Start off 2011 as an Organized Advertising Agency Superstar

Four Crucial Resolutions ... and How to Keep Them

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Darryl Ohrt
Darryl Ohrt
You've committed to a bunch of resolutions and are more stoked than ever to kick off a new year. You're also coming back from the holidays with a mountain of work ahead of you and promised yourself that you'll be a more productive, efficient agency. Where do you start?

What follows are four best practices that I've adopted at our agency in an attempt to become a more productive, communicative and in-the-loop creative firm.

1. Start a to-do list
Don't be a slave to your inbox. Layout your priorities for the day first thing, and then do everything you can to stick to them. There are a variety of fantastic to-do applications out there, so find one you like -- and use it. (I love TeuxDeux and BackPack.) Make your to-do window the one that's on your desktop first and foremost. Before e-mail. Really. You'll be surprised at what a difference this will make in your day.

Make it personal, and not an agency-wide list. Keep your list organized by day, and only add to it what you honestly believe can be accomplished in a day.

2. Manage your projects online
If you're still managing your projects with email and in-boxes, you're a hot unorganized mess. And if you're still using paper and folders, well ... grow up. The world has changed, and everything is on the internet now.

Having all of your projects online creates a history of everything that's taken place. Everyone is always in the loop and up to date regardless of where they are in the world. A quick glance at the details keeps everyone on the team current.

There are a host of great tools that make this easy and are geared to the advertising/creative industry. We've used BaseCamp for years now and absolutely love it. Online project management keeps everyone in the loop in real time, and can even eliminate the need for weekly status update meetings and calls.

We're actually finding that a large percentage of companies on the client side are already using the tool, which serves as a nice selling point when pitching to a new prospect and an immediate comfort level for any existing client. Brands: If your agency isn't using online project management, ask them why.

There's no better time to start a new system than at the beginning of the year. Your clients will appreciate it, your employees will be more productive and you'll be surprised at how fast a good project management system will be adopted by everyone.

3. Organize your social-media self
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora and other networks can be fun and even productive business tools. But they can also suck your day away. This is probably the toughest challenge for internet workers. How do you stay in the loop, but also get work done?

First and foremost, you need to use aggregation tools. You'll read ten times as many blogs with an RSS reader, never miss an important tweet from a client with TweetDeck, and find yourself checking fewer sites and tools, ultimately leaving you more time for your to-do list. Common sense to many, but I'm always surprised at the number of people who haven't incorporated these tools into their routines. If you're already a user, maybe you could help one of the seniors in your firm to learn how to aggregate their streams.

I've found that if I treat Twitter and Facebook check-ins as rewards for a task completed, this balances out really well. Finish something on your to-do list, and then spend five minutes on Twitter. This typically results in a very productive day, but is sometimes more difficult than you think, if you're an active user. (I tweeted at least five times while writing this piece, which was on my to-do list.)

Conference calls and meeting starts are also great moments to check in on the Twitterverse or update on Facebook. You'd be surprised how much you can get done in the four minutes that you're waiting for others to join the call, or to arrive in a meeting room.

4. Forget about the work "day"
Work and play are now permanently merged. You send emails at 10 p.m. And you're on Facebook at 10 a.m. The sooner that we all accept this, the less complicated life will be. If you expect your employees to respond to messages into the evening, then don't make them feel guilty for Facebooking during the day. Our industry is demanding enough, and the internet has made the workday fluid. If we're always "on" for our jobs and personal lives, then we can schedule our work accordingly.

If you find that you're a more productive writer after dinner, schedule your tasks when you're more likely to do them well. Getting to know when you're best at doing what you're best at is the ultimate key to being a productive powerhouse. If you write better at night, then putting off your proposals and decks to the evening will require less time than belaboring over them mid-day. Likewise, don't feel bad about catching up with a friend in the middle of a busy morning.

Ultimately, the best tools and practices are the ones that you'll actually use, so it's always best to take small steps, and only introduce what you really believe will be adopted. Get everyone on your team on the same page, and you'll be the hottest, most efficient agency on the block.

Do you have tools or practices that have made your agency more productive? Are you adopting any new routines or tools this year? Share in the comments!

Darryl Ohrt is a former punk rocker and chief contributor to the greatest blog in all of the land, BrandFlakesForBreakfast. While his official title is president, his business card says he's "Prime Minister of Awesome" at Humongo, a Source Marketing company. Darryl knows just enough to be dangerous. He's on the internet right now, playing, investigating and exploring. Watch out.
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