5 Days of Work Doesn’t Fit into 4 Days

The no-work-on-Monday-because-it’s-a-holiday workweek. (Thanks, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.)

Ah yes, another wonderfully-long weekend that’s benefits wear off once we’re back at work.  Let’s cram 5 days of work into 4 days now, shall we?


Why should the fact that we all had permission to take one day off mean longer hours and more stress for the next four or more days?  It shouldn’t.  I don’t need to argue this point any further, do I?  You’re with me.  Simply put, we can enjoy our day(s) off and not pull our hair out when we come back to work.


Well, the best way is to PLAN AHEAD.  If you’re reading this after the holiday, the next best ways – PRIORITIZE & CLEARLY COMMUNICATE.

What can you cut from your workweek?  We’re looking for a 20% cut here.  Prioritize what you can realistically handle during the short week.  Delegate to someone else, streamline the process, delete the item or delay the task to next week in order to make your few days in the office more manageable.

PRIORITIZE –> Delegate – Streamline – Delete – Delay – Do

Right now, take 14 minutes and write down everything you thought you were going to have to tackle this four-day week (including your dentist appointment, happy hour with the client, etc.).  Then mark each task with delegate, streamline, delete, delay or do.  For each, jot down a note of whom else needs to be involved in order to make this happen.  Remember, we’re shooting for a 20% cut here – saving you 8 hours of time or more.  To clarify, your list is going to have a lot of “Do’s” still on written on it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that your priorities are also your boss’s priorities.  It’s a good idea (not imperative) to check in with your Creative Director, Creative Manager, whomever necessary to confirm that you are focusing on what they would also deem as the top priorities.  The key to successfully delegating, streamlining deleting and delaying tasks is clearly communicating with those involved what you are doing and why (more on this point later).


Advertising Creatives, can you delegate anything to the production studio, an intern or the account team?  If so, clearly communicate with those involved in the project what responsibilities have been transferred and to whom.  Freelancers, can you delegate any tasks to a virtual assistant or webmaster?


Are you able to streamline your day by not attending a meeting and asking the account manager to e-mail you the key points that will affect the creative?  Before the meeting, let all the attendees know of this plan and the reasons behind it.  Can you get on the phone with the strategy team, account team and project management/operations team all at once instead of meeting with each in person separately?  How can you set up your files on your computer this week to save yourself time?


What can you delete from your day: Designing nine comps before checking in with your Creative Director?  Answering that call from your long-winded brother-in-law?  Getting caught up on the latest celebrity gossip?  Checking Twitter every hour?


Creatives, what can you delay until next week that won’t negatively rock your world next week: Being briefed on a project that has a long lead-time?  Updating your Adobe software?  Posting your Monday-was-a-holiday photos on Facebook?


Yes, it may seem like a bunch of back-and-forth will be necessary to delegate, streamline, delay and delete tasks.  When choosing these tasks, keep in mind which are more likely to go smoothly and which will save you the most time.  If missing a 30-minute meeting is going to take you 15 minutes to get out of, is it worth it?  It might be a better use of your time to walk over to your Creative Director’s office and unofficially meet with him about the direction your comps are going before you spend the next 3 hours on them.  You may not need to do all the strategies mentioned above.  If you’re lucky, you may only need to negotiate around two tasks on your To Do List.


Trouble – you will run into it if you neglect clearly communicating.  Inform the people you work with that you are prioritizing and appropriately managing your time for the short workweek.  You’ll get bonus points if you throw in some phases like, “the attention this project deserves,” “focused, quality effort,” “to respect your time as well,” if they are genuine.

Please know that this doesn’t mean that you have to walk every assistant account manager through the list of what you are prioritizing to do this week and what items you’re delegating, streamlining, deleting or delaying.  Share what is necessary with who is necessary.  This is all about saving time.

Also, using the strategies above does not give you permission to be difficult (not that you would).  Keep the delicate balance of creating boundaries while remaining flexible.


I’ve been there; I know what it’s like to have 5 days worth of work that is expected to be crammed into 4 days.  By prioritizing and clearly communicating, you can shift those expectations. 

After all, you shouldn’t be expected to make up the labor that you missed celebrating a holiday like Labor Day.  By shifting and managing expectations this holiday week, you set the new standard for holidays and shortened weeks to come.

By the way, the next Federal holiday in the U.S. is Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.  That gives you time to plan ahead.

