Turn Productivity into Agency Profits

By | July 15, 2014
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Time is MoneyThe old adage time is money never rings truer than in an agency. You can set pricing intelligently, diversify revenue streams and attract business by filling in-demand marketing needs. But, as a service business, your time and talent are directly tied to profitability.

Boost your personal productivity, and watch your agency reap the benefits, with these seven tips.  

1. Organize Your Inbox

Don’t let your inbox get overrun with old emails. Read them, and decide what to do with them the first time. Set up a folder system to separate reference emails from actionable ones. One approach based on the Getting Things Done (@gtdtimes) system:

  • Next Action: Emails that contain information or attachments necessary to complete a task.
  • Waiting For: Emails you’re waiting on for a response.
  • Reference: Emails that don’t require a next action, but that you might want to reference later. 

Thanks to improved inbox search tools, you don’t need a complex system of folders and subfolders, just a simple process that works for you.

Tip: Never let a client email slip through the cracks. Create an automatic reminder to follow up on “Waiting For” items by BCCing yourself, setting rules in your inbox or installing Boomerang

2. The 2-Minute Rule

Simple: Can the next action be completed in two minutes or less? Just do it. Whether it’s responding to an email, scheduling a meeting or another quick task, it’s not worth letting it sit on your to-do list. Get it done and move on.

3. Improve Your Subject Lines

Professionally and personally, we receive countless emails each day, too many of which are lengthy, unfocused and not actionable. Avoid committing these email faux paus.

  • Client emails: Make subject lines specific, so the recipient has a good idea of the email’s message before they open it.
  • Internal emails: Save your co-workers time by making subject lines actionable so the associated task is clear (e.g., “Review presentation for Friday meeting;” “Revise and deliver to client by EOD”).

Helpful resource: Read Focus on Actionable Subject Lines to Send More Productive Emails via Lifehacker (@lifehacker).

4. Clear Your Head

Stop juggling. If you find random ideas, tasks and thoughts distracting you, keep paper and pen next to you while working. As they pop in your head, jot them down and keep going. Set aside time in between tasks to process these notes along with your inbox. It’ll ensure you don’t forget any important reminders or brilliant ideas, while keeping you focused on the task at hand.

5. Don’t Start Fires

Don’t create an undue sense of urgency for your co-workers. Choose the method of communication most appropriate for the importance and urgency of the message. Does the issue require immediate attention? Then call, instant message or drop by their desks. Otherwise, send it in an email for them to address at their earliest convenience.

Also make sure expectations are clear when relaying priorities and deadlines. For example, don’t ask for something “as soon as you can get to it” if tomorrow or week’s end will suffice.

6. Combat Mental Fatigue

When you spend your day shifting between projects and clients, it’s easy to suffer from the cognitive phenomenon known as decision fatigue, which depletes your judgment and metal energy.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that advocates working in defined, focused blocks of time, separated by short, scheduled breaks. These breaks prevent mental fatigue and help you minimize distractions while working.

You can try out the Pomodoro Technique by setting a timer (I use the 30/30 mobile app), and committing to only one activity or task during that period of time. Don’t allow yourself to take breaks or get distracted until the Pomodoro is finished.

Knowing you have a brief mental break coming up will keep you focused and motivated, and the break itself will stop you from hitting a wall or feeling burnt out halfway through the day.

Learn more about the Pomodoro Technique.

7. Throttle Your Energy

Part of personal time management is recognizing the amount of bandwidth, or mental and emotional energy, you have available throughout the day to complete certain tasks. Start by assessing whether your to dos are “high-energy,” “medium-energy” or “low-energy” tasks.

Tackle high-energy tasks when you’re at your best—whether that’s first thing in the morning, or once you get into a rhythm after lunch—and fill remaining time with medium-energy tasks. Feeling tired, under the weather or just plain unmotivated? That’s the perfect time to check some low-energy tasks off your list.

Helpful resource: Read The Mistake Busy People Make via Time (@time).

Take Back Your Time

As Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) has said, time and talent are your agency’s most valuable resources. Commit to processes that promote efficiency to maximize agency productivity and profitability.

And remember: Time management extends far beyond the office. How you spend your time reflects your priorities. Taking charge of your time enables you—and your employees—to spend the minutes, hours, days and years of your life on the things that matter most to you.

What productivity tips have helped you? I’m always on the lookout for new ideas!

Image Source: Fabíola Medeiros