ALP 13: Managing your time as an agency owner or executive

In this week’s episode, Chip and Gini talk about how to safeguard your most valuable resource: your time.

From setting aside time to work on growing the business to avoiding being consumed by last-minute client meeting requests, this show has lots of actionable ideas.

The co-hosts emphasize the importance of finding the right rhythm for your own work habits to ensure maximum productivity. And Chip points out that time isn’t something you can borrow from a bank, so you need to focus on managing it effectively to be successful.

Automated Transcript

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CHIP: 0:00
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the agency leadership podcast. I’m Chip Griffin

GINI: 0:05
and I am Gini Dietrich

CHIP: 0:07
and we’re here today to talk about managing your time.

GINI: 0:11
Yes, good topic.

CHIP: 0:15
That’s something that Chicago Bears had a little bit of trouble today. No, no, no, I shouldn’t do that

GINI: 0:20
job. He has one job. Kick the ball through the uprights, that’s all you have to do. One Job did that. He did that during a time out

CHIP: 0:29
he did during. I mean deadpan right down the middle during the timeout Unfortunately, when the clock was actually running, not so much

GINI: 0:39
one job but

CHIP: 0:40
yeah, it’s just been it’s been a tough little period of time for Chicago sports but

Unknown 0:45
it’s always a tough time for sports

GINI: 0:50
we’re very good at saying there’s always next year

CHIP: 0:54
well you know Chicago is an interesting place right the I over the holiday break I just covered shameless have

Unknown 1:02
such a good inappropriate, but so good,

CHIP: 1:06
insanely inappropriate and, you know, probably have to change the rating of this podcast simply to mention that I you know, I cannot believe that it’s been on eight years, and I didn’t even Honestly, I didn’t know anything about it until about three weeks ago. Oh, yeah. Great. When my wife said, Oh, yeah, I watched a few episodes. That was pretty good. I’m like, Okay, and so I and now like every free moment, I’ve got an episode running in the background. You really i do i do

GINI: 1:32
it. Like, there’s the there’s the line and then they the first season they sort of jumped over the line. And by the eighth season where I think they’re in the 80s. And now it’s like, so far past the line that you’re, you’re, you’re like, Okay, wow, wow, they really did that. That.

CHIP: 1:49
Yes. They really have no boundaries. None it is. But shameless is an absolutely appropriate name for that show. But it is it is very entertaining. And I do particularly enjoy the character, Carl who is clearly a psychopath and yeah, so.

GINI: 2:08
Oh, you wait, you wait. But yes, it’s based in Chicago on the south side.

CHIP: 2:13
Yes. That’s that’s what made me think of it obviously, because I the Darren a whole lot of shows that are set in Chicago except for that one night did NBC has now right? That’s all Chicago all the time,

GINI: 2:23
right? Chicago PD, Chicago ft. I don’t even know I’m making that up. Chicago Med.

CHIP: 2:29
Right. Right. Yeah, no, no shows about New Hampshire out there that I

GINI: 2:33
know a manager not know.

CHIP: 2:35
I mean, the the Animal Planet channel does have something about the new hampshire fishing game. North North North Woods law. It started out in Maine. They they, you know, they, they would chase the the the folks who are chasing hunters and that kind of stuff

coming after wildlife. And so they, they branched out. And so now they have episodes that feature New Hampshire, fish and wildlife. So

Unknown 2:59
yeah,

GINI: 3:00
they’re

CHIP: 3:02
not nearly as exciting as Chicago, though.

GINI: 3:04
That’s true. We have everything here. That’s true.

CHIP: 3:07
In any case, you know, I think we’re not doing a very good job of managing our time. We’re not gas because we’ve managed to waste about two and a

GINI: 3:16
half minutes on Chicago is

CHIP: 3:18
absolute nonsense. That has nothing to do with agency owners and executives. So how about we manage our time more effectively by talking about our topic of the week, which is ironically, managing your time.

And this is yet another topic that’s come out the spin sucks community, you know, it’s thank God for the spin sucks community. Otherwise, we’d probably have absolutely nothing to talk about here, Jenny,

GINI: 3:39
and you have in a sauna board full of ideas. So we could go to that

CHIP: 3:44
we could. But you know, it’s just it’s so much more fun pellet picking real world topics.

