Time Management

Working Forward.


I decided to give myself a New Year’s gift: the control of my days and bigger measures of satisfaction, productivity and closure. And in this first Drift of 2020, I’m sharing it with you.

I’m calling the idea Working Forward. It’s perhaps a little bit scientific, but mostly it’s just highly logical and intentional. Here goes.

Starting this week, I am breaking my days into three uneven blocks of time. My first block in the day is 90 minutes long; it’s blocked on my calendar and labeled Writing, Proposals, Productivity. Any work that requires analysis, creativity or detailed writing happens in this block. Specifically excluded from this block are email, phone calls, texts and meetings. Behavioral science tells us that we are all more productive, creative, strategic and analytical early in the day. So, if I have a proposal to write, a workshop to plan, employee reviews to draft – or this edition of The Drift to produce – it happens in this block.

Most sellers end their meetings right before things get good. Prime information and qualification don’t happen until a closing question gets asked. In a short, time-efficient workshop, Upstream Group can walk your team through the process and role-play the very-real-life scenarios they face in the market. Reach out today. The consult is free.

Then I cross off or reschedule the work I’d planned for Block One and move onto Block Two… the longest part of my day. Labeled Communication and Engagement, Block Two is where I start doing scheduled calls, engage with my inbox and work with my team, both in scheduled meetings and ad hoc. This is when I’ll follow up on outstanding proposals and pick up stalled communication. It’s the part of my day that probably looks the most like yours, but with a twist: I go into this work having already been significantly productive. I’m fresher, more confident, more energized going into the back and forth of the day. As I move through Block Two, I’ll invariably commit to producing stuff that takes time and thought. You guessed it: that stuff gets marked for upcoming Block One time.

The closing chapter of the day, Block Three is critical. I save the final 30 minutes of the day to schedule the next day’s Block One.  I start each day with a plan for what I’m going to build or create, and then start building and creating right out of the gate.  Then I close the book on today and do the important things that renew and refresh…. have dinner with my wife, talk on the phone with a friend, read a book, watch something good. I’m betting that Working Forward is going to help me be more present and enjoy my off-time that much more. I hope it does the same for you.

But why Working Forward? It’s because most of us go at things in the wrong order. We meander into our days by wading into a swamp of email. We lock into a reactive posture that we never recover from. We delay getting important stuff done until we’re tired and worn out – and it’s too late. Our days bleed into our evenings and we’re never fully committed to the task – or the person – in front of us.

I believe we deserve better. And today I’m acting on that belief. I hope you do as well. Happy New Year.


Tick. Tick. Tick…


When I work with managers and sellers in our business there’s one issue that almost always comes up: Time. Finding it, managing it, understanding where it goes. Our business may not necessarily be more intense or frenetic than many others, but it can seem that way. And the very tools that are supposed to help us control time and manage productivity often have just the opposite effect.

I can’t solve all of your issues with the calendar and the clock, but if you’re one of those who ends up asking “So what the hell did I end up doing all day?” at 6 pm, here are a few ideas.

Take Back the First Hour. Millions of American workers start their day on email. Tragic mistake. Instead of a plan for the day or some much needed creative time, we go north to south through the inbox. We prioritize communication based on who wrote to us most recently. 15 or 20 minutes in, we start seeing the replies to our replies. Most of us never recover. Instead, declare a moratorium for the first 60 minutes of the day (OK, a half hour for the seriously addicted.) Use that “pre-mail” block of time to set priorities, make a plan, or maybe just think about a problem or opportunity.

Could you and your sales team stand a little disruption?  Want to take some new looks at seemingly-intractable sales problems?  If you’re a qualified media sales leader, request your invitation to Seller Forum on Wednesday March 7th in New York.  Better yet, sign up for a season’s pass and secure 1 or 2 seats at each of our 2018 Forums.  Go to TheSellerForum.com for more information.

Opt out of the String. People CC you on email strings unnecessarily for lots of reasons; sometimes just because they want you to know they’re ‘working.’ Unless you tell them otherwise, they’ll keep doing it. Respond to the string with a comment and they think you actually like it. So tell them already. “Thanks for copying me, but please drop me from the string now. I know you guys can handle this without me.”

