4 tips for terrific time management at an ad agency
An agency intern shares her take on time management in a busy agency
7.6/10. I’ll get back to what this rating refers to, but let me start at the beginning…
This year I joined TILT, the leading influencer marketing agency, as an intern. And it’s been go, go, go since I started! I’ve loved every moment of it, and what has stuck out the most for me is time.
There’s never enough of it, and it always seems to run away from us. So, fresh out of university, you think of time management as … well, actually, you don’t think of time management.
At university your professors advise you to prepare for lectures and never fall behind, and that if you complete your assignments in advance, you’re headed in the right direction. As everyone who has been to university knows, this rarely or never happens.
So, in this, my first job out of university, I found myself in an agency. Pretty soon, it was clear that agencies’ infamous tight deadlines, focus on delivery and bottom-line mentality were 100% truth and 0% legend.
TILT is two years old and rolling in big projects from blue-chip clients, so it is doing something right. Since starting, I have learnt heaps. People laugh when I say that time management is probably the most important lesson I’ve learnt, but it is.
So here are Ruby’s handy home-time maximising hints and top time tips!
- Band together
The power of a team is unparalleled. Yes, we work in open-plan offices where chatty colleagues are rampant. But the converse of this is the results when teams come together to divide and conquer tasks. It’s unbeatable. Regular status meetings, team planning, group strategies and plain old knuckling down are key to making things happen when the deadlines are “quarter to due”. One plus one really does equal three in these cases.
- Eat your frog
No one is jumping up and down to complete status reports and general admin. But they have to be done. What I’ve learnt is to get the task that you are least looking forward to out of the way first. This stops it from distracting you the whole day. Try it. You’ll find, like I did, that you won’t spend half the day in dread, or worse, doing it after hours in your own time. I recently had three tough supplier calls to make. I managed to put them off – incredibly – for two full days, biting my nails into oblivion in the process. On day three, I called them all in 15 minutes starting at 8.45am, and felt like a champ for the rest of the day: built-in Red Bull!
- Find quiet spaces … or headphones
Sometimes it’s necessary to take yourself out of the office to grind away at high-focused tasks. Just last week I realised that I was being the “chatty Cathy” and decided to move to the roof garden. I got more done in those two hours alone than I would have over three or four hours in the office.
There are times to be in the office and times to get away to complete urgent tasks. You just need to be self-aware and figure out what works for you. Be careful working off site doesn’t distract you even more – at home you could be distracted by texts, the fridge, the doorbell, your bed … your new kitten.
Another option is to use headphones. I know this topic is quite polarising in some offices: you’re either a fan or not. But for some, headphones help them zone in and concentrate on the tasks at hand. For me, once I turn on my AfroBeats soundtrack at my desk, I’m more inclined to dance in my chair than complete a task, so I avoid the cans.
- Close unnecessary apps
“You’ve got mail!”
My top tip regarding disruptive apps is: close your email inbox. When you’re honing in on a task that is due soon, mail is possibly your worst enemy. It’s a lion’s-den-treasure-chest-vortex of seduction … full of distractions, from which very little good shall come.
Divide emails into “urgent”, “important” and “other”, and process them in that way. The more you do it, the more intuitive it’ll become, saving you loads of time. If you have your mailbox synced to your smartphone, temporarily mute notifications or just put your phone away. I know this is easier said than done, but when you see how beneficial it is in making things happen, the pain evaporates. And remember, beware of making someone else’s urgent your urgent.
So that’s it from me, Ruby, agency intern and self-appointed time management expert-in-training. No agency day is the same, but if you apply a few of these tricks, fear not, you’ll make it out the door before dark most days, and to Friday drinks by 4pm.
Oh yes, and back to the top: the 7.6/10 is what my colleagues rated our agency with regards to time management. So, we’re sitting at about an industry-average score … with space to grow and improve. But I’m banging away at it, so let’s touch base a year from now!
About the author: Ruby Chikwiri is an intern at TILT
This article was paid for by TILT.