Being an agency exec means attending tons of meetings, fielding tons of phone calls and emails, enduring tons of traveling, and going to more meetings — it’s a lot to manage. But as with anything, the longer you’ve been at it, the more you develop little tricks and rituals that help you prioritize and become more efficient. That’s why we’ve asked top agency execs to share the agency life-hacking tips they’ve acquired over years. Read on for tricks and tips on how to best organize meetings, dominate your inbox and travel like a pro.
Aaron Shapiro, CEO, Huge
I’m diligent about leading a paperless life, both personally and professionally. To pull this off, I’ve established an elaborate system to automated bill payments and sync all of my files. I use three computers: one for work, one for personal use and a third as backup, as well as external hard drives and Dropbox to ensure that all of my files are backed up and synced across all three machines at any given time. Older files are automatically saved to my local backup. The system really works, and it means that if something goes wrong — or I leave my laptop on a plane — it’s not a catastrophe and I’m back up and running immediately. I also make a habit of only checking email a few times per day. I have a rule that I respond immediately to an email as soon as I’ve read it unless it requires no response at all. This enforces concise messages, because I want to clear through as many as possible, and it also means that I never have to read an email twice. As for IM, unless you’re on an airplane and IM is your only choice, turn it off. IM is simply an invitation for others to interrupt you with trivial questions.
Sarah Hofstetter, CEO, 360i
Using the “Delay delivery” function on Microsoft Outlook is my favorite hack. So if I’m writing an email on the weekend but I don’t want to bother folks or make them feel like they also need to work on this particular matter over the weekend, I can use the “delay delivery” feature to make sure they get it when they’re back in the office but still get my work done on my own timeline.
Matt Britton, CEO, MRY
I attempt to get to Inbox Zero every Sunday night. I either delete, file or flag each note. The emails that are flagged become tasks for the week via Evernote. I never schedule meetings or calls before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. This gives me flexibility every day to make the hard decisions and tackle the stingy to-do items that slow me down.
Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer, AKQA
This is probably my biggest life-hack: I don’t do work email on my phone. While email can be very convenient, it’s also one of the worst offenders of inefficiencies in the digital age. Email is better as a summary of a conversation rather than a conversation itself. Also, the fewer people you have in meetings, the fewer meetings you have, the firmer what you need to decide and the faster your meetings are, the better.
Ian Schaffer, CEO, Deep Focus
Be diligent about unsubscribing to everything. Your inbox is a temple. No meeting should be over 30 minutes. Set the default length of a meeting in your calendar to 30 minutes to force it. If there is something that needs an action or response in an email, bold it. Do whatever it takes to naturally fall asleep at night. It usually means keeping screens out of the bedroom.
Lauren Crampsie, CMO, Ogilvy & Mather
I am home every day by 5:30. I spend 5:30-8:00 p.m. with my son — no computer, no work calls or emails — then I go back online and do calls at 8 p.m. once he is in bed. In my almost 20 months doing this, not once has anyone from the office asked where I was or demanded my time during those hours. Mainly because I am that much more efficient with my time while I’m in the office. Also, don’t go into any meeting without a predetermined and printed agenda, otherwise meetings will spiral into unrelated topics and last three times longer than they should. There is such a thing as an organized brainstorm.
Colin Nagy, executive director of media, The Barbarian Group
Tripit is invaluable. Simply forward your hotel, flight and car confirmations as they come through and it assembles everything nicely in an elegant mobile experience. Seatguru is useful to find out where not to sit on the plane (e.g., too close to the galley, exit row doesn’t recline, etc.). Valet.com is a membership-based app that handles bookings and gets corporate-level discounts at really interesting hotels around the world — useful if you don’t get the Goldman rate. The Economist just released “travel briefing” apps that give you really interesting political, business and cultural background for a lot of different cities. It’s worth reading when headed to a new city or country to know the lay of the land for casual conversation. Also, the Monocle 25/25 guides tell you the local correspondent picks for business breakfasts, client dinners in 25 business hubs around the world.
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