Inspiration Event List & A Question for You

Lately, I’ve been writing quite a bit – some weeks busting out three articles a week for Advertising Week and the Examiner – and yet, I’ve ignored this blog.  I’m sorry, friends.

To start making up for it, I’ll give you a couple quality posts this coming month; I promise.  If you’d like me to address something specific about moving up in your career, creating work-life balance, or something else creative career related, please leave a comment below (or e-mail me privately at angela@definingsuccesscoaching.com).

In the meantime, check out the fun list I created for an article on inspiration.  These are life experience-type ideas that don’t take as much time or commitment as the usual examples of traveling, skydiving, learning a language or taking an art class.  Give some of these a try (or let them inspire you to create your own list) that you can pull from when you hit a creative block:

  • Watch a foreign film (with or without the subtitles)
  • Hang out in a store you’d be embarrassed to be caught in
  • Crash a party or happy hour (You get extra points if it’s an industry-specific event for an industry you know little about. Hint: These are constantly taking place in hotel ballrooms.)
  • Search for the perfect gift for the weirdest person you know (and who isn’t a close friend)
  • Learn to fix something mechanical (e.g., old clock, typewriter, motor)
  • Eat at a foreign restaurant where you know nothing about the type of food
  • Attend an open mic or beat poetry night
  • Go to the most bizarre niche MeetUp group event you can find
  • Get to know festival/carnival/fair workers and their stories (Yes, befriending carnies will inspire you. Trust my experience.)
  • Volunteer at a food bank
  • Spend time in a musical instrument store (if you don’t usually)
  • Play with Mad Libs

Read the full article on ways to get unstuck creatively, if you’d like.  If you do, you’ll learn about my “carny days.”

Remember to leave a comment (or e-mail me directly) if you have something you’d like this blog to answer for you.  What would you like help with?

How NOT to Manage Creative People

The Harvard Business Review published the blog post “Seven Rules for Managing Creative People” by professor Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.  And wow, was it wrong! 

The professor starts by over-generalizing and negatively portraying creative people. Here’s how the blog post begins:

“Moody, erratic, eccentric, and arrogant? Perhaps — but you can’t just get rid of them.”

What a way to preframe the readers’ thoughts about creative people.  It continues…

“In fact, unless you learn to get the best out of your creative employees, you will sooner or later end up filing for bankruptcy. Conversely, if you just hire and promote people who are friendly and easy to manage, your firm will be mediocre at best.”

For someone who is an “international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing,” it’s surprising that he hasn’t met the friendly, easy to manage, innovative, and award-winning creative types that I have worked with.  There are no two types of creatives – decent people verse innovative people.

I’ve worked with hundreds of creatives and if categories of creatives were to exist, the number of categories would be in the double digits.  A very small percentage may be “moody and arrogant,” but the majority are brilliant, kind people.  Many of which I call my friends.

The Harvard Business Review blog post feels like an attack on my friends, on my previous co-workers, on my clients, on the advertising and design industry as a whole, and on me personally.

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic might be able to get away with writing something like this if it pertained to teenage private art school students (maybe), but this article is slamming professionals.

And does the professor not know that competition and deadlines push creative people to actually create?  Not only does he state, “The worst thing you can do to a creative employee is to force them to work with someone like them — they would compete for ideas, brainstorm eternally, or simply ignore each other,” but also he goes on to say that creatives shouldn’t have to follow processes or structures.  No competition and no accountability.

Then he advises to pay creative people poorly because the more you pay people to do what they love, the less they will love it.  WHAT?!  But while you’re paying them poorly, make them feeeel important.  And remember, that you should not let them manage others because creative people are rarely gifted with leadership skills.  WHO IS THIS GUY?!

More than 350 people have commented on the blog post asking the same thing.  My favorite comment is: Looking forward to your follow up “How To Survive Extraordinarily High Turnover.”  You see, because if this professor managed creatives hands on according to his tips, he would be fired based on the extremely high rate of creatives running from the building.

The scariest part is that Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the co-founder of metaprofiling.com, a company that is designed to identify employees’ creative and entrepreneurial potential.  I’d hate to think of how he’d treat those who score the highest on metaprofiling’s creative scale.  As a “leading authority in talent management” according to the metaprofiling website, think of the advice he’s giving to the companies he’s consulting.

