Time Management: 19 Expert Insights for Your Agency

Arrigo Lupori
Last Updated:
June 12, 2024

You’re hard at work developing your agency business.

Things are going great; clients are happy and you keep delivering.

But at some point, you start feeling that nagging sensation…

“I don’t have time to deal with all of this!”

That’s when you know you’re past the point of looking outwards for solutions (i.e. getting more customers) and joining the realm of looking inwards: optimizing processes, increasing profitability, and tracking time.

Yes, tracking time!

The number 1 rule to keep in mind in agency world.

You should always keep track of your time.

Why time tracking is essential for any agency

It doesn’t matter what kind of agency you run:

  • Creative
  • Technical
  • Communications
  • Engineering

Any service organization must track the time it spends on both internal and customer projects, because time is the fundamental currency for everything that goes on within the organization.

If you offer project-based services, you should track time.

If you have a fancy rate card, you should track time.

time tracking for time management in agencies
Tracking team hours is crucial to agency time management

Even if you sell services at fixed prices, you need to track every single hour.

The reason is simple:

» Time tracking provides you with clear evidence of how much you’re spending versus how much you’re making.

It doesn’t have to be any more complex with that.

If you think you know how much time you’re spending on certain projects, think again.

Unless you have it written down—black and white—you can’t know for sure.

And that can lead to a whole host of issues:

  • Zero visibility into your firm’s profitability, leading to wild financial guesses.
  • Unprofitable projects masked as profitable because they’re a “good fit.”
  • Team members claiming to have done work that wasn’t actually done.

I could go on, but the idea remains the same.

If you don’t track time, your organization will eventually stall.

But isn’t this post about agency time management?


And time tracking is your first step in that journey.

If you don’t have that in place, you should start there.

The 19 tips I’m sharing below all build on the knowledge that time tracking can offer, minus a few that touch on how to manage your personal time and that of your team members.

So, what is time management in agency world?

» It’s the practice of ensuring that human resources available to your organization deliver project outcomes within agreed timeframes—and do so consistently over a prolonged period.

Notice how I’m mentioning “agreed timeframes” rather than “the shortest time possible.” That’s because agency projects can vary wildly from small business engagements to huge enterprise contracts.

Asking your team to build a rocket in 2 weeks is probably unreasonable. Agency time management is all about understanding what a reasonable timeframe is for both the customer and your team.

timeline for a project-based proposal
Make sure you offer customers a reasonable timeline!

For example, a prospect asks me how long it would take to build the rocket.

Let’s say, 4 to 5 months maybe? Ballpark.

That’s what I could be thinking as an agency owner.

But I shouldn’t relay that to the customer before talking to the team.

Selling them a timeline before the team is aware of it is a big risk:

  • What if they’re overburdened with other tasks?
  • Is the budget right for the complexity of the project?
  • Do we actually have the expertise to build this type of rocket?

In an agency setting, time management isn’t about you or your team members individually.

It’s about ensuring that the entire project is sustainable before you even sign it.

Let’s unpack that.

Understanding time management for an agency

So far, I’ve touched on 2 different concepts:

  1. Tracking time you spend on any project as part of your agency.
  2. Setting the right expectations with prospects in regards to timelines.

These are great starting points.

Focus on these and you’ll have 80% of the work done.

But they’re clearly not the only two things to be aware of.

A third concept to apply is billable vs non-billable time.

Billable time is what you charge customers and get paid for; you can make a direct comparison of, say, charging $200 / hr and paying $115 / hr to the contributor.

That’s $85 / hr gross margin.

However, to deliver the project, you will most likely need check-in meetings, follow-ups, and other non-billable tasks that you’ll still need to pay to the contributor.

This is a big topic that deserves its own post.

But the overall gist is simple:

» You want to reduce non-billable hours down to a minimum.

Say a project was worth $100k for simplicity’s sake.

