10 Ways to Be Efficient in the Office (by a Project Manager)

By Tracey Gregory, Project Manager at Cowley Associates

Being the project manager at an advertising agency can often be a highly intense, fasted-paced job, making it necessary to be extremely efficient around the office.  I’ve put together my top 10 efficiencies and hope these tips can help you too.

Let me preface this by including an eleventh tip for efficiency and time management: let Joe (our Internet Marketing Manager and Chief Blogger) help write your blog post when it’s your turn to do it.  (Laughing and I just gave Joe a high five.)  He loves doing it so when I saw him come into my office and volunteer his services; I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

So without further ado, here are…

10 Ways to Be Efficient in the Office

#1: Come in Early

I always get here at least an hour before the rest of the staff.  It’s quiet in the morning and I can get a good hour of work under my belt before seeing another living thing.

It’s also part of my job to prep everyone’s day and make sure they’re set up with the right materials to do their work, so getting here before they do is essential.

Getting my “power hour” in and plowing through the humdrum “needs to get done” stuff lets me spend the rest of the day wisely without worrying; and, when emergencies arise, I am freed up to put out fires and deal with other urgent matters.  It’s just a smart way to do things.

#2: To Do Lists

To do lists, to do lists, to do lists.

I have, let’s see: one, two, three – four!  I have four: personal ones (from hand written post its to a typed list of reminders), white boards for each individual’s overall tasks, and another for the week’s deadlines at a glance.  It’s a system that blends together quite well.  There’s lots of cross-over but it checks and balances itself.  It’s so important for me to know what’s going on today, this week, this month, and in the future, and to help people make sure they know what they are doing.

Lots of whiteboards, lots of schedules – it’s essential. At least for me, it is!

#3: Think Ahead

Spend at least an hour a day (for real) thinking about and preparing for what’s going to come up tomorrow. For example: meetings.  There are often, if not always materials to be prepared for clients (both potential and current) that we will see the next day.  Better to be prepared today than running around like a crazy person at the last minute. Hey, we’ve all been there at least once, but never want to be there again. Am I right? 

Coffee Break#4: Coffee!

First thing in the morning (every morning) and sometimes around 3PM.  Helps give me the jolt I need for the rest of the day.  I don’t think much more needs to be said about that.

#5: Open Communication

I try not to hold anything back: I make sure the team is aware of things that are coming down the pipeline so we can all try to mentally prepare for what’s coming up.  I’ve got to have a clear vision of the day, week, and month and communicating that with the team helps eliminate any potentially frustrating surprises. Planning for what you can anticipate helps things move in a more efficient manner.

#6: Prioritize

Over and above communication with the team members is constant communication with my boss Gail, our EVP.  Gail brings points to the table that help cut out unnecessary worry and stress and get my mind and priorities on track.  She has an open door policy (literally. Her door is ALWAYS open) and she graciously gives me free reign to interrupt at a moment’s notice. She understands (and has taught me) the importance of keeping the train moving and how to prioritize the work that comes in to the agency.

#7: 10 Minute Time Out

I have to get out from behind my desk for at least a small bit of time during the day.  Whether it’s eating lunch in the dining area instead of at my desk, or taking a ten minute walk – getting out of my four walls helps me refresh.  It’s easy to get bogged down in the confines of my work space.  If I step out, I can detach for a moment and get a fresh perspective.  You can get buried easily and lose sight of what you were trying to accomplish.  Taking a “10 minute time out” helps get me back on track.

#8: Be Flexible

I probably struggle with this the most, but it really helps!  I know, most every day someone will step in and throw a curve ball, and I have to shuffle things around.  I’m so “type A,” have all my ducks in a row, and usually have a plan for the way I see the day going (I know, that must shock you), but I also have to be flexible: it’s just the nature of the business.  Being flexible helps me to be able to help everyone and get what needs to be accomplished done.

#9: Stay on the Team’s Good Side

(Laughing.)  People tend to want to work with you more if you are nice and treat them well. Rocket science? I think not. Fostering genuine, positive relationships with my coworkers not only provides a pleasant and healthy work environment for everyone, but also motivates the team to produce their best work. It feels great to have a positive working relationship with everyone in the office and in turn, we are able provide our most creative work to the clients we serve, in the most efficient manner.

Exercising#10: Stay Healthy

Work out, get enough sleep, eat right – it all helps set my mind straight.  This is pretty common sense advice but essential nonetheless and never over-rated.

A happy Tracey is a happy office.  (Joe is laughing hard right now!)

I try to work out four times a week, get a good amount of sleep and try to eat healthy, even though Gail is always bringing in things like apple pie and donuts.  (Smiles.)

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