As for how to manage creative people (from someone who has managed creative people for years), here are my rebuttal tips – 

Eight Rules to Managing Creative People:

1.  Ask them what motivates them and then motivate them that way

2.  Create the best synergy possible by surrounding the best creatives with the best creatives and encourage competition as well as collaboration

3.  Don’t waste their time and talent on meaningless briefs

4.  Have real deadlines and accountability otherwise little will get created and/or you’ll lose their respect

5.  Pay creative people what they’re worth and then some knowing that creatives are in high demand and no two people are the same

6.  Make them feel important because they are

7.  Give them the opportunity to lead and encourage the growth of their leadership skills

8.  Treat Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s blog post as if it were written for The Onion 

To This Day Project – Animated Video with a Heart-Centered Message

When artists, designers, animators, and all the talented people who choose to work in advertising and graphic design come together to produce something like this…there aren’t words…

It’s human.  It’s real.  It’s beautiful.

To This Day Project

Spoken Word Poem by Shane Koyczan

Animation by Giant Ant

Full Credits



Publicly Venting on The Creative Confessional

[written and posted Jan. 25, 2013]

What is the advertising industry about?

Over and over again (ad nauseum) I hear creatives say they want to “make cool shit.”  Awesome.  But what are some (maybe most) doing instead of dressing ponies in sweaters and creating krakens that kidnap right now? Whining.

Wait.  Hold on a minute.  I love advertising creatives.  I have the highest respect for great art directors, copywriters and graphic designers.  And I understand that some clients are hard to work with, some projects suck, and account managers will inevitably get on your nerves.  I get it- creatives need to vent.

But do they need to vent on The Creative Confessional for the world to see?  Many people already hate advertising; they hate what it’s about and the people who create it.  And yet, this week advertising professionals have aired the dirtiest of their laundry anonymously, yes, but publicly online.  Couldn’t that time venting and then reading others’ confessions be spent “making cool shit,” maybe?

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Sure, some of the posts are industry inside jokes.


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Yet, some creative confessions are downright depressing, hurtful or frightening.











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What do you think?  Is it all fun and games, or are we shooting ourselves (and the advertising industry) in the foot?  Is this creative confessional what it’s all about?

Are these posts what we want the advertising industry to be known for?


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Why Are Freelance Advertising Creatives Failing?

Why aren't freelance advertising creatives making the money their talent deserves? (photo credit: efffective.com)

Why aren’t freelance advertising creatives making the money their talent deserves? (photo credit: efffective.com)

Freelance advertising creatives – art directors, copywriters and graphic designers – have great potential but often fall short in creating and maintaining a successful advertising freelance business.  Getting enough clients to sustain a full-time, lucrative business is the main challenge.  CLIENTS = MONEY  Freelance creatives aren’t landing clients so they aren’t making money (or enough money to continue freelancing and maintain their lifestyle).

Why is that?  Why are many talented advertising creatives unable to make money as freelancers?

Because of their brains.  Some of the best creatives are much more creative-minded than business-minded, much more right-brained than left-brained.*


Because they don’t connect one on one.  While advertising art directors, copywriters and graphic designers have perfected the art of  connecting with the masses through, let’s say, a print ad, they aren’t experienced in generating client leads person by person.


Because they go straight for the jugular…I mean…sale.  It’s a rookie mistake to pitch your services to a potential client before understanding if the individual and/or business is even interested and if so, what their true needs are.  Imagine pitching a serious brochure when a business wants a funny microsite.  Now imagine overwhelming an individual with talk of social media, web banners and mobile apps when they haven’t the slightest idea of what they want their logo to look like.  Freelancers must understand a potential client’s needs and then communicate how as an advertising creative professional they can meet those needs.


Because they offer everything upfront.  Many creatives can do it all; they can create fully integrated campaigns and they can art direct and write.  Even if they can do everything, there are certain things they do better and enjoy doing more.  The freelancers that are having a harder time making money, are the ones who are offering everything upfront and not specializing.  Whether it’s designing packaging or writing radio scripts, freelancers who market themselves as an expert in an area are sought out by clients who need their expertise.  Once a freelancer is hired for what they’re known for, they can offer the client everything else.  For instance, a designer who is hired because of their specialty with packaging can also recommend he or she designs the business cards, brochures, print ads, landing pages, etc., in the same look and feel.


