is a skill that every studio worker needs to master. So divide your tasks out into categories like Sun will still rise if this isn’t completed today and The apocalypse will definitely happen if this isn’t live by 4pm. You could also use simpler headings like Urgent and Important, but why not make it fun for yourself since admin is such a bore?
Examples of time-critical tasks include preparing client pitches or hitting print deadlines — the ones that, if missed, will have serious negative consequences for you.
Also, keep in mind the 80:20 theory: on average, only about 20% of your work is vital but it takes up around 80% of your time. Generally, jobs that impact clients are usually the most urgent, as are jobs that include a number of people.
Prune (and delegate)
Pruning works for trees, and it will work for you. If your list is looking monstrous, cut it back.
Be realistic: there are going to will be tasks on there that are nice-to-haves, and these can pushed out until things quieten down (in theory). There’s no point in clogging up your list (or your brain space) with stuff that’s not all that important right now, like research-based tasks or re-designing the office stationery.
Also, where you can, delegate tasks to capable interns or assistants. Make use of these resources, as they’re usually working hard to prove themselves early in their careers, and are eager to please their managers and gain hands-on experience.
Put yourself on airplane mode
Be brutal to your colleagues, but in the nicest possible way: put yourself on airplane mode. Close your email for a couple of hours (yes, you can), block time out on your calendar and find yourself a place to work uninterrupted. It’s amazing how much work you can bang out when you aren’t being pulled in a million directions. But of course, be prepared to be flexible — no one knows better than an agency worker what an unpredictable beast a creative job can be.
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PS: A great tactic that works for me is the two-minute trick. If a task is going to take me two minutes or less, I do it as soon as it arrives in my inbox. Quick, done and dusted, and it helps keep my task list under control.