It’s not uncommon to feel there simply isn’t enough time in the workday to accomplish everything on your to-do list.
If you’re trying to oversee multiple employees and client accounts and creative projects, it may sometimes seem like you’re merely treading water—trying to not drown and expending a lot of energy, but feeling like you’re getting nowhere.
The good news is that you don’t actually need more hours in your day to break this demoralizing cycle of being overwhelmed and feeling stuck. It’s all about making the most of the hours you do have with some conscientious time management practices and intentional delegation tactics.
What are the Key Elements of Time Management?
There are various approaches you can take to time management and different frameworks professionals use to implement it. One popular way to categorize tasks and plan ahead is the 4 Ds: Delegate, Dodge, Delete and Do.
Using these four overarching themes, you can streamline your decision-making process when it comes to choosing what tasks to prioritize. Here are a few tips to get you started using the four Ds:
Time Management Method 1: Delegate
Maybe you’re used to being an employee or having to do everything yourself when you were just starting your marketing agency. And now that it’s expanding, it can be challenging to let go and trust others with certain tasks.
However, you don’t need me to tell you that trying to juggle too many responsibilities is often how they get overlooked or not given the effort you desire. Talk about feeding the flames of imposter syndrome! Meanwhile, you may not have enough time and energy to accomplish your essential roles as a leader.
You can fix this.
Take time to outline everything that needs to be done for your business to run smoothly. Identify the tasks that absolutely must be done by you, those that require your specific expertise or administrative authority. Then look for opportunities to delegate the remaining tasks to your employees or potentially hire independent contractors.
The 5, 50, 500, 5000 Exercise
You can try the 5, 50, 500, 5000 exercise if you’re feeling a bit stuck on how to know what to delegate versus complete yourself.
1. Grab a pad of sticky notes and start writing down your responsibilities. Write down as many as you can think of.
2. Next to each responsibility, also allocate a dollar amount that you would be willing to pay someone to do that task for you.
3. Make yourself four columns on a worksheet, whiteboard, or white paper.
4. Mark one of each column with $5, $50, $500, and $5000.
5. Allocate each sticky note to the column closest matching the dollar amount you would be willing to pay someone to do that task for you.
Once allocated, you, the agency owner should be managing only the $5,000 tasks. Keep those.
The primary agency operations manager (which may still be you for the time being) is responsible for the $500 tasks. If that’s you, keep those. If it’s not you, set up a meeting with them to review the tasks you need them to start managing and setup any trainings necessary.
$50 and $5 tasks should be delegated to individual contributors on your team, outsourced, or automated. Proceed as necessary to make those arrangements. In some cases, the tasks should be entirely dropped.
But, the task isn’t getting done properly….
Be brutally honest if employees are not managing their tasks properly, because that means you have to devote time to picking up their slack.
First assess if you have adequately set them up for success in that task. Are you communicating all of the information they need to succeed in the follow through? Do they have access to the information and resources you regularly use if you were to be completing that task?
If you’re finding it difficult to entrust employees with tasks they should be able to handle, it might be time for a performance improvement plan. Ultimately, even when you delegate tasks, you are responsible, as the top level leader, for the outcomes, so act accordingly.
Time Management Method 2: Dodge
Among the tasks and requests coming at you, there are also those you can dodge. In this case, dodge refers to postponing tasks that aren’t time-sensitive.
A significant part of effectively managing time is proper planning. Find systems, processes and tools that work for you in terms of keeping track of projects and people, and then use them consistently.
A word of caution when you’re dodging. Don’t dodge planning.
If you’re already pressed for time, it can be easy to try to skirt planning. However, you end up paying for it down the road if you’re struggling to keep track of who needs what from you and when, as well as other commitments and responsibilities.
Another tip on dodging: You don’t have to take on other people’s emergencies as your own. And let’s be honest, some people are good at putting on the pressure.
If you’re being asked to do something in an expedited manner, be realistic about whether that works for your schedule and what could be negatively impacted by trying to squeeze in one more thing. If saying “yes” means cutting corners elsewhere or overloading your plate, it might mean you simply can’t take on the project or task. And if you do agree to an accelerated timeline, be confident charging rush fees accordingly.
Time Management Method 3: Delete
Another method for increasing productivity is to “delete” or “drop” the tasks that aren’t essential. Of course, this includes the obvious things, such as opening and reading unnecessary emails or spending time on a phone call that could be condensed to an email or completely foregone.
However, deciding to drop certain tasks also requires centering—and re-centering—yourself on your main objectives as a marketing agency and discerning whether different meetings and projects align with them.
In this industry, it’s not unusual to get bombarded with requests that take the form of a potential opportunity, but wind up being an unfruitful time-suck instead.
- You have to be honest and ask yourself, are you taking meetings and consultations with potential clients because they could maybe be a good fit while knowing they probably aren’t?
- Are you spending time trying to be involved in a professional network that isn’t really adding value to you as a manager or to the company?
- Are you investing time into marketing your own services with campaigns that aren’t yielding results?
It’s okay to be selective about what you choose to do. In my view, you should say, “No, thank you,” more often than you say, “Yes! I’m in.”
If a meeting or task doesn’t add real value to your agency or it starts to creep outside the scope of your business strategy, say “no” and help your team understand what to say yes and no to better as well.
Time Management Method 4: Do
This is the final category to which you can assign tasks, and it might seem a bit obvious. Yet, it’s an important part of your strategy because if left merely categorized, and incomplete, then you’re still going to be treading water.
You have to decide which tasks must get done in a given day because of a deadline or because they’re imperative for your operation. Again, that requires taking time to plan or review your schedule each day, so you feel confident about your schedule.
Go in with a plan for how you will spend your time, rather than allowing your time to be spent for you.
“Where did all the time go?!”
According to the premise of Parkinson’s Law, you will spend as much time on something as the amount of time you allocate to it.
This also means that if you DON’T decide how much time you will give to complete something beforehand, you are liable to spend 20, 50, even 200 percent longer on the matter at hand.
It’s also about how you overcome mental hurdles that prevent things from getting done. For example, if you’re struggling to be productive because your tasks feel too overwhelming, it can help to get some of the smaller, more manageable ones out of the way.
You’re creating a snowball effect of little wins to help you keep rolling.
Not only will you get to cross a few items off your list, but the satisfaction that comes with completing a task can motivate you to tackle the more daunting ones.
Maximizing Productivity Through Strategic Time Management
Time management is a term that gets casually thrown around but is much easier said than done. The fact is, business owners know being strategic with time management is essential to getting the most out of the day.
Yet, developing the skills and implementing realistic practices is challenging. I encounter agency owners week in and week out who are struggling to make headway on their goals. If that sounds familiar, let’s chat about what’s in your way and how you can best manage your time to clear the hurdles.
Building a successful marketing agency takes grit, a focus on your value, and sometimes a *loving* kick in the pants.
Needing an ally as you achieve your long-term goals?
I’d be happy to help.