3 practical tips to overcome overwhelmOct 04, 2022
For agency owners and leaders, every day can quickly become filled to the brim with unpredictable client, team, and business responsibilities.
With everything agency professionals face, it’s easy (and far more common than many give themselves credit for!) to become overwhelmed. Knowing how to bring yourself and your team back to a calm place is vital.
We certainly can’t always avoid last-minute client emergencies and tight deadlines. However, with a few best practices and mindset shifts, you can set yourself up to overcome and prevent overwhelm.
Set and maintain clear expectations with clients
We get it–this is easier said than done. However, mastering how to set and maintain clear expectations with clients is the number one way to avoid unnecessary overwhelm.
Everyone feels stressed when a client is unhappy. However, if expectations aren’t clearly communicated at the beginning of a relationship, it’s easy to continuously agree to requests that fall well outside of scope to keep the client happy.
Eventually, teams find themselves over-committed, underpaid and out of time–a perfect storm for overwhelm. On top of this, when we audit an agency’s business operations, misaligned expectations are the top contributing factor to a significant loss in revenue and earning potential.
Here are a few practical tips to eliminate this overwhelm and keep your clients happy and retained.
Give your team ample time to prepare for an initial kickoff meeting to ensure you are beginning the partnership with clearly defined expectations. Use this first meeting to proactively communicate:
- The phases of the work your team will execute (what’s first, what’s next, what comes later, etc.)
- Expected timelines–especially when they can expect to receive your first deliverable
- The frequency and type of communication they can expect between your team and the client, including a regular cadence for check-in calls
- Your methods and frequency for reporting
- The assets you’ll need to receive from the client to succeed on their behalf
Despite our best efforts to keep overwhelm at bay, client work doesbn’t always go according to plan. It’s common for agencies to find themselves in a place of chaos with unwieldy client campaigns.
For current clients, use your ongoing strategic planning process as an opportunity to hit the reset button on expectations. Quarterly planning meetings are commonplace, but if your team doesn’t currently leverage them, start implementing them next quarter.
These meetings are a win-win for the client and agency. Your team has an opportunity to ideate on how to best move the needle on a client’s goals while realigning on a reasonable (and in scope!) execution plan to achieve it.
Learn more about setting and maintaining client expectations here.
Encourage the team to time block
Most of us feel overwhelmed when it seems like we have more work than hours in the day. Plus, in such a fast-paced, demanding industry, many professionals feel like they’re just trying to keep up with a never-ending to-do list.
Our favorite tip to chip away at said to-do list is to ruthlessly time block.
For agency professionals, we know it isn’t always possible to block off hours each day to work on just one project. Instead, the goal with time blocking is to give yourself the space (and commitment!) to focus on only the task at hand. Constant context switching every few minutes costs the agency precious time, energy and money in lost momentum and inefficiencies.
Here are a few practical tips to time block your schedule.
- First thing in the morning, identify your top three priorities for the day. Yes, your to-do list might be a mile long but write down your top priorities for the day. When this is clear, it’s much simpler to focus, complete, and make progress on critical projects.
- Block off two 30-minute windows for email, and as often as possible, commit to only checking your inbox at that time. This means that when you’re working on a strategic communications plan for a client or deep creative work, you can fully focus your attention without redirecting it whenever an email notification comes through. We see the time logs for countless agencies and when owners see the hard data (and hard costs!) for their team spending multiple hours a day on emails, they’re shocked and immediately implement boundaries on email.
- Don’t time block your whole day! Yes, that’s right! We encourage time blocking, but it’s just not feasible to time block your entire day. We need flexibility and spaciousness in our schedules to account for last-minute requests, client crises and those inevitable situations that can derail the day. Don’t schedule yourself to capacity. Leave at least an hour of flexibility in your day between meetings, emails and time blocks to deal with issues and allow yourself to move and adjust time blocks as needed.
- Schedule recharge time. Whether that’s 30 minutes midday to eat lunch in the sunshine or signing off at 6pm sharp to head to your favorite workout class, it’s essential to make time for recharging your mind, body and spirit. Time blocking isn’t just to make sure we can cram more client work into the day. It gives us the structure to show up as our best selves.
Prioritize effective delegation
As an agency owner, it’s easy to feel like everything falls on your shoulders, which contributes significantly to overwhelm.
It’s common for owners and executives to feel unable to effectively delegate tasks and projects off their plates to other team members. Many don’t realize that they’re often getting pulled into day-to-day client work or unnecessary projects because there is a delegation issue throughout the entire team.
For example, we commonly see that because Account Executives aren’t effectively delegating to Coordinators and Interns, they’re not spending enough time on day-to-day execution work. This contributes to senior strategists or Account Managers & Directors stepping in on more execution than they should, leaving less time for strategy.
When strategy is ignored, agencies often find themselves in “oh crap” moments with lackluster results. This is typically when an agency owner has to step in to salvage a campaign and repair a client relationship.
To prevent the scenario above from happening, establish clear responsibilities for each position in the company. Second, teach everyone (at every level!) how to delegate effectively.
As a first step, start with dedicated time during a weekly team meeting to identify tasks to move off one person’s to-do list and onto another team member’s. Establish check-in points and deadlines for high-priority projects to ensure nothing falls through the cracks and to offer feedback along the way.
Everyone experiences overwhelm from time to time, but with these actionable tips, you can mitigate those feelings and encourage the entire team to feel empowered and in control of their work days.
If you’d like to learn more from the Advocation team on operations best practices for PR & marketing agency teams, follow us on social media–Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.