So this is one that came up recently in the spin sucks community. And it was someone who wrote about 2019. And one of the goals being to keep her diary a better plan and avoid ad hoc throw ins. And right out of the gate, at the start of the year, she got a message from a client asking to meet the following Monday at noon, and she was still on vacation. And so she had to get back to the client and say, Hey, you know, I really need Monday to catch up in the office. And, you know, can we talk at a different time basically, compressing, and a lot of people chimed in and said, Absolutely, you need to set boundaries, and you need to manage your time effectively and all that. And so I think this is a good jumping off point for us to talk about managing your time generally, but certainly, specifically in relation to clients. Because it’s a challenge that basically everyone in the agency world has not just agency leaders, but you know, the rank and file because, you know, a client calls up and says, Hey, I want to meet and the natural instinct is to say, absolutely, yeah, whenever you want, right? And because the client Yep. But that’s not necessarily best for time management, is it?

GINI: 5:05
Well, no, I mean, it’s the what’s the, the phrase is your emergency is not necessarily mine, right? At the same time, we’re in a service business and their service business means we’re serving the clients. So yeah, I mean,

especially for those of us in the agency world works sort of brought up or Todd that were at the clients whim. If that’s what they want, then that’s what they get. And it certainly leads to all sorts of challenges. You know, I I worked for the Fleishman Hillard so I worked in a big global agency for many, many years. And that, I mean, that’s what you did. And it didn’t matter if it was weekends or nights or, you know, the middle of the night, you responded and you got them what they needed when they needed it. But I also think that that leads to burnout and, you know, not wanting to be as helpful and, you know, all those other things that come along with it. So, there certainly are I, I don’t know if it’s necessarily boundaries, but it definitely is, you know, being able to be confident and not feel guilty about saying, hey, I’d love to meet with you. Monday is really bad for me, can we do Tuesday? Or can we do Wednesday?

CHIP: 6:15
Right? I think it’s a ultimately it’s a balancing act, right? Because, you know, I, I’ve seen people go to the opposite extreme, you know, instead of saying, yes, absolutely, they almost become difficult to reach, right. And, and so, you know, you don’t want to be in that situation, either. Because, as you say, it is a service business. So, we need to find a way to be accommodating. And, and in part, you know, at least from my standpoint, I’ve always tried to judge it based upon, you know, my perception of the level of actual emergency or urgency, you know, combined in a bit with the client, right? If this is a client who never says, Hey, I need to be immediately, okay, if they’re asking for it, then, you know, maybe I’m more likely to accommodate it from someone who, you know, calls up every other day and says, Oh, my God, I’ve got a crazy I need to talk to you in three seconds. Right. Right. So, you know, part of it becomes managing the individual client and making determinations there. But, you know, certainly you need to be prepared to push back on on clients and try to find times that are, you know, mutually agreeable and not simply, you know,

say yes, absolutely. To everything I asked for

GINI: 7:22
well, and I think there’s also it’s, it’s an it depends situation, because it’s, you know, you could be, you could have a client who’s doing something that you’ve asked them to do, whether it’s reviewing content or, you know, pulling together some, some materials for you, whatever, and they happen to be in the middle of it, and they just need you really fast to say, Okay, how about this? Or what about that, you know, that I think that’s different than, hey, I need you to drop everything and ignore the rest of your life and be here at noon on Monday. And to your point, does that happen consistently? Or is this a one off kind of thing,

CHIP: 8:00
right? And it’s, you know, I think, you know, part of it is, is judging, okay, you know, what, what’s actually going on? And in this particular case, it was indicated that it was the, the individuals boss at the client who was actually requesting it. So, you know, I would also then throw into that mix. Okay, well, how often does the the, you know, the clients boss actually want to get involved in? So, does that, does that signal something to me? Should I be more responsive, if the bosses you know, particularly, you know, sometimes as an agency will see a new boss come in, you know, those are situations where you may want to be extra responsive and juggle your own schedule, because, you know, that oftentimes, when you bring in new personnel can be an indication that, you know, there may be a change looming, and so, you know, trying to be extra responsive in periods like that can be helpful, but it’s, you know, it really, I think it does fall into that it depends category because it’s all about relationship management, and trying to figure out, you know, what’s the best solution for that particular case. And I don’t think you should have a one size fits all rule in either extreme direction, totally

