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What to do When you Have Ten Pounds of Material, but you Only Have a Five Pound Bag

The recent on-going transition of the Wal-Mart account into the agency reflects a situation that we often face in the advertising business, especially on the Account Management side. Specifically, what do you do when you have an overwhelming workload and not enough time or resources to get it all done. While it is unusual to face this situation in Wal-Mart proportions, it is often reflected in the uneven nature of the work flow on our accounts.

So here are some tips, most of which should be common sense.

  • Once you have a handle on all of the work/projects that need to be done, sort them by importance and urgency as follows

    • Focus your efforts primarily on high importance and high urgency tasks, as these are likely to have the biggest impact on the business and more of the client’s attention.

    • Invest time on the high importance, low urgency projects, as they will likely become more urgent over time.

    • Knock off a low importance, high urgency task every once in a while to get them out of the way.

    • Ignore the low importance, low urgency tasks. They’ll likely go away on their own, anyway.
  • If you determine that you’re in real trouble, raise your hand. You will not have failed if you have to go to your supervisor or manager and ask for help. And it will result in two good outcomes – you’ll get the help you need to get the work done and you won’t stress yourself out.
  • Be aware that if you’re not able to complete all the work within the hours that we’ve budgeted, then we either have to hire more people or amend the contract with the client, or both.
  • Above all, try to stay cool, calm and collected, even if you feel emotionally stressed out. We don’t want the client to feel that we’re not in control. And don’t forget, junior people are looking to you as a role model and example of how they should behave under stress.


The uneven nature of the work flow will often create overloads and stress periods. And as the old saying goes, “when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp”.  But as good account managers we need to put a premium on keeping a clear, logical head and remaining unflappable at all times.


Bruce Kelley

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