As a creative director for a small, but thriving, integrated communications agency, my days are, by definition, anything but typical. Generally I’m pretty all over the board, but there are few things I consistently make time for – for reasons none other than to spare my sanity. Hectic schedules and crazy hours aren’t always as thrilling and exciting as they may seem. 98% of the time I love it. But the remaining 2% is when I learn about myself and what works for me – what I need to survive a week in the hustle and bustle of agency/creative life. Here’s a fun little snap shot of my atypical day-to-day work life and, hopefully, some good advice for anyone in fear of their sanity slowly slipping away.
5:10 – The worst.
And I mean that. 5:10 a.m. is the worst part of my day but only for about 2.5 minutes, then it gets better. A few days a week I get up before the crack of dawn to get my workout in, because I know I wont have time later. We all know that working out is supposed to release endorphins and make us all energetic and happy and improve our overall health, and I choose to do so in the morning so that my brain is fully on and functioning by the time I stroll into the office. At about 5:15 I roll out of bed, phone in hand, usually scrolling through Instagram. I grab my workout gear and bag (which were laid out on my dresser from the night before), get dressed and brush my teeth. I grab a Clif Bar, water bottle (filled the night before, chilling in the fridge) and my clothes, make up, hair products and all that jazz I need for work (also laid out the night before) and head out the door. John, my pretty awesome life partner, is usually heading out around the same time. We work out at different places but it helps to have somebody else up and at ‘em at the same time…moral support.
6:00 – Fake it ‘til you make it.
My workout of choice is kickboxing. Nothing wakes you up like somebody yelling at you at 6 a.m. to “jab, cross, hook, hook, hook, sidekick!” I never feel ready to go when I get there but by the end it feels like I’ve been up for hours. I take forever to really feel awake in the morning so I regret the mornings I don’t work out, knowing no amount of coffee can do the trick. I used to have so much trouble making myself get up and get to it in the morning, but I’ve been in the habit long enough now to know that even when I’m dreading it I have to suck it up because I’ll feel so much better after.
7:00 – G.T.L. (Get to the office. Take a shower. Listen to a real good playlist while doing so.)
No explanation necessary.
7:45 – Get your shit together, girlfriend.
Coffee, coffee, coffee. I never used to be this way but 834 has turned me into a caffeine fiend and I’m pretty okay with it. Anyway, this next step is by far the most important time of my day. The very first thing I do when I get in (sometimes before because I get tons of anxiety about unchecked emails) is check my email. I leave no email unread or not responded to because it drives me crazy, but also because there may be urgent messages from clients, coworkers, printers, coordinators, account reps or any of the other countless people I have contact with on the daily. By the time I’m done with that, either Ali or Cat is usually walking into the office. Ali and Cat make up the rest of the 834 creative team and, let me tell you, they are the other reason I somehow still have my sanity intact. They know me well enough to know I can’t proceed with my day without organizing all of today’s and this week’s to-dos. To-dos are these magical little things generated by our project management site that keep me on track, which in turn keep the project managers and clients happy. I am a stickler for lists, so I am very precise with what I know needs to be done before 5 p.m. Next, I think about everything that has to be done by the end of the week. All that stuff gets filed away in my brain under the “make sure you know this exists even though you aren’t working on it today” category because in this world, things that can go wrong will, and things that can’t get pushed back do. The best way to handle this is to have an even better handle on how your foreseen schedule can be manipulated to accommodate for the inevitable. It’s kind of this organized chaos that allows me to be flexible. The more you know, the better you can plan so deadlines are never, ever, ever missed (we’re all human here so things happen from time to time, but this strategy is as close to fool proof as I’ve ever been able to get).
10:00 – Snack, always.
Who knows why, but by 10 a.m. I am craving food. To avoid becoming incredibly cranky I usually pack more snacks than probably necessary, but you can never be too prepared.
This is where the atypical comes in. I could be out and about at events or meetings, in the zone designing a very intricate infographic, scouting out signage installment sites or anything in between. No day is the same.
12:30pm (sometimes 1:00, okay 2:00, really whenever) – Lunch.
I always forget to eat lunch. Not because I’m not hungry. I’m always hungry. But I usually get in the zone and can’t get back out. But, whatever time it may be, I use lunch to regroup and catch my breath, for about 5 minutes while it’s in the microwave and I’m filling my water. Then I get back to work. Busy, busy, busy.
More of the atypical (which is weirdly starting to sound typical…)
5:30 – Happiest of hours.
If you’re an alcoholic, I mean workaholic like me, you know how important it is to step away from it all for a sec, or for a drink, or a few hours on a Tuesday evening that turn into 10 o clock. Anyway, I don’t do happy hour everyday because that would be extensive, but I do take some time after work to myself even if I know I have to jump back *on after.
*Definition: on – än, ôn/ – what #Team834 always is.
Individually, these key times of day don’t seem all that important, but together they make all the difference. My day-to-day life is exciting, crazy, hectic and unpredictable. That’s all fine and dandy, but managing those types of days is the challenge. These little consistencies are so important to avoid becoming overwhelmed or burned out – and they get me through the madness.