You have 5 contributors to this project:

Contributor Billable rate Internal rate Hours / mo Monthly income Gross profit
Project lead $240 / hr $160 / hr 20 / mo $4.8k / mo $1.6k / mo
Sr. developer $170 / hr $110 / hr 30 / mo $5.1k / mo $1.9k / mo
Jr. developer $130 / hr $80 / hr 30 / mo $3.9k / mo $1.5k / mo
Jr. designer $120 / hr $70 / hr 15 / mo $1.8k / mo $750 / mo
Business analyst $120 / hr $70 / hr 10 / mo $1.2k / mo $500 / mo
TOTAL $16.8k / mo $6.25k / mo

The project is forecast to last around 6 months based on these calculations.

In an ideal world, this would be exactly what the company would make.

A 37% margin is nothing to sneeze at!

But here’s the kicker…

On top of the above, most agencies have to account for:

  • Scope creep, i.e. work that wasn’t expected, requiring more alignment.
  • Weekly meetings, daily checkups, and email communication.
  • Sick leave, holidays, and personal emergencies.

When you start weighing all the responsibilities an agency has to cover, you can see how that magical 37% number isn’t actually so magical after all. And non-billable time has a lot to do with it.

The more time team members spend on things they can’t bill the customer directly for, the lower that percentage gets. And the agency is ultimately paying for it.

(Either directly via employee salary or indirectly via lower productivity / project delays)

19 pieces of advice for agency time management

Don’t forget the 3 components above:

  1. Tracking time
  2. Setting expectations
  3. Billable vs non-billable hours

They will come in handy for the following 19 tips I have to share.

Please note: Every agency has their own way to increase profitability. Some hire more contract workers to ensure they reduce non-billable costs, some stay nimble with not too many internal members, others only go for projects they know they can hire and retain consultants for and thus grow. There’s no silver bullet
to success for your agency, but there are good time management practices you can follow.

Tip #1: Prioritize and plan every project

Effective time management begins with prioritizing and planning each project thoroughly.

project prioritization on manyrequests kanban board
Planning and prioritizing on a Kanban board is very effective for time management

For agency teams, this means understanding the scope, deliverables, and expectations of each client engagement before any work begins.

Starting with a clear plan can help ensure that your team allocates time and resources efficiently, reducing wasted effort and last-minute scrambles.

It’s important to assess the impact and urgency of each project to determine where to focus your team's efforts first.

This prioritization should be revisited as project scope and client needs evolve.

  • Identify the scope and requirements clearly to understand what is expected by the client, including any milestones or deadlines.
  • Assess resource availability to ensure that the right skills are available for the project and schedule them accordingly.
  • Set milestones and checkpoints to break the project into phases with specific outcomes, allowing for regular assessment and adjustment.

Planning is not just a one-time task at the beginning of a project.

It’s an ongoing activity that requires updating and refinement as the project progresses.

Tip #2: Use time tracking tools efficiently

Adopting time tracking platforms like ManyRequests is crucial for understanding how much time your team spends on various tasks and projects.

These tools not only help in measuring the productivity of team members but also provide critical data that can be used for client billing, resource planning, and project management.

Choose a time tracking tool that integrates seamlessly with other tools your agency uses and is easy for everyone to adopt and use daily.

  • Implement tools that provide real-time data to make informed decisions quickly.
  • Train your team on the importance of accurate time logging to ensure data integrity.
  • Regularly review time tracking data to identify trends, bottlenecks, and opportunities for efficiency improvements.

Using these tools effectively allows you to allocate resources more intelligently, ensuring that no single team member is overburdened while others are underutilized.

This balance can significantly improve productivity and prevent burnout, which is critical in maintaining a healthy work environment and sustaining high performance levels.

Tip #3: Set realistic deadlines

Setting realistic deadlines is vital for maintaining a good relationship with your clients and keeping your team morale high.

To set achievable deadlines, you need to deeply understand the capabilities of your team and the complexities of the projects.

This prevents the stressful rush that often leads to burnout and poor-quality work.

Consider potential obstacles that might cause delays and include buffers in your timelines.

  • Engage with your team to estimate tasks accurately based on their expertise and workload.
  • Communicate openly with clients about what can realistically be achieved.
  • Adjust timelines based on ongoing evaluations to ensure deadlines remain realistic.

Realistic deadlines help in setting the right expectations with the clients and internally with the team.

