It’s always a little nerve-wracking to look deep, self-analyse and ask the question “do I have what it takes for this job?”. Many skills for good Account Management are inherent, such as the need for a well-controlled and (ideally) positive temperament, combined with a hefty dose of emotional intelligence. These skills can be hard to learn but others can certainly be developed. Of all the skills that I’ve needed to develop to be good at this job, it’s time management the one that has given me the greatest metaphorical slap in the face more often than not.
Lesson number one, we can’t find time. It’s not hiding down the back of the sofa or caught in the lining of your jacket down that pesky hole in your pocket. We can’t rely on the fantasy behind the stories of H G Wells or the great Time Lord – in Account Management, I think it was the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who really knew the demands of the job. Oh dear! I shall be too late!
So, if we can’t find time then we must make it for ourselves. From what I have learnt so far in my time at Bright Blue Day these are my top tips on time alchemy…
1. Start the week the right way
We at BBD Client Services have a ritual every Monday morning that helps us regain orientation after a weekend where anything work-related might have been erased from our memory – and is also incredibly valuable for our clients: Project status reports. It´s already our team’s signature practice, brought in by our Head of Client Services, Jessica Williams, which constantly proves to be essential for a successful start of the week. It represents a mindset of proving we are on top of (most) things.
Although status reports can take some time to put together, it makes a real difference to how we start the week, and actually saves time long term. Once these statuses are out, clients are happy, I am happy, I can breathe and I can move on to the usual Monday-morning firefighting tasks.
This sounds incredibly dull but it’s true: lists are power. Whether it’s scribing them on a notepad or using a Google doc – if I don’t write things down, it’s very likely I will forget them. Every day I draft a priorities & a to-do’s list. It’s a reminder not to procrastinate as it makes me face that task that can’t just get swept under the carpet. It’s sat there, at the top of the list, underlined in red, in capitals, silently judging me if I ignore and move on to the next easier task. If I however start my day identifying the most important jobs and completing them first, the day has already been a success and feel like I’ve even won more time.
3. Important vs. urgent
We all know this time management dilemma yet we still usually gravitate towards doing what’s urgent first. The fact is, there is rarely any time where we don’t have anything urgent-to-solve on our plate. Sometimes we just have to make time to do the important bits and at times that involves either arriving earlier or staying longer.
If an important but time-consuming job really needs to be done, get someone to cover you for an hour or two, close Outlook, close Slack, hide in a room, and get it done once and for all.
4. Communicate in good time
I have experienced first hand how much of a difference it makes in saving time when communicating clearly and promptly. I make the effort to get the team together and pre-brief, brief, post-brief and de-brief, etc. to discuss what is expected. We gather all questions and flags and make the review process as smooth as possible, without interfering with the workflow itself. This means the amount of last minute panics, cold sweats and extra time can be massively reduced. It’s not just about being prepared, it’s about making sure everyone involved is prepared too.
5. Agree with client how and when to communicate
Before getting stuck into a project, it’s best to ask the client how they would like to keep in touch regarding the progress. By asking up front I’m able to foresee any potential issues and avoid a mismatch of schedules. When working with an international client it’s even more important to agree early on how to keep the lines of communication open.
As long as an agreement is reached before projects commence, all expectations have been managed in advance – which is a big win and a time saver.
6. Call more often
Sometimes I get into a habit in trying to agree on every single detail on lengthy email trails. With some complex (and not so complex…) projects, it’s just best to give the client a quick call, run through, and save yourself another 16 emails plus annoyance over misunderstandings from both parties. It’s also the best way to understand and strengthen the bond with your client on a day-to-day basis if you can’t visit them straight away.
It’s good to talk. Yet still, there is no substitute for a f2f meeting. Choose meetings wisely and make sure they’re impactful and purposeful, even if it’s just a quick catch up over a coffee.
7. Don’t look at emails constantly through the day
We do a great deal of emailing in our job. So the temptation is to keep email open all day and respond to each one as soon as it comes in. The way to maximise efficiency however is ensuring I have solid concentration time. Try only looking at emails a few times a day at set times. When checking emails decide where each of the new emails ‘sit’ in your to-do list structure, and learn to identify the priority emails among the ‘can wait’ ones.
8. Make time for yourself
Nothing good comes from overworking yourself. In Account Management, you can find yourself working overtime very often. Which is good and necessary at times – but with certain limits. If I want to make sure the time I’m at work is spent wisely and efficiently, I must also schedule time to switch off. Whether it’s setting boundaries on when not to look at work emails on weekends or whether it’s taking short breaks during the workday to get some headspace and some needed dose of oxygen – a bit of me-time is non-negotiable!