Every business type has its own set of challenges when it comes to operations and time management. For this particular post, I’m focusing on time management in relation to running an agency/consultancy.
(But wait! If you don’t run this type of business, you can still take these tips and apply them to your specific biz type. I’m really focusing on time auditing here, which you can do, too)
This type of business is fueled by people; team members & clients. The daily environment has the potential to feel suuuuuuper fast paced, it can easily drain your energy when not managed correctly – especially if you’re just starting out.
Mental and physical energy is a must and we can control both of these things with better time management.
Time management isn’t meant to be suffocating. It’ll make you more efficient and less anxious which creates more *usable* time.
My time management goals center around a few things, but the biggie is decreasing the amount of time on certain tasks and business activities in a way that doesn’t impact profit. This can actually increase profit because I’m freed up to do activities that can help us grow/scale rather than tied up doing other things that don’t.
Since I’m heads-down with creative projects, running Orthris, and coaching I’ve tried a lot of time management methods over the years (both working within an agency and managing my own) and adapted a process that works for how I run a business.
When approaching how to manage your time and reconfigure your schedule, you’ll need to initially look at it in a simplistic way:
- Have self awareness and data to figure out where the potential time management issues are.
- Implement an action plan to make changes (even if that means trying a few different things).
I had a come to jesus moment with myself a few year ago and put the microscope on where my time was going. These are some of the questions I dug into:
- Where the hell is my time going?
- Am I filling up my calendar, or are other people/things?
- What are my time wasters? (yes, I was time tracking. Sad face)
- Am I doing things for way longer than I should be, and are they aligned with my business goals (growth, retention etc)
- Am I *actually* delegating or being a task hog when I shouldn’t be?
- Am I doing things over and over that could easily be processized (yes, that’s a word now)?
- Am I over-scheduling myself!?
If you find you’re struggling with time management (which becomes energy management), this section breaks down these questions a bite more for you:
Where *is* your time going?
Not knowing where your time is going can be a form of self sabotage, especially if you aren’t a fan of routines or being “scheduled out.”
Nobody wants to be told this (myself included) but you’re probably not being as productive as you think you’re being. 🤷🏻♀️ And that’s totes okay.
BUT if you wanna to create more usable time during the day, you should audit where you’re actually spending your time.
There’s a number of things that might capitalize on your time, but the main ones tend to be,
- Communication/boundaries with team members
- Communication/boundaries with clients
- Sales (emails, decks, calls)
- Retention (things like contract reviews, quarterly reviews etc)
- General business management/admin/etc.
First off, I suggest doing something for a period of time that willlll be slightly annoying but provides invaluable data to look at.
I know this sounds laborious and you may feel like you’re on a short leash of your own doing, but the nuggets you can glean from it are so helpful. This data will help you understand the next few sections.
Toggl is great for tracking time. I don’t use this as much anymore unless I feel like I’m losing efficiency in certain areas and need a reconfiguration, but I was using it to track how much time I was spending on things such as 1) client work [broken down by client and by service] 2) business admin 3) team or client calls, meetings 4) sales 5) retention 6) onboarding and so on.
These are just basic examples but you’ll want to create categories for yourself when doing this.
Track your time daily for a few weeks. At the end of each week you should be honest with yourself about whether or not there were time wasters in your time tracking log, whether the number of meetings you participated in were necessary, etc.
You’ll be able to dig up some great insights about where you might need stronger boundaries, where you’re being too reactive when it comes to team or client demands, when you’re most distracted, and what times of day just may not be your most productive times.
Do you fill up your calendar, or do other people?
You have the freedom and control to design your time the way you need to so you can run your agency or consultancy the way you envisioned it. If you’re coming from the world of working at another company (which almost all of us have at some point) it’s quite the opposite – you’re left to fill in the available gaps with your priorities and not vice versa.
If you don’t prioritize your own time, someone or something else will do it for you. This is especially true when you’re running a team and are in a client facing business.
I’m a big believer in,
- Scheduling yourself first (personal + business related activities)
- Time blocking your day with “maker + manager” types of blocks so your team knows when you’re available to chat or when you’re in deep work. (aka DND)
- Scheduling in self care and mental health related activities (this is something I built into the MAP Planner when I designed it)
Scheduling yourself first allows you to focus on your priority items (aka, big rocks as Nick Eubanks puts it, who runs From The Future) and everything else fills in the gaps.
Where are your time wasters and why are you spending time on them?
Time wasting usually fall into 4 categories:
- Doing things that should be delegated.