Does it Have to Be a Meeting? One thing that kills the calendar and deadens the soul is the proliferation of meetings within companies. There are too many of them, they include too many people, and they almost always lack any productive framework or focus. People are late, they are distracted while there, and they end in confusion and ambivalence. Once you start to push back on meetings – “I’m not sure I need to be part of this?”… “Why do you need me there?” – you start to realize that much of what’s been drawing you into the perpetual meeting is nothing more than fear and inertia.

…and Does it Have to be 30 Minutes? Why do we always meet around a conference table in 30 or 60 minute blocks? Good question. Try the 5/15 meeting instead: A stand up meeting that lasts no less than 5 but no more than 15 minutes. The 5/15 must be centered on a question to be answered or an issue to be solved, and whoever calls the 5/15 must send the question in advance.

Account for Just One Day. It’s an old bromide, but it’s true. Write down everything you do for a single day. It’s eye opening. Only when you get some sense of where the time goes, you can’t begin to control it.

This Drift was originally posted in 2014. But hey….timeless, right?


It’s About Time.


It's About TimeAs we’re away on vacation this week, we are rerunning this timeless post from 2014 on — time.  We’ll go dark next week and return with fresh content the week of July 11th.  We want to send special thanks to Krux, our underwriter for much of the past six months, as this marks then end of their current sponsorship run.

When I work with managers and sellers in our business there’s one issue that almost always comes up: Time. Finding it, managing it, understanding where it goes. Our business may not necessarily be more intense or frenetic than many others, but it can seem that way. And the very tools that are supposed to help us control time and manage productivity often have just the opposite effect.

I can’t solve all of your issues with the calendar and the clock, but if you’re one of those who ends up asking “So what the hell did I end up doing all day?” at 6 pm, here are a few ideas.

Take Back the First Hour. Millions of American workers start their day on email. Tragic mistake. Instead of a plan for the day or some much needed creative time, we go north to south through the inbox. We priority communication based on who wrote to us most recently. 15 or 20 minutes in, we start seeing the replies to our replies. Most of us never recover. Instead, declare a moratorium for the first 60 minutes of the day (OK, a half hour for the seriously addicted.) Use that “pre-mail” block of time to set priorities, make a plan, or maybe just think about a problem or opportunity.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

Opt out of the String. People CC you on email strings unnecessarily for lots of reasons; sometimes just because they want you to know they’re ‘working.’ Unless you tell them otherwise, they’ll keep doing it. Respond to the string with a comment and they think you actually like it. So tell them already. “Thanks for copying me, but please drop me from the string now. I know you guys can handle this without me.”

Does it Have to Be a Meeting? One thing that kills the calendar and deadens the soul is the proliferation of meetings within companies. There are too many of them, they include too many people, and they almost always lack any productive framework or focus. People are late, they are distracted while there, and they end in confusion and ambivalence. Once you start to push back on meetings – “I’m not sure I need to be part of this?”… “Why do you need me there?” – you start to realize that much of what’s been drawing you into the perpetual meeting is nothing more than fear and inertia.

…and Does it Have to be 30 Minutes? Why do we always meet around a conference table in 30 or 60 minute blocks? Good question. Try the 5/15 meeting instead: A stand up meeting that lasts no less than 5 but no more than 15 minutes. The 5/15 must be centered on a question to be answered or an issue to be solved, and whoever calls the 5/15 must send the question in advance.

Account for Just One Day. It’s an old bromide, but it’s true. Write down everything you do for a single day. It’s eye opening. Only when you get some sense of where the time goes, you can’t begin to control it.


Outta Time.


When I work with managers and sellers in our business there’s one issue that almost always comes up: Time. Finding it, managing it, understanding where it goes. Our business may not necessarily be more intense or frenetic than many others, but it can seem that way. And the very tools that are supposed to help us control time and manage productivity often have just the opposite effect.

I can’t solve all of your issues with the calendar and the clock, but if you’re one of those who ends up asking “So what the hell did I end up doing all day?” at 6 pm, here are a few ideas.

