The advertising industry is all about the grind. Pressure, deadlines, stress, you name it, and it’s part of what makes this industry so competitive and definitely not for the weak-willed. It’s not your typical nine to five, and you usually don’t punch the clock. Your project is your schedule, and you don’t quit until it’s done.

If the advertising industry has shown us anything about the grind, it’s definitely reflected in AMC’s “The Pitch.” There will always be another project. There will always be more late nights and long weeks. But how does a small agency stay afloat when every project means all hands on deck? Here are a few time management strategies that help them turn out gem after gem with their limited time and resources:

  1. Recognize that there is always time.

    Tight schedule? Short notice? You can get it done. Don’t stare at the clock and let stress overwhelm you, otherwise your projects turn into chaos. Adhering to a strict work routine will let those deadlines fall into place as long as you remember #2…

    Time Management Strategies - Words and Pictures
    Photo Credit: Celestine Chua

  2. Priorities dictate the schedule.

    Know what one thing must get done during the day and know that no two items ever have the same importance. In his blog post, The Toxicity of Relentless Ambition, Mike Vardy, who coined the term “productivityist,” notes that, “ambition without priority in mind is what amounts to productivity poison.” Prioritizing every part of every project allows you to delegate smaller aspects of a project to other people (I know all about this one) and understand that every project ends at some point. The stress can’t last forever.

  3. Know the impact of team meetings.

    Nothing usually gets accomplished in time spent waiting for meetings. Meeting early in the day frees up uninterrupted work time later in the day and allows team members to write down important reminders. Your brain is on overload and that sticky note is blank. Use it to write down ideas, tasks, and deadlines.

  4. Crawling is better than standing still.

    Another component of the time management strategy is the realization that work is the best way to start working, and doing anything is better than starting with perfection. Don’t expect perfection, strive for it. Breaking big tasks into smaller ones helps work get done. Remember that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Make each part of a project as excellent as it can be. Success is all about making the most of the time you have, and that means working. Nobody explains this concept better than productivity pro Laura Stack in her new book, “Execution IS the Strategy.”

  5. Multi-tasking kills your focus.

    Most young professionals today believe they’re proficient in this area, but switching between clients and products is a good way to give half an effort to both. Finishing one project before moving to the next helps keep your focus and maintain the quality of your work. Don’t bounce around. Working linearly is the key to project success.

    Time Management Strategies - Words and Pictures
    Photo Credit: Ryan Ritchie

  6. Distracted work is useless.

    Make a list of your distractions and avoid them like the plague. If you have trouble with this, try the Pomodoro technique with short, intense stints of work with scheduled time to procrastinate in between. Also, recognize that your best work comes when you’re in the zone. If you’re not focused, a short break can be the solution to get you back in the game and that’s okay.

  7. More time does not mean more productivity.

    It’s human nature. We’re more productive with less time because it is a necessity. The best way to use this to your advantage is to impose deadlines on yourself. Leave no project’s end indefinite and let your self-imposed “soft” deadline help you play your time constraint as a strength without having to hit the panic button that comes with the project’s hard deadline.

All winners have their secrets, but it’s no secret that success comes in many shapes and sizes. To run with the big dogs, smaller agencies like Words and Pictures have to be efficient, crafty, and a little bit mad. But hey, there’s method to our madness, and these seven steps give pretty good insight into the method that wins awards year in and year out.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Which of these time management strategies work best for you?