Because they don’t target their ideal clients.  Ideal clients are the individuals or businesses that the freelancer is genuinely interested in and THAT HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY the freelancer.  As an advertising creative career coach, I primarily coach and consult senior- to executive-level creatives.  While I have a soft spot for helping students and juniors (and I do as much as possible), younger creatives aren’t my target audience. As a business owner, I must market to those who can afford the services I provide.  And currently, more than half of my clients freelance or own their own businesses, which I work with them to grow.

OR many talented advertising creatives are unable to make money as freelancers…

Because they don’t follow up.  Freelance creatives aren’t politely persistent – calling, e-mailing, stopping by in person, etc. – until they get a yes or a no.

As a freelancer, which of these is holding you back?  Post it in the comments below.

The good news is that while inherent creativity can’t be learned, business and sales skills can be learned.  Freelance creatives can succeed if they invest more of themselves in learning that left-brain, business side.


(*Side note: I am almost equally right-brained and left-brained. My creative side is a notch above my business side. Both sides came in handy when I was managing the creative department at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and now both benefit my clients as I coach and consult them to get unstuck, reach their goals and finally feel satisfied.)

Color & Branding

Color.  It plays an important role in design, branding and our everyday lives.

Color affects us.  It affects our emotions, our heart rate, our choices.

PBS released a mini documentary in its Off Book series entitled “The Effect of Color” [included at the end of this blog post].  The 7-minute video produced by Kornhaber Brown features color experts Thomas Bosket of Parsons The New School for Design, Leslie Harrington of Color Associate, Doty Horn of Fashion Institute Technology and representatives of www.mr-gif.com.

3 Main Takeaways from “The Effect of Color” Documentary

1. Color affects us physiologically and psychologically, soulfully and mentally

2. The 3 Types of Color Associations:


Often physiological: When in a red room, our heart rate increases, we talk more and eat more. When on the red carpet, we walk faster.


Often a learned response


Connected to our experiences

3. Economic, social, political, technological and environmental influencers drive the ebb and flow of color trends throughout history.  For example, during an economic downturn, people gravitate toward colors they perceive as safe.

Color in Your Branding

When creating your own personal brand, freelance business, or start-up company, consider your color choices carefully.  In The Effect of Color documentary the point was made that when you choose to wear a color, you are saying to the world, “This is me because I’m wearing this color.”  The same goes for your branding.

Color Affects Your Potential Clients

The colors of your logo and marketing materials will affect your potential clients.

Recognize how your potential clients universally and culturally associate with certain colors.  Unless their experiences are closely related to yours, cut out what you individually associate with a color.  (e.g., The color yellow may only make you think of your grandmother.)

Look at the colors of the branding your target audience is already respond to.  Are they responding to colors that are calm? Colors that convey luxury?  Funky, uncommon colors?  Safe colors? A certain combination of colors?  How do your consumers react to the simplicity or boldness of black & white?

One of the guys from Mr. GIF stated that, “You can make anything as long as you make it look intentional.”

Countless resources exist about the meaning of colors.  When searching in Google for “meaning of colors,” 92,100,000 results come up.  Knowing that, do some research, notice what your potential clients are responding to, play around with different colors, ask people you know in your target audience specific questions about the colors you are considering, and go from there.

E-mail Me for Color Advice

If you’d like my opinion on possible color choices, then e-mail me: angela@definingsuccesscoaching.com.  After all, I did my honor’s thesis in undergrad on “The Effects of Color in Advertising Across Generations.”

“The Effect of Color” Documentary


The Top 5 People who can get You Hired as an Advertising Creative

Do you know the top five people who can get you hired as an advertising art director, copywriter or graphic designer?

Often advertising creatives find themselves repeatedly applying to job postings or e-mailing the careers@theirdreamagency.com address with little-to-no response.  If you want a response, if you want that job as an art director, writer or designer at a top agency, you need to connect with and build relationships with the top five people who can get you hired.

Depending on the advertising agency, the order may switch up for the top five people who can hire you.

The Top 5 People Who Can Get You Hired as an Advertising Creative

  1. Creative Recruiters inside the agency
  2. Creative Directors – ECDs, GCDs, CDs, ACDs & Design Directors inside the agency
  3. People who know Creatives inside the agency
  4. People who know anyone inside the agency
  5. HR inside the agency

Did you notice how important it is to make connections INSIDE the agency where you want to work?

Yes, other people can help get you hired inside an agency – outside recruiters, your alumni association, your uncle – but start by concentrating on the top five.

