The tyranny of busyness

June 26, 2017

The tyranny of busyness

An account manager's day is full of tasks, administration and meetings. It's easy to get to the end of your busy day, feel like you achieved nothing and still have a pile of work to do. 

The feeling of "busyness" is relentless and usually never goes away. Busyness, however, cleverly mimics the actions of productivity, and is not always revenue-generating for your agency. Therefore, how can you increase your level of productivity without increasing the number of (already packed) hours that you work? 


Cut down on distractions 

"Distractions are everywhere. And with the always-on technologies of today, they take a heavy toll on productivity. One study found that office distractions eat an average 2.1 hours a day. Another study, published in October 2005, found that employees spent an average of 11 minutes on a project before being distracted. After an interruption it takes them 25 minutes to return to the original task, if they do at all. People switch activities every three minutes, either making a call, speaking with someone in their cubicle, or working on a document." (from "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock) 

Distractions are one of the biggest culprits of agency unproductiveness. When you are juggling multiple tasks you need all the focus you can get, and if you sit in an open-plan office it makes concentration even more of a challenge. 

Account management is a balancing act of making yourself available to your team (like having your own "open door" policy) vs needing space to think and work without interruption. Some people use a "do not disturb" system (be it a sign or an on/off light), or they put on a set of headphones to indicate their availability. This can work effectively, but it can also make you appear unapproachable and detached. It is, perhaps, better to find other ways of handling distractions as they are guaranteed to happen. 


Remove yourself from the mayhem 

Has your agency got a place where you can collect your thoughts and work in peace and quiet? This may be a meeting room, or a break-out area, or even a local café if you really need to escape. By physically removing yourself from your desk your team will see that you are seeking some mind-space, and yet you are still approachable if necessary. 


Block out catch-up time in your calendar 

New demands will be fired at your constantly, so sometimes you need to be intentional about creating time to think, or catch-up on a backlog of work. A good way to do this is to block out periods of time in your calendar so no-one else (including you) can take that time away from you. If you figure out that you think the most clearly at a certain time of the day, then you can try blocking out that period of time on a regular basis. 


Cut down on meetings 

Do you really need to attend as many meetings as you do? If you will be a material contributor, or if the meeting will discuss details vital to your projects, then you may need to be there. Could you, instead, accomplish the same goals or tasks via email, phone or a video meeting, as this may be quicker and more productive? If you cannot clearly define why you have been asked to personally attend a particular meeting, then that's a good indicator that you could say no. 


Avoid back-to-back meetings 

Every meeting needs some sort of follow-up, be it writing up meeting notes, or actioning decisions made. By avoiding back-to-back meetings you'll allow yourself some space to deal with one meeting before having to focus on another. 


Busyness can be another word for procrastination 

It's tempting to want to complete the small or easy tasks first, leaving the large or demanding tasks until "later", only to find that "later" never comes because you are "too busy". This is the time to ask yourself are you really "too busy", or are you fearful about tackling a difficult or new task? If you kick the difficult tasks out the way first, you will gain a sense of achievement and satisfaction that will give you the energy to complete the rest of your list. 


Multi-tasking is a myth 

Some people wear the ability to multi-task like a badge of honour and think it to be the answer to all efficiency problems. Whilst it is admirable to ensure that multiple tasks keep moving along together, it will be impossible for your brain to fully concentrate on any one thing, which could result in lost time and productivity, and mistakes. Instead, try to make a habit of concentrating on a single task before moving on to your next project. 


Watch out for the small tasks 

Being able to complete small, unimportant tasks may give you a sense of accomplishment, but they may be overloading you with busyness. These could be tasks that you can delegate to others, or that don't really need doing at all. However, small important tasks (especially those that can be done in two minutes or less) should be done immediately to get them out of the way. Addressing small tasks could mean the difference between feeling like you are getting work done, and actually getting work done. 


Master the art of account management triage 

Your ability to prioritise the tasks and demands that are placed on you is a key to conquering the tyranny of busyness. If you understand the concept of account management triage, you will be able to assess every demand that is placed on you, rank it, and deal with it in the most appropriate manner and time period (which is not always "straight away"!). 



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