They also contribute to building trust and reliability, as clients appreciate transparency and the delivery of projects within agreed timeframes.

Tip #4: Delegate tasks wisely

Effective delegation is key to maximizing your team’s productivity and allowing you to focus on higher-level strategic activities.

It involves understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and assigning tasks accordingly.

This not only ensures high-quality output but also aids in employee development as they gain experience and confidence in new areas.

  • Match tasks with skills and interests to improve efficiency and job satisfaction.
  • Provide clear instructions and the necessary resources to complete the tasks.
  • Monitor progress without micromanaging, giving team members autonomy.

Wise delegation helps in leveraging the diverse capabilities of the team and fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among team members.

It also enables agency leaders to manage their time more effectively by focusing on critical areas that require their attention.

Tip #5: Implement daily 15-minute check-ins

Daily 15-minute check-ins with your team can significantly improve project progress and ensure that everyone is aligned with the agency’s overarching goals—not just those of a single project.

These meetings should be concise and focused, aimed at addressing any concerns, providing feedback, and updating on project statuses.

They serve as a platform for team members to voice any challenges they are facing and for managers to provide necessary guidance.

  • Schedule consistent and predictable check-ins to keep everyone informed and accountable.
  • Create a collaborative environment where team members can share ideas and solutions.
  • Keep meetings structured and time-bound to maintain focus and efficiency.

Regular check-ins (often called daily standups) maintain the momentum of projects and allow for adjustments in real-time, reducing the need for extensive revisions and reworks.

Tip #6: Use time blocking techniques

Time blocking is a powerful time management method that involves dedicating specific blocks of time to different tasks or activities.

This technique helps prevent multitasking and distractions by focusing on one task at a time, which can significantly improve concentration and efficiency.

Setting clear blocks of time also helps in managing the expectations of your team and clients, as they know when certain tasks will be addressed.

  • Plan your day in advance by scheduling fixed times for recurring tasks and meetings.
  • Use color-coding in your calendar to differentiate between types of activities for quick overview.
  • Review and adjust your time blocks as needed to optimize productivity.

By clearly defining when specific work will be done, team members can better manage their workload and avoid the stress of last-minute rushes.

This method also encourages a healthier work-life balance by allocating time for breaks and personal activities, ensuring that the team remains fresh and motivated.

Tip #7: Minimize distractions and interruptions

Distractions are one of the biggest productivity killers.

Creating a workspace that minimizes distractions and interruptions can significantly increase the focus and efficiency of your team.

This might involve managing how notifications are handled during work hours, reducing the number of meetings, or even structuring the digital / physical workspace to reduce interruptions.

  • Implement “focus hours” where team members are encouraged to silence communications.
  • Educate the team on managing their digital tools to minimize unnecessary notifications.
  • Create quiet zones or private areas where employees can work without disturbances.

Minimizing distractions not only improves individual productivity but also improves the overall output of the team.

As team members become more adept at managing their work environment, they can accomplish more in less time, which is beneficial for both client projects and internal tasks.

Tip #8: Automate routine processes

Automation plays a critical role in optimizing time management within an agency. By automating repetitive and routine tasks, teams can free up valuable time to focus on more complex and creative work.

screenshot of manyrequests project request automations
Automations can reduce the time it takes to deliver quality projects.

This includes using software for tasks like reporting, invoicing, or managing communications.

  • Identify repetitive tasks that can be automated with the right tools, such as data entry, scheduling, or project updates.
  • Invest in reliable automation tools that integrate well with your existing systems.
  • Regularly review and update automation processes to ensure they remain effective.

The benefits of automation extend beyond just time savings; they also reduce the likelihood of human error and ensure consistency in tasks that require a high level of accuracy.

As a result, your team can maintain a higher standard of service with less manual effort.

Tip #9: Conduct effective meetings

Meetings are essential for team collaboration and decision-making, but can also become time sinks if not managed properly.

To ensure that meetings are effective and contribute to project progress, they should be well-planned, with clear objectives and a strict agenda.

Each meeting should have a defined purpose.

And only necessary participants should be invited to attend.