Remember, it’s about building a relationship.  To spell it out: it isn’t about e-mailing your portfolio once and crossing your fingers nor is it about annoying the heck out of these people begging for a job daily or even weekly.  There’s a way to do it, but that’s another blog.

The Top 15 Sayings Graphic Designers Hate

Graphic Designers all around the world cringe when they hear the following:

(in no particular order)


1.  “Make the logo bigger.”

2.  “Work your magic.”

3.  “You can grab all the images you need, like the company logo, off of our website.”

4.  “I need it done yesterday.”

5.  “My wife had some thoughts…”

6.  “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it.”

7.  “Make it pop.”

8.  “Take it to the next level.”

9.  “Think outside the box.”

10.  “Make it edgy.”

11.  “Make it sexy.”

12.  “Can we fill all the empty space?”

13.  “I started the design already; I’ll send you the Publisher file.”

14.  “Don’t spend much time on all these changes because we don’t have the budget.”

15.  (At revision round 9) “Can we go back to what you showed in the first round?”


And to get the bad taste out of your mouth, here’s the best thing a Graphic Designer can hear:

“I wish I had thought of that!”

(especially when coming from someone in the industry)


Post the sayings you love or hate to hear as a designer in the comments.

It’s All In How You Look At It

Past group coaching client, Ian, describing one of his commissioned paintings.

A Client’s Presentation

This last weekend I drove up to wine country to support one of my past group coaching clients, Ian, a professional illustrator.  Ian was speaking on “The Power of Story in Art.”

As he spoke on symbolism, perspective and sharing a story through art, he showed examples from Leonardo da Vinci, Norman Rockwell, Ernest Hemingway (yes, the writer) as well as examples of his own personal pieces.  The audience enjoyed his presentation so much they asked for an encore.  Ian was flexible and able to pull together a second presentation in a matter of minutes.

It’s an incredible feeling to watch a client succeed.  To soar.


Reflecting on Ian’s presentation (the prepared one), I can close my eyes and see the lines he drew on a da Vinci painting to explain perspective.  The perspective draws viewers in and directs their focus.

Let’s take that thought – that perspective directs focus – and apply it to our own lives.

Work Feedback

I am an advocate of the 360-degree employee review.  As an advertising creative, your growth may depend on what not only your Creative Directors think of your work but also how the Account Directors like working with you, how receptive you are to the Planners’ recommendations, how much other creatives like partnering up with you, whether or not clients like you and so on.  Without the different perspectives, you don’t know where to improve, where to focus.

Life Feedback

Outside of work, others’ perspectives can help you see blind spots too.  How does your family perceive you?  What do your friends think are your strengths?  What is your reputation in the community?  What do others constantly wish you would do but you are clueless about?

Why not ask?

Ask your network – your brother, best friend, neighbor, the waitor you see weekly, your kids’ babysitter – what they think about you.

    • What are your best skills?
    • What are your talents?
    • How would they describe your personality?
    • What do they admire about you?
    • How would they like to see you change and grow?
    • What do they think you would really love to try doing?
    • What would they like to say to you but haven’t before?

You can come up with scales for different qualities that are important to you.

For instance, on a scale from 1 to 10 how ______ are you?  Where the blank can be filled with:

    •  Confident
    • Patient
    • Open
    • Fair
    • Accepting
    • Creative
    • Fun
    • Loving
    • Thoughtful
    • Giving
    • Dedicated

But can you really ask for perspective?

Yes.  But asking people you know to tell you how they view you can seem scary.  So the question becomes: Which is stronger – your desire to grow and be better OR your fear?  You can always ask via e-mail or ask them to submit their thoughts in a sealed envelope to a third party (e.g., your significant other, a friend, your mailbox, your doorstep).

People who are willing to give you honest feedback, will; those who aren’t, won’t.  There’s no harm in asking.  And you’ll never know unless you ask.

Imagine if you found out something that could save you time, energy, money, etc.  Maybe your friends would rather connect over Skype than at fancy dinners.  Maybe you find out that your nephew really wants to spend one afternoon a month with you.  Maybe it’s revealed that the many hours you work are causing your relationships to suffer.  Maybe whatever you’re doing isn’t working and you don’t even know it.  Maybe whatever you’re doing is working but you’re too close to it to see the effects.

Maybe this exercise is exactly what you need to create a more satisfying life.

Use perspective to guide your focus.