March 25, 2021
Don't just "balance" your priorities, but crush them with our time management tips.
Contributed by Lara Jardim, Account Manager
Whether you’re building virtual events, managing marketing campaigns or closing sales, managing competing priorities is a fact of professional life.
Not only do you need to work efficiently enough to deliver each client their work products on time, but you need to perform well enough to forge productive relationships with each one. So basically, you need to work both smart and hard, then multiply it by 5 or 10 clients. Without a strategy and self-care framework in place, this is a sure road to 70-hour workweeks and burnout.
But with the right time management and communication skills, emotional intelligence and self-awareness, you can not just manage multiple accounts, but succeed with each one.
If you’re struggling to balance your competing priorities, try these tips:
By now, you’ve heard enough about morning routines. Meditate, journal, work out for an hour, make an acai bowl and a protein smoothie all before 8am, etc.
The buzz about morning routines gets overblown at times, but it stems from the very real idea that your mental and physical well-being impacts your productivity, improves your attention and cognitive function and reduces your risk for burnout.
Here are actionable, easy ways to promote your well-being during even the busiest days:
Have you ever logged into your email, seen Inbox (13,038), panicked and then procrastinated on TikTok for a half-hour?
By now, you know that the organization (or lack thereof) of your inbox affects your productivity off-line. So you say you’ll sort your inbox sometimes, bulk-delete messages once a quarter, etc. The hard part is actually putting it in practice. Conquer your inbox, and the rest of your day, with these tips from the Verge.
When your most demanding accounts dominate your day (or week or month), it’s easy to lose sight of your “smaller” clients until you miss something big. So you’re scrambling to make that deadline you forgot about, and your “small” client is now just another big problem.
At minimum, accomplish one task per client per day. This can be as “small” as answering emails, delegating tasks to your team or even making a plan of action for a project. This way, you’re actively engaging with each of your accounts every day. So even if you’re not actively prioritizing Account B that week, you’re still staying caught up on their needs and you’ll be ready to prioritize them when you need to.
Nothing destroys productivity quite like that random 2:30 p.m. meeting. Not only do you have to interrupt your deep work for the meeting’s runtime, but prepping beforehand, organizing notes and following up afterward can easily steal another hour or two. And that’s before you consider how hard it is to refocus on that big task again afterward.
So it’s 5:30 p.m., you’ve got three half-completed projects open, and oh, you’ve got two more meetings tomorrow. Now what?
“But all of my clients need weekly meetings with me, and they’re not going away anytime soon,” you say. You may not be able to avoid weekly meetings, but you can restructure them in a way that lets you get the deep work done.
If your clients really do need one meeting per week, consider scheduling all of them all on the same day. Brutal as a 5- or 6-meeting day sounds, it can actually boost your productivity on all your other, newly meeting-free days.
Because now, you have several uninterrupted hours for completing creatively demanding projects almost every day. You’re able to respond to coworkers more quickly, coordinate your efforts and push group tasks to completion. And you won’t have to switch priorities so often that you lose sense of what they are.
All of this helps you and your team work more efficiently—and actually deliver what you originally promised to your clients more quickly
Do you have certain tasks that you do over and over again? If so, create a step-by-step document that will walk you through the process. This not only will make the task easier, but also will reduce any potential mistakes, since you have a checklist to guide you through.
Tired of back-and-forth emails and bottomless email threads? Or scheduling a 45-minute Zoom meeting to get three questions answered? Email is great for getting information on paper, but a lot less optimized for one-off conversations or clarifications.
However, if you are collaborating with the team or have some quick questions, other alternatives will make your work more efficient. Slack is a good example of an application that is great for team collaboration or simply to start a call. If emails and messages are not clear, it is more efficient to just have a call and clarify the topic in a couple of minutes.
Say you miss a big deadline for one of your biggest clients. You’ve already annoyed your client, that ship has sailed. Now it’s about damage control.
If you originally promised that you’d come in a week before deadline, and didn’t communicate anything to suggest you’d end up being late, well, your client’s going to left unprepared—and even more pissed at you. This is the kind of “high and dry” that gets people fired or kicked off of accounts.
Now imagine that upon receiving the project, you looked ahead at your schedule and realized that you’ve got some higher-priority projects/a vacation that might keep you from meeting that deadline. Or halfway through, you find some problems that’ll make you miss your target date. So you let the client know in advance, and even if they’re not thrilled, they’ve at least got time to plan around a potential delay. Even if they’re mad, they’re less mad than they could be.
Tempting as it is to say “yes” to everything, and tell your client everything they want to hear, real life makes it impossible to meet every deadline or slam dunk every project. And if you pretend you can, you’ll fall short evantually—and give your clients some really unfortunate surprises that could’ve been avoided.
So communicating realistic timelines and expectations, in the long run, makes everyone happier, while also protecting your team’s credibility and reputation.
If you’re struggling to put this in practice, err on the side of underpromising and overdelivering.
Managing multiple accounts is basically the professional equivalent of a Jenga tower: Everything runs smoothly under predictable conditions, but a wayward exhale here or an unruly toddler there, and the whole thing’s going down.
The same goes for busy schedules and high client loads. If your internal team transfers information and communicates well, and you keep clients updated on project status and changes, everything hums along.
But when your team is disjointed, or your client’s surprised by changes, you’ll lose a ton of time waiting for people to turn in deliverables, redoing work or sending follow-up emails, etc.
So proactively communicate status updates and potential blockers with your co-workers and clients. For co-workers, this can be a simple Slack message and for clients, a one-off email.
Taking that time to get aligned, ironically, can actually reduce the back-and-forth and edits you receive later on. According to Jeff Gothelf, co-author of Lean UX and Sense & Respond, as well as a speaker and organizational designer:
“Proactive communication with stakeholders reduces stakeholder anxiety of not knowing "what the team is working on right now." If they were dictating features to you, they'd have that answer. If you're continuously discovering the best path forward, they don't.
If stakeholders get anxious, they ramp up control and increase micromanagement. Radically transparent communication eases concerns about what the team is doing at the moment and provides them that answer for when they get asked that question by their boss.”
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