  • Prepare an agenda ahead of time and share it with participants to ensure focused discussions.
  • Set a time limit for each meeting to keep discussions concise and on track.
  • Follow up with a summary of decisions and assigned actions to ensure clarity and accountability.

Effective meetings improve communication and collaboration within the team, helping to quickly resolve issues and align efforts.

They can also foster a culture of openness and inclusivity, where every team member feels valued and understood.

Tip #10: Establish clear communication channels

Clear and effective communication is foundational to successful project management and team dynamics. 

Establishing standardized communication channels can help streamline interactions and ensure that important information is shared promptly and efficiently. This involves choosing the right tools and platforms for team communications and client interactions, as well as setting guidelines for their use.

  • Select communication tools that best fit the team’s needs and client requirements (e.g. a client portal like ManyRequests’), whether for instant messaging, video calls, or project management.
  • Define protocols for communication, such as response times, appropriate use of different channels, and escalation paths for urgent issues.
  • Encourage regular feedback within the team to continuously improve communication.

By optimizing communication channels, agencies can reduce misunderstandings and delays, ensuring that information flows smoothly between all stakeholders involved in a project.

Tip #11: Encourage time management training

Investing in time management training for your team can yield significant returns by enhancing their ability to manage workloads and deadlines effectively.

Training programs can cover techniques like prioritizing, setting goals, and managing distractions, which are crucial skills in a busy agency environment.

  • Offer workshops and seminars that focus on practical time management skills and tools.
  • Incorporate time management goals into personal development plans for each team member.
  • Encourage ongoing learning by providing access to courses and materials.

By continuously improving time management skills, team members can reduce stress and increase their effectiveness on projects.

This proactive approach to professional development helps maintain a high-performance team capable of delivering excellent results consistently.

Tip #12: Leverage agile project management

Agile project management is particularly effective in agency settings where client needs and project scopes can change frequently (e.g. software development or marketing).

This methodology emphasizes flexibility, continuous improvement, and rapid delivery, which are key to adapting quickly to client demands.

Implementing agile practices involves regular sprints and meetings to assess progress and realign goals, ensuring that the team remains on track and can pivot as necessary.

  • Adopt iterative planning and feedback loops to keep projects adaptable.
  • Use scrum or kanban boards to visualize workflow and identify bottlenecks in real time.
  • Regularly schedule retrospective meetings to discuss what went well and what didn’t.

Agile methods facilitate better responsiveness to changing requirements and promote a collaborative and transparent work culture.

These practices help teams focus on delivering value quickly and efficiently, enhancing client satisfaction and team morale.

Tip #13: Monitor and manage scope creep

Scope creep, the gradual expansion of a project beyond its initial objectives, is a common challenge in agency work that can lead to missed deadlines and budget overruns.

Managing this effectively requires clear documentation of project requirements and regular communication with clients to reaffirm project boundaries.

It’s important to establish mechanisms for handling additional requests or changes that fall outside the agreed scope.

  • Define project scopes clearly in the initial contracts and ensure all stakeholders agree.
  • Implement change management processes to evaluate and approve any scope alterations.
  • Train team members to recognize scope creep and communicate potential issues early.

Proactively addressing scope creep can prevent projects from becoming unmanageable and ensure that the agency remains profitable.

It also helps maintain trust and transparency with clients, as they understand that any changes they request might require additional time and costs.

Tip #14: Optimize resource allocation

Effective resource allocation is essential for maximizing productivity and meeting project timelines. 

screenshot of manyrequests timesheet reporting to optimize resource allocation
Timesheet reporting can help you optimize resource allocation

Understanding the capabilities and capacities of your resources—both human and technical—allows for smarter decisions about task assignments and project scheduling.

This involves not only identifying the right person for each task but also ensuring that workloads are balanced to avoid overburdening team members.

  • Use resource management tools like ManyRequests to track availability and allocate resources based on project demands and individual skills.
  • Regularly review resource allocations to ensure they remain optimal as projects progress.
  • Plan for contingencies by having a flexible resource pool available at all times.

Optimizing resource allocation improves efficiency and effectiveness, reducing the likelihood of project delays and quality issues.