GINI: 9:02
agree. We had a client A few years ago, who was let’s just say, challenging. And I knew that if she got me on the phone, it would be two hours, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if it was 5pm, it didn’t matter if it was noon, it didn’t matter what time of day or night or weekends, if she actually got me on the phone, I would not get off the phone for two hours. And because of that, we instituted a this is your designated time every two weeks. So like, one to two every Monday, whatever happened to be every two weeks. And so I I implemented that with her. And I was very strict about sorry, you don’t get me outside of that, that time, you just don’t. And she got really mean about it. She was like, you know, for as much as we’re paying you, I should be able to reach you all the time. And it’s one of those things where you want to respond. Yes, but I don’t have two hours every day to talk to you. And of course, I didn’t. But I was very clear about you, I have I have slotted this time for you. So that, you know, you can you can I’m like 100% focused on you on your business. And, you know, eventually she got used to it and kind of stepped down a little bit. But it was really challenging for me in the beginning, because she was she got nasty about it.

CHIP: 10:19
Yep. Well, and I think if you do have to condition clients to some degree, and I, I’ve been in similar positions where I have those those clients who you know that they want to, I’ve got the one client that I had in the past, who would follow up every single email with a phone call. And if you if you didn’t pick up the phone call, would follow that up with a text be like, okay, slow down,

I sent the email, give me an hour or so at least to perhaps look at it. And oh, by the way, it’s not even really an emergency. Okay, so it’s not, oh, my God, I’ve got a crisis, it’s just some generic question or, you know, just relax. And so, you know, so, for clients like that, you almost oftentimes when I have a client like that, even if I can respond to an email, immediately, I will, I will set a timer and say, okay, you know, respond. And I generally pride myself on being very quick to respond by email, mostly because I want to condition clients and frankly, everybody else to send me email rather than calling her here texting me, or those kinds of things. And so if you respond to that will generally guide them to that place. But you if you become a slave to it, then they always expect that. So it’s, you know, that you have to try to find a way to balance these things out. I’ve got, you know, one agency owner, I know who has a client like this, and this agency owner, she often does work in the evenings. And so when she gets a one particular client who will send things that say, nine o’clock at night, she may do it at 10 o’clock at night, but won’t actually send the completed item until the morning. So that individual doesn’t become a customer to getting basically same night service. Yeah,

yeah, I mean, so it’s it, but it really it’s managing that individual relationship. And, you know, one of the things that came out of the sort of the back and forth discussion in the the spin sucks community on the original question was sort of, what do you tell the client, right? And so, you know, this, this individual, I guess, initially was, the instinct was to tell the client, look, this is my first day back from holiday, I need to get caught up. And some people push back and say, well, don’t Don’t say that, just say you’re on available, don’t, you know, don’t don’t over share on, you know, your rationale for it. And, and I certainly fall into that, you know, there, there’s no reason I mean, unless you’ve got something that’s a really good, interesting explanation of some sort of, you know, just just say, Look, I’m not available, right, you know, and, and certainly saying, you know, I generally need to catch up. I usually wouldn’t advise that because that doesn’t sound it may be important, but it doesn’t sound right. Yeah, you know, I mean, if you could say, Look, I’m going to be, you know, having surgery. Okay, cool, right? That sets important. No, yes, that’s important. You can give that reason if you so choose, you know, I’ve got to work through other things on my to do list,

Unknown 13:14
probably not,

CHIP: 13:14
yes, message probably wouldn’t go with that one, I would probably just say I have a conflict at that time, or whatever. And, you know, there’s, there’s, you just don’t need to over share, you know, doesn’t mean you need to lie, you know, don’t tell them you’re going in and having surgery. If you’re not, first of all, it’s bad karma. But bad karma that it will, it will probably come back and bite you at some point. So don’t do that either. But the, you know, you can sort of fudge a little, you know, when I’ve had those clients who, you know, maybe enjoyed the two, three hour conversation, you know, I may have been known to say, Oh, I forgot, I have a four o’clock I have to go, Yeah, for sure. You know, and do I have a four o’clock? Well, I do now,

GINI: 13:58
I used to make the my assistant book calls an hour, like meetings an hour after, just so that I had that excuse. So I could say, another meeting to go right.

