FOCUSED, FLEXIBLE, DOG-FRIENDLY
In our continuing “On Workflow” series, we hear how Connectors and clients tackle their day and get things done. This month, we speak to Molly Spence, Director of North America for the Almond Board of California.
What’s the secret to efficient, productive meetings?
Define a meeting leader who is guiding the conversation, define the objectives of the meeting, have an agenda, follow it, and send out a recap with decisions and next steps. It’s my nature to be like, “What’s the net net here? What’s the story? What’s the take-away?” so I always tend to be a bit impatient and want meetings to go fast. It depends on the nature of the meeting though — sometimes, you don’t get to the best ideas and you don’t have the best conversations when you’re just trying to get done within a half hour.
What’s your morning routine?
I am not a morning person. My husband has learned this and usually brings coffee to me in bed, which is pretty great. I get up and get myself ready, then wake up my son (who’s almost 4) and get him ready for school. My husband takes the bus 10 minutes to work, and I take the dog and my son about 10 minutes by car, dropping my son off at school and bringing the dog to work. I love my son’s school — everyone there is so sunny, and they have an awesome chef, so it always smells good. I stop at a beautiful natural foods store across the street to get more coffee and breakfast, plus sometimes lunch and snacks for the day, too.
Tell us about your desk setup.
I have a rectangular desk with two monitors, which is great for being able to reference two documents at the same time. I nearly always use a headset when on the phone. Above my desk is a bulletin board of several documents to easily reference — job numbers, protocols, stats we use a lot, approved messaging, our advertisements, market research summaries, and a hard calendar with key dates for the current month and the next month. Behind me I have a table, where I can swing around to concentrate on conference calls. When I have a full week in the office, I try to buy flowers on Monday to put on the table and enjoy all week. Also worth mentioning is a whole wall of my office that’s painted with black chalkboard paint, so I can keep track of longish-term things not to forget, like travel dates for the next few months and plans I’m thinking about (e.g. remember to find funds to update a section of the website in Q3).
How do you manage your to-do list?
The Almond Board’s marketing team and our agencies all work from a cloud-based program called Huddle to have each other review documents, so that works as a very easy to-do list of documents that I need to react to. Otherwise, I keep a notebook where I keep a running short-term to-do list, and I put my long-term to-dos on my office chalkboard, mapping them out according to timing. I always find that scheduling out my to-dos helps calm me down when I feel overwhelmed, and somehow it’s more satisfying to do it across a big chalkboard as opposed to a small