It also improves employee satisfaction by ensuring that workloads are manageable and aligned with each team member’s skills and career goals.

Tip #15: Evaluate and adjust processes regularly

Regular evaluation of processes and workflows is crucial to identifying inefficiencies and areas for improvement. This should be an ongoing effort that involves feedback from all team members.

  • Schedule periodic reviews of all key agency processes, from client intake to project delivery.
  • Encourage team members to contribute ideas for process improvements.
  • Implement changes in small increments to minimize disruption and measure impact.

Continuous process evaluation makes operations easier to manage and helps your agency stay competitive by adapting quickly to new challenges and opportunities

Tip #16: Focus on high-value activities

Identifying and focusing on high-value activities improves the productivity and profitability of your agency. 

These are the tasks that contribute most directly to client satisfaction and the bottom line.

  • Analyze projects to determine which tasks have the greatest impact on project success.
  • Train team members to recognize and prioritize these high-value tasks in their daily workflows.
  • Review project outcomes regularly to ensure that high-value tasks are being executed effectively and adjust strategies as needed.

By focusing on high-value activities, your agency can deliver better results more efficiently, enhancing client relationships and fostering a reputation for excellence.

This strategic focus also helps in resource allocation, ensuring that the best talent and effort are directed toward the most critical aspects of any project.

Tip #17: Build in buffer times for projects

Including buffer times in project schedules is a practical strategy to accommodate unforeseen delays and ensure timely delivery.

calendar view of time allocated to specific projects
Having a clear weekly view of allocated project and buffer times is key

Buffers help manage the inevitable uncertainties of project work, such as unexpected client requests or team member absences.

Planning for these buffers can prevent a chain reaction of delays across multiple projects, which can lead to missed deadlines and increased stress.

  • Incorporate buffer times at critical project stages to accommodate delays and revisions.
  • Communicate the importance of these buffers to clients and team members.
  • Monitor the use of buffer times to understand their impact on project flow.

Properly managed buffer times improve the ability to meet deadlines and reduce the pressure on team members by providing a more realistic and flexible work schedule. This approach improves overall project management and client satisfaction by setting more achievable timelines.

Tip #18: Promote a culture of accountability

Promoting a culture of accountability within an agency helps deliver better projects on time. When team members take ownership of their tasks and deadlines, they take responsibility for the outcome.

Leadership should model accountability and provide clear expectations and regular feedback to support this culture.

  • Set clear objectives and metrics that allow team members to understand their work’s impact.
  • Recognize and reward behaviors that demonstrate contribution to agency goals.
  • Provide regular feedback and coaching to help individuals improve their performance.

A culture of accountability ensures that projects are completed efficiently and builds trust among team members / clients.

This transparency and reliability leads to better project outcomes.

Tip #19: Review and reflect on time usage

Regularly reviewing how time is spent within the agency provides invaluable insights into productivity and efficiency. This reflection should extend beyond simple tracking to analyze the effectiveness of time spent on different activities and projects at a strategic level (e.g. increasing prices, changing services, etc.)

  • Implement systems to capture comprehensive data on how employees spend their time.
  • Encourage team members to reflect on their time usage and discuss their insights.
  • Use the findings from time reviews to make decisions about your business model.

This ongoing review process supports continuous improvement, helps you increase (or simply retain) profitability, and ensures you maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

Time is your agency’s biggest success factor

You can’t run a successful agency without understanding the way it spends its time.

It’s simply too hard to build a business off of gut feeling alone; especially if you start managing dozens of projects at once.

Platforms like ManyRequests solve this problem for you.

manyrequests dashboard
ManyRequests offers a single dashboard to manage all your projects

Thanks to its live time tracking system connected directly to customer projects, the platform is capable of telling you exactly how much time each team member is spending on various requests, giving you the financial insight you need to grow your business.

On top of this, ManyRequests also:

  • Makes it easy to see all projects and customers at once
  • Gives customers self-service access to assets and project deliverables
  • Allows you to sell services directly and onboard new customers
  • Provides flexible integrations with external tools

Try it out with a 14-day free trial, no credit card required.

It's a boon for your agency's time management needs.