How to Manage Time Without Losing Your Mind

Posted May 11, 2021 by Alison Conklin

In the last four-and-a-half years, Brightly Creative has grown past our wildest dreams. When we (Keith, Jonathan and I) started off, we had three clients and a mountain of ideas to do the best work for our clients. Now, we have expanded our team to six members and more than 10 clients. We still do the best work for our clients, but we express a bigger push for innovation and keeping projects fresh, which can be a lot to handle at times.

I won’t dive into what the day in the life of an account director looks like, because honestly it would probably either make you question my sanity or drive you mad, but I have found some killer management tools that help me keep at least a few screws in at all times and to push the success of our clients as well as our small agency.

Inbox Zero

This is something I have discussed in blogs past, and a task that Keith has been pushing me to do since I first started working for him. The idea is to not have any outstanding emails in your inbox at the end of the day. In 2020, there were days I had more than 150 emails in my inbox, and it wasn’t for a lack of checking my inbox but checking out on stress. But it was a huge chicken or the egg question that I finally realized I needed to get under control. The thought of logging on every morning to more unchecked emails overnight drained me. This wasn’t something I finished in a day, or even a week, but I can say for the first time that I have reached inbox zero! Now, when I log on every day, I can easily filter what is junk, what is important and how I can manage my day to give the most to each client.

Deep Work

This is a relatively new concept that I am still learning and adapting to. Cal Newport outlines the idea in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World where deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Sounds easy, right? The author dives into how allowing us to keep the virtual door open at all times makes us produce shallow work, where you may get the project done. But is it your best work? Setting up a schedule to allow yourself to solely and deeply focus on a singular project you are working on and eliminating distractions makes for better finished projects. Some of our team members have started adapting to this concept where they put blocked out times on their calendar to focus on either daily tasks or to know they need to close the door to other information coming in. This takes a lot of scheduling and commitment to get started, but it can be proven very fruitful and help you stop your 8-hour day on time and not think about how you are going to get back to all your clients the next day.


I am a firm believer in writing it all down, whether it is on a project management system like Trello or physically hitting the pen and paper. We are getting thrown so much information at us per day that by the time you hit your lunch hour and start mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds that the quick IM your team member sent you asking about the status of a project is gone. I build out copious checklists of to-dos, and not just daily but for the week. It is a great visual of what I need to get done, what I can prioritize today or tomorrow and a small but simple tool for tracking success and celebrating small victories (you wouldn’t believe how much joy I have from checking off items on my lists). If I get a task that doesn’t need to be done today (or I need to focus on a certain client for that day, which happens a lot) but I don’t want to forget, I schedule it out and don’t let it weigh me down for the day. I know there is a plan in place and I can solely focus on the success of that project when it is time.

What are some of your key time management hacks?

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