How to Be in Advertising Without Losing All Your Time to Work

Escaping the trap of being constantly time-poor

I've always told myself it doesn't matter how much money you make if, at the end of the day, you're time-poor. And by time-poor, I mean not having the time to do the things I want to do in life because I'm too busy with work. 

From what I've seen, many people are time-poor, more often than not because they waste time. Or, as often is the case in advertising, we allow other people to take our time. 

I'm sure you can relate. How often has miscommunication caused needless late nights or weekends in the office? Over the years, I've seen so much time wasted by trying to read the client's mind instead of just bringing them into the process. Hours upon hours are put into projects, only to circle back to the idea you had on day one. 

So much time, in my opinion, is wasted on the pursuit of perfection. Whose definition of perfection? It depends on the day. And all that additional life investment might make something maybe 5 percent better. But was it worth all that extra time—time you'll never get back? 

That's why, when we started Fortnight Collective, we launched with a two-word company motto that we've stuck to every day since: Better Hustle. The emphasis here isn't on the hustle, it's on the better. How do you make great work more efficiently? And how can we leave every day more time-rich? 

I am a believer in time management on steroids, deliberately allocating when and where to be hyper-focused on only one thing. It can be impressive to say you run several accounts simultaneously, but that just means each account is getting only a fraction of your time. And you're devoting all your time to all of them, and not you. How is that impressive? What's impressive is hitting it out of the park every day on a single goal, and still being able to coach lacrosse afterward. 

What can make this efficiency so hard is that it needs shrewd decisiveness. No waffling. You must trust your gut and pull the trigger without hesitation. Obviously that can't happen when it's decision by committee or if leaders are constantly afraid. Big agencies often have both of those things standing in their way. They're often the time-poorest of us all. 

Calling out the inefficiency in those situations can be a whole other dilemma. Sometimes it can feel like everyone around you is taking crazy pills, working in the most inefficient ways. But pointing it out is often frowned upon. All you can do is accept the insanity, right? 

No. Get out.

The irony is that when you do have time to do the things you love in life, with the people you love (i.e., work-life balance), you actually become better at work. I'm sure there's a study on that. But I'm not going to waste time researching that now. The truth is that whether you're in New York, Boulder or London, the time you spend away from work gives you more to work with. It's made me better at what I do.

I don't know if there are many time-rich people in advertising who love the work they do and have the time to also do other things they love. But I would consider myself one of them. Not by luck, but by learning to be efficient. And not wasting time with anything other than that. 

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Andy Nathan
Andy Nathan is founder and CEO of Fortnight Collective.

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