“Fast-paced” is a phrase often used to describe marketing agencies, and for good reason. Working at an agency requires one to juggle many different tasks, projects, and clients simultaneously. That said, time management and organizational skills are paramount to one’s success in this type of work setting. Whether you specialize in SEO, social media, content, email, or any other channel of marketing, this rings true.
From being an intern to an entry-level associate, or even as a senior executive that is new to marketing agencies, here are a few tips to help you get your bearings. Agency life comes at you fast, but there’s so much to love about it. Be sure to leverage these strategies where you work to have the most rewarding experience possible!
1. Create a Custom To-do List
No matter what project management tool your organization uses (Basecamp, Trello, Teamwork, etc.), nothing beats an old-fashioned to-do list you create for yourself. This allows you to include or exclude whatever you want or need. It is also easy to personalize formatting however it works best for you. I use this as a homebase for my workday. It’s essentially a dashboard of everything I need to get done presented to me in an easily digestible way.
For example, I organize my to-do list by day of the week so I can visualize which days are lighter or heavier on tasks. I even color-code any tasks that will be easy to knock out for an additional layer of visibility. Beyond that, I have lists of work awaiting team feedback or client feedback so that I’m always aware of where tasks are in the pipeline. Lastly, I have a spot for monthly goals and notes so that they stay top of mind. See the example below.
2. Color-Code Your Calendar
Color-coding is a foundational element of organization, and it really comes in handy when you’re looking at a weekly calendar. This empowers you to quickly take inventory of your day without having to investigate every single event or meeting for more information. You can gear up for a day full of client-facing conversations or put your head down to work on deliverables when all of your meetings are internal.
For my calendar, I keep it pretty simple. I use one color for internal meetings and another for client meetings. This way I never unnecessarily prep for a meeting that ends up being internal or show up unprepared for an external meeting. This is an easy way to stay on top of your day when things get hectic and can make your calendar feel more manageable. Plus, there’s just something uplifting about seeing an array of your favorite colors covering your schedule!
3. Organize Your Emails with Labels
With project management tools and multiple clients and coworkers vying for your attention each day, the emails never stop coming. Instead of drowning in your unreads and letting messages pile up or get lost, creating a system can keep you on track. Many email providers offer customization options, such as labels and color-coding, which are excellent tools to take advantage of.
As a digital marketer at an agency, I come into contact with many different clients on a daily basis, so I never want anything to slip through the cracks. When an email comes into my inbox, I leave it there until I’ve checked it and then I do one of two things. If there is no action needed, I will place the email under a corresponding label so that it no longer appears in my inbox. On the other hand, if there is a necessary action, I won’t move the email until I have completed the next steps.
4. Take Advantage of the Beginning of the Week
It can be easy to feel sluggish or overwhelmed by the week on a Monday, but it’s always best to tackle it head-on. I try to take advantage of Mondays as much as possible to set myself up for success the rest of the week. Oftentimes I can get ahead on one or two things, which frees up room later in the week for incidentals. Getting a little bit ahead also sets the tone for a stress-free week.
This is feasible for me because I generally don’t have many meetings on Mondays, but I’d recommend zeroing in on any day of the week where distractions are minimized. It can be tempting to slack off on days with fewer demands, but it’s always in your best interest to make the most of them. I’ve found this gives me more flexibility to explore other areas of my work, such as researching new marketing strategies or assisting in developing our internship program.
5. Set Monthly Goals for Yourself
Setting goals is something we all do, but sometimes they can feel like a pipe dream. For example, many set New Year’s resolutions and abandon them just a few months in. To avoid this, it can be helpful to incorporate intentionality into your goal setting. Consider what will be reasonably attainable, the steps you need to take toward accomplishing said goal, and a timeline.
At a marketing agency, time really does fly when you’re handling many different projects at once. Because of this, it can be easy to put off your own professional goals. This can limit your growth and your satisfaction in your work. Coming up with a process that works for you is key.
I keep my goals attainable (i.e., write a blog, try a new tool, share a helpful resource, etc.). I think through what will be involved, then I determine which I will do each month in my personal to-do list. Full transparency, I don’t always get to my goals by the end of the month, but having them there and knowing that they are feasible helps me to knock them out in due time.
6. Keep Your Extensions & Bookmarks Under Control
As an SEO, this is a big one for me and the rest of my team. There are numerous extensions, tools, and resources out there just waiting to be discovered and saved. Unfortunately, this can result in some hoarding, which can serve to clutter your workspace and slow down your browser. While it can be tempting to collect extensions and bookmarks, try to limit yourself to only what you really need.
I keep a document linked in my to-do list where I make notes of new tools, extensions, and resources I want to try out. Then I give them a shot for a short amount of time to determine if I really like them and if I utilize them enough. This leads me to audit what I have saved in my browser every few months to remove anything I don’t need access to daily. In turn, my browser is less of a mess and its performance is enhanced.
7. Use a Working Document and Spreadsheet to Avoid Unnecessary Items in Your Drive
When your laptop is your primary workspace and you spend a lot of time remote, it’s no surprise that the random documents and files tend to pile up. Trying to keep your Google or desktop drive organized and tidy is a fool’s errand due to never-ending downloads, screenshots, and other files that continuously pop up. This is one area where I’ve tried and failed to create an orderly system.
Instead, I started using a working document and a working spreadsheet. Essentially I have one doc and one spreadsheet where I draft pretty much everything before I send it in a message. This way I can avoid having a new doc created for every single task, and I can look at the history of all my work in one place. Most of the time, I’ll simply copy the draft to send it in an email or message, but if I do need to put it in a separate document, I have a trick for that, too.
The way I keep track of documents I need to save and those I can trash is by only naming the ones I want to keep. This makes it easy to eyeball my drives and clear them out periodically without worrying about trashing something I linked in a message or sent to a client. It also makes it easy to look up my older work for my own reference.
8. Try to Anticipate the Needs of Both Your Clients and Teammates
When it comes to working at a digital marketing agency, a little bit of proactivity will take you far. Not only will your future self thank you, but your coworkers and clients will, too. In regard to client work, this could mean thinking about the questions your point of contact may bring up and trying to answer those in the initial deliverable. A little bit of extra detail can go a long way when it comes to client relationships.
Furthermore, it’s easy to shortcut tasks in the hopes that you’ll save time. However, it’s more likely that an update will be requested and then you’ll spend more time on it than you would have in the first place. In addition, there are other simple things you can do for your team as well. For example, I like to check OOO calendars before messaging or assigning tasks to anyone, and I always try to find answers to questions myself before chatting with someone else.
While everyone works differently, these are a few strategies I’ve found through my years at a digital marketing agency. That said, creating a system that is best for you takes time and some trial and error! It may be worth your while to experiment with the ideas above and see how they impact your workday. Share your top agency tips below, and connect with our team today for all of your digital marketing needs!