CHIP: 14:10
And I i proactively will do that, if I if I know, I’ve got a conversation that’s just going to drag on and I know, it’s not going to be productive, you know, whether that’s where the client or someone else, I will often schedule something. So I have a forced reason to get off. But, you know, usually I’ll, I’ll just say, I have to get off anyway, if it’s just running on too long. Because, you know, look, it’s, that’s not useful for anybody. But there are, there are certain people who like to just talk and talk

GINI: 14:39
and talk, but you know, what your, your advice about what your your client is doing, where she may actually do the work at 10 o’clock at night, but not send it until the next morning, that’s really applicable to, and that’s something that I had to enforce with my team. As I said, Okay, it’s fine. And most of my team likes to work, you know, from five to 7am, it’s fine if you want to do that, because, you know, nobody’s around to interrupt you. And it’s distraction free, and all those kinds of things. I’m a big fan, but set it up so that you’re you can delay your email. Or you can delay the sending it over to the client. Because as soon as they realize that you’re doing that, then they’re going to start working at that time to and all of a sudden, now you’re working for the client from 5am until 7pm instead of 8am to 5pm, right. So there’s a lot of that conditioning that I think we have to be really good about as well. And I’ll tell you what, send later in Gmail best tool, we have best tool because you can schedule it, you have it done but then it doesn’t go into business hours.

CHIP: 15:41
Right. And I should use things like that more often. Because I I tend to do something and then say, Okay, I’ll send that in the morning and then forget forget Yeah, but I I’ve never really been a big fan of the the Send later thing because I sort of put that into the bad karma category to right because you know well what if you know what if I break my leg in it there was there for clear I couldn’t have sent it or you know, whatever. I don’t know for some reason I just

GINI: 16:04
I have no problem with that. It’s like scheduling for media no problem.

CHIP: 16:08
I know I should I should look at it that way. But it you know and having the technology to do those kinds of things is is certainly valuable. And you know, the other thing you want to think about and I used to have this when I did a lot of ghostwriting was I happened to be a pretty quick writer most of the time. And so I would often be able to turn out a piece very quickly. But I would say to myself, well, wait a minute, if I turn that piece around too quickly, they may, you know, not see the same level of value as if they think it’s taking a you know, a really long time. So, so. So think about the message you send with regard to value. If you know, a client request something whether it’s you know, but piece of writing content or something else, even though you can do it quickly. You may not want to, because then they you know, they may get the wrong impression. And it just because you’re able to do it quickly. That may be because of your expertise. Right. Maybe, yeah, providing something higher value. And you know, you shouldn’t under undersell it, because someone says, Well, I only took you five minutes to do clearly that’s

GINI: 17:08
Yes, I’m not spending 20 $500

on it, or whatever happens to be

Unknown 17:12
right. Right. You know, again, it’s like

GINI: 17:16
the people who are like, I don’t understand why it costs so much to have you come speak, it’s only an hour of your time. Actually, it’s not only an hour of my time on a plane, I have to prepare I’m out of the office for three days. Like Yes, I’m only on stage for an hour. But there’s far more that goes into it,

CHIP: 17:34
right. I mean, anything that involves travel is, is much more time intensive than that appears, and frankly, much more time intensive than, than we probably calculate ourselves, right. You know, it’s, you know, you, you tend to overlook all of the additional burdens of travel and the time that he eats up, and the opportunity cost and those sorts of things. And as someone who, you know, I used to do a lot of international travel. And you know, that that’s the kind of thing that can throw you off for days afterwards, as you’re adjusting the time zones to right. So you need need to factor those things in, you can’t obviously build a client or a speaking venue directly for that. But you’ve got to, you know, to think about it when you’re doing your pricing for whatever kinds of work you may be engaged with.