Take Back the First Hour. Millions of American workers start their day on email. Tragic mistake. Instead of a plan for the day or some much needed creative time, we go north to south through the inbox. We priority communication based on who wrote to us most recently. 15 or 20 minutes in, we start seeing the replies to our replies. Most of us never recover. Instead, declare a moratorium for the first 60 minutes of the day (OK, a half hour for the seriously addicted.) Use that “pre-mail” block of time to set priorities, make a plan, or maybe just think about a problem or opportunity.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by comScore. For media sellers, comScore helps demonstrate the quality of their inventory in traditional and programmatic environments as well as provide tools for internal pricing and packaging. VIDEO and display environments benefit from detailed information about demographics, viewability and non-human traffic.

Opt out of the String. People CC you on email strings unnecessarily for lots of reasons; sometimes just because they want you to know they’re ‘working.’ Unless you tell them otherwise, they’ll keep doing it. Respond to the string with a comment and they think you actually like it. So tell them already. “Thanks for copying me, but please drop me from the string now. I know you guys can handle this without me.”

Does it Have to Be a Meeting? One thing that kills the calendar and deadens the soul is the proliferation of meetings within companies. There are too many of them, they include too many people, and they almost always lack any productive framework or focus. People are late, they are distracted while there, and they end in confusion and ambivalence. Once you start to push back on meetings – “I’m not sure I need to be part of this?”… “Why do you need me there?” – you start to realize that much of what’s been drawing you into the perpetual meeting is nothing more than fear and inertia.

…and Does it Have to be 30 Minutes? Why do we always meet around a conference table in 30 or 60 minute blocks? Good question. Try the 5/15 meeting instead: A stand up meeting that lasts no less than 5 but no more than 15 minutes. The 5/15 must be centered on a question to be answered or an issue to be solved, and whoever calls the 5/15 must send the question in advance.

Account for Just One Day. It’s an old bromide, but it’s true. Write down everything you do for a single day. It’s eye opening. Only when you get some sense of where the time goes, you can’t begin to control it.


The Best of The Drift, 2013: The Selling Stuff.


Best of the Drift 2013 The Sellign StuffLast week we began our year-end wrap up with a look back at the top Drift posts related to industry trends and developments.  But as our regular readers know, The Drift also offers hard-core sales advice to those who put themselves on the line every day selling digital media or technology services.  For all of you who drive our business forward based on how you sell, here’s a Christmas Week collection that just may get your 2014 off on the right foot.  Happy Holidays from all of us at Upstream Group.

“The Agenda Vacuum.”   Things not going well on your sales calls?  It could well be that you’re suffering from the lack of a proactive, challenging agenda.  Without one, all you can do is react and respond, which always puts the seller at his worst.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic. With PubMatic’s platform, publishers have the ability to offer their inventory to over 400 global Demand Partners – ad networks, demand side platforms, ad exchanges, and agency trading desks – and have on demand access to all the software, tools and services they need to realize the full potential of their digital assets.

“Straw Men.”   Looking for some good advice on objection management?  Stop managing them until you know whether they’re even real.  An ounce of qualification is worth a hundred pounds of argument.  Recognize the “straw man” objections for what they really are.

“Being Curious.”  A little curiosity goes a long way in a sales situation.  But don’t just show up with an open notebook and a bunch of questions:  start your discovery well before the meeting and then let your real curiosity guide you through.

“Hacking Your To-Do List.”   OK, so this one isn’t sales advice per se.  But LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s list of “26 Time Management Hacks I wish I’d known at 20” is priceless. Here we serve up a few of our faves.

“Don’t.”   Much of great sales performance is about what you stop doing.  So, like, just stop doing all this stuff.

“Once More, With Feeling.”   Stop playing a role and actually care about the difference you’re making for your customer.  It’s amazing how much more powerful  empathy feels when it’s genuine.  In 2014 shake off any lingering sense of cynicism and care, dammit, care!

“Change the Conversation.”   Like Don Draper so often says on Mad Men, “If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation.”  But how to introduce a proactive new conversation?  Easier than you might think.

“The Child Inside Your Customer.”   We built hugely complex arguments and decks to impress our customers.  But in the end they have only three real questions:  “What Did You Bring Me?”  “Where are we going?”  And “When Are We Going to Get There?”

“Your Cheatin’ Heart.”   As Rishad Tobaccowala said at our Seller Forum this fall, “In times of change, clients become polygamous.”  How to thrive in a world full of cheaters?  Read on.

“The Fab Five.”   Five things super successful digital people do all the time.  So, again, not just about sales.  But who can’t benefit from a list like this?