- Doing things that aren’t urgent and actually might not even matter to your agency growth or stability.
- General distractions.
On the first point: If you sit down to do one thing yet find yourself in the perpetual scroll of doom on IG or something similar, there’s probably a lot more to unpack here. Are you avoiding the work for some reason? Or do you have issues with your attention span and distraction?
On the second point: There’s a lot of things that can be delegated which we take upon ourselves to handle. Not all things can be delegated, but if it’s not your priority and you figured it would be easier to do it yourself than spend the time to teach someone else, you’ll end up reconsidering that after you do it 4-5 more times.
On the third point: Every minute you spend doing something can realistically have a dollar value attached to it. Add up all the time you spent on *other* things besides the tasks you had outlined for the week. Tie that to a $ amount.
Sometimes biz related things pop up that feel good to work on, but actually don’t matter much in a monetary sense. You can always schedule in time to work on these items, but make sure you’re proactive about it. Don’t let them sneak up on you and take over your time if you weren’t intending to work on that “thing” in the first place.
On the fourth point: This comes down to creating better boundaries for either yourself, team members, family or clients – which is a separate topic all together!
Sometimes we need the mental break, but realizing how much your time is worth and where’s it’s going can shift your behavior from wasteful to efficient. So…
- Where are your time wasters?
- Why are you letting them creep into your day? (what’s the core reason behind it, and how do you fix that?)
- How can you minimize them (or at least work them into your schedule so have their own time/place?)
Are you working efficiently or just filling up the available time?
Just filling up all the available time? Cool.
It’s human nature; we all do it.
Here’s the thing: If you start working on something and have a way far out deadline, or worse – don’t designate and end time at all – it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll extend the work to fill that time slot up (or, it’ll never get done).
You can probably get it done a lot faster that you’re giving yourself credit for and sometimes we need a tad bit of time pressure so we don’t take forever to do it. I can sense when I’m expanding my task to fill up the time block I gave it because my attention waivers, I check in on other things and I still finish it at the very end of the designated time.
Knowing this, if something seems to take longer than usual, slowly dial back the time you allotted for it and see if you’re able to make it work within that time frame. Maybe you can make it work, or maybe you can’t, but this is something you should practice with all activities if you feel like you’re meandering along on certain things.
Are you allocating the right work to the right people or team members?
Fun fact: I used to think I had to do everything myself. I’m a recovering perfectionist and used to have the need to control everything from start to finish. I actually don’t think this surprises anyone that knows me.
Don’t be this person.
You can free up so much time and allocate it to other activities that fuel agency growth by knowing exactly what you should be focusing on, and delegating the rest to the appropriate team members.
Client onboarding is a great example. If you’re just starting out with your agency or consultancy you may put this on your plate so you can touch all parts of the process and figure out what it should look like.
At some point, it’ll make sense to move that to a team member that can own the onboarding process, freeing you up. The people on your team *want* to do the work – let them learn, flourish and grow.
Why the hell isn’t this a process yet?
Are you doing something over… and over… and over?
Look at everything you find yourself doing repeatedly and ask yourself:
a) Is there a way to make this into a neat and tidy process so you I can hand it over to someone else?
Awesome. Process docs and quick training work wonders here. When you create a process doc around something and teach it to a team member / hand it off, there will be a bit more time up front but it’ll save you in the long-run.
b) Is this something only I should handle?
If this is the case, can you automate anything about it? Create templates to make things easier?
Something that takes you 30 minutes to do each time could easily be cut down to something much smaller by automating certain parts if possible.
Are you over-scheduling yourself?
It can be easy to underestimate how long something will take us to finish or to not leave any kind of leeway in our schedule in case someone on the team needs us. (Or: fires! 🔥)
Take a look at what you had scheduled vs. where you time went over the few weeks you were tracking it. Did you find that one time block went over into the next, and eventually it became a time-avalanche where you weren’t able to complete everything you had scheduled for the day?
If so, try to plan a buffer for the activities that sent your schedule over the edge. You’re bound to need it at some point and it helps keep the stress down.
Okay, now that I’ve written a novel…
Time management in business requires a good balance of self reflection mixed with knowing what priorities align with the growth you want to see in your agency or consultancy.
Once you do the “time auditing” process of everything, planning your time each week should be a fun and enjoyable process.
This is true for pretty much any creative endeavor or business; it’s not just limited to agencies. Enjoy falling down the rabbit hole of time and re-configuring everything! I’d love to hear if this helped you on Twitter (@selenavidya).