GINI: 18:18
Yeah, so I think it’s really about setting expectations, you know, if I mean to end exactly to your point, they don’t need to know, it’s because it’s your first day back back from vacation, and your you need to get caught up that you just have a conflict, you know,

it’s setting the expectation, if, if you know that you’re going to have a squeaky wheel client, then set the expectation that these are the times they can get ahold of you. And don’t waver outside of that. I think one of the things that she also said is, why am I feeling so guilty about this? And I think that’s why is because we’re trained in a service business that we are at the clients whim. And that’s not necessarily true,

CHIP: 18:55
no, not at all. And, and again, I think that the key is to find that balance, because I do get concerned, you know, when I see people swing too far to the sort of what I would call the negative end of the spectrum, right, you know, no, I’m not available. The other the other, the other one of my pet peeves, and it’s not, it’s not directly on point here. But, you know, with, with folks who want to pick your brain, right? You know, that’s, you know, periodically, we get these these posts on social media, if you want to pick my brain and have coffee, and I’m going to charge you 250 bucks. Okay, well, take a deep breath. And, you know, at least for me, you know, when someone’s picking my brain, whether that’s on the phone, or over coffee, or whatever, if I’m doing it, right, I’m getting as much value as I’m giving. Yeah, right. Because you get to learn that in the process. You might get a client, you know, you might get a podcast co host, you know,

that this, this show in this form came together because we have lunch one day, you know, there was there was no particular agenda was just, hey, let’s catch up. And, and, and so, you never know. And that was not awesome. The agenda and it just, it just happened out of it. And so, you know, to me, I always will, if I got the time at least I will always take those phone calls those coffees those lunches, because, you know, you’re, you’re doing market research, you’re learning what’s going on now, if someone calls me every week to pick my brain, right? Okay, well, that’s all the different story, right? I mean, not now, you’re gaming the system, right? You’re trying to get free consulting at that point. But if it’s, you know, if it’s twice a year or something like that, you know, I mean, so what? Yeah, it’s a so so, you know, you have to balance that, you know, protect your own time, manage your own time, you know, with making yourself accessible because accessibility is is very important in the service business if you want to continue to grow and thrive.

GINI: 20:44
Yeah, totally agree and just set set expectations but be firm about it.

CHIP: 20:50
The other thing I thought was was interesting was someone suggested, you know, sort of setting aside blocks of time for you know, sort of ad hoc calls and meetings and and honestly that’s something I do it myself you know so I’ve I think I’ve mentioned it on the show before I use calland Lee, for my scheduling with with other people. And so I send them accountable a link. And the calendar link does not show the full scope of my availability, it shows the blocks that I have open that I’ve set on my calendar for taking phone calls, right. So it makes it so that, you know, I know, there are certain windows where I’m more productive, doing things other than phone calls, and certain windows, you know, when I prefer to do phone calls. So that’s what I’ll generally set. Now someone sends back, hey, none of those times work, okay, fine, we’ll work something else out. But, but, you know, nine times out of 10 or more those blocks work. And so setting aside blocks on your calendar for this is the kind of stuff I want to do in here can be very helpful, and can be a good way to, you know, focus those kinds of, of items. So that there, they have the least disruption to your day, right. And, you know, if, you know, there’s times a day where you’re better writing, block it off for writing, if there, if there are times a day where, you know, you just, you’re grouchy and you don’t want to talk to people don’t schedule your calls there,

Unknown 22:08
right?

CHIP: 22:08
Yep. On the other hand, you know, I like to schedule calls in the afternoon, because, you know, I tend to sort of fade out a little bit and, and being on a phone call instantly turns me on, and, you know, and re engage me. Whereas, you know, sitting it at three o’clock in the afternoon and try to write is not usually my best slot, you know, because I’m morning writer. So, you know, different people have different rhythms. And if you find your own, and you’re able to try to shape your schedule as much as you can, understanding, it’s not always possible, but as much as you can use that will help you manage your time more effectively as well.

GINI: 22:43
Yeah, I mean, blocking time, I’m a big, big fan of that. So I totally agree with you.

CHIP: 22:49
And I would also say, time tracking, right? So, you know, if you’re going to be managing your time, part of that is understanding how you’re spending your time already. And so using something, whether it’s, you know, a notebook or an app or a spreadsheet or whatever, so that, you know, how you’re actually investing your time, both with clients, and for other purposes, that will help to write because, you know, maybe, maybe you think you’re over servicing a client, but when you look at the the actual hours spent, maybe you’re not, right, so maybe, maybe you don’t need to say no, quite so quickly, when they’re asking for something, you know, or push them off. You know, maybe, maybe you look at it, you’re like, Okay, I thought I was spending 30 hours a month on this client, I’m only spending 15, you know, okay, maybe I should be a little bit more available to them. You know, whereas if you see that you’re spending 50, and you think you’re spending 30? Well, that’s a problem. And you need to try to address that, too. So, so understand how you’re actually spending your time and that will help you shape things as well. Because your time is should be budgeted. Just like your finance.

GINI: 23:53
Yeah, yes, that’s a great way to put it. Yes.

CHIP: 23:58
I mean, if you’ve got a budget, you say, okay, you, you know, I spend, you know, 25% of my week on business development, 50% on client service, and 25% on management or, you know, whatever your breakdown is, those are totally made up numbers, please don’t use them as rules of thumb, anything like that. They were literally just made up on the flyer but, but understand what it is that you’re you’re targeting and, and try to shape your calendar around that because you know, that of the resources you have your time is, is the one that is most finite, right. You can’t go to a bank and borrow time. So, you know,

figure out how to use it effective.

GINI: 24:36
Yeah, that’s a great way to put it. Budget, your time and, you know, blocking your time helps you do that Cal Newport’s book deep work was really valuable and helping

helping me think about, you know, exactly to your point when my best time of the day is to do deep deep work deep thinking and to block that time off

getting things done is another really good book to think about, you know, block time blocking and how to, to manage that. And then I think it’s, it’s just setting expectations, that’s just being confident with clients to say, I would love to help you with that. Can we do it tomorrow at between this time in this time, you know,

CHIP: 25:16
with all of these book recommendations that you’re giving each week, we’re going to start like a Book of the Month Club here. As I think every every episode,

GINI: 25:24
I recommend one or two.

CHIP: 25:28
So I unfortunate I’m terrible at remembering which ones I’ve read in which I come from which one so

I should get better at that. But no, I mean, it Look, I think it’s great. And a lot of these books do have good ideas. You know, of course, not to get off on too much of a tangent. But a lot of these books are really just long magazine articles that then have an extra 50,000 words attached so that it can become a book.

But in any case, you know, I think that all of these have good ideas and, and getting things done is one that I would certainly say just at least for a good heavy scam. I think there’s there’s a lot of excess verbiage there as well. But But, but, but the whole concept that’s in there, as far as you know, if it’s, if it’s a quick and easy task, don’t put it on, let’s just get it done. Like I think that’s tremendous advice. Because, you know, the number of people that I see, you know, put down all I need to work on and like the amount of time it took them to write down the task was about the amount of time Yeah, right. Because, and like I even even knowing that and sort of pounding that into my own brain and giving it to other people’s advice. You know, I still screw up sometimes and say, Oh, yeah, I just don’t feel like y’all with the cable company right now. or whatever, whatever the thing is, that would be very nice. I guess. cable companies never quick, but

which is why I’m getting rid of them. I decided that for January one. I was gonna be a cord cutter. There

GINI: 26:51
you go. We did it a couple years ago. Don’t miss it.

CHIP: 26:56
No, I you know, it’s we are going on week number two of YouTube TV instead of xfinity. And the whole family’s doing just fine. They were more nervous that I was

GINI: 27:06
but don’t miss it. I mean, you can watch the Golden Globe you can watch the bears. Not when they’re wild card game.

CHIP: 27:15
They didn’t. When I missed that

GINI: 27:17
there, you really don’t miss it at all.

CHIP: 27:21
So um, any other tips on time management?

GINI: 27:26
Um, there was one thing I thought of while you were talking about shoot, I lost it. You had a really good point

CHIP: 27:35
I have so many. But then I decided to run my mouth about non time management things and

she got infused You

GINI: 27:43
must not have been important or as my mother would say, it must have been a lie.

CHIP: 27:48
I would never think that you would lie. So I think that’s unlikely to be the case. But we will help manage our listeners time by drawing this episode agency leadership podcast to a close and so thank you again for joining us. I’m Chip Griffin

GINI: 28:03
And I am Gini Dietrich.

CHIP: 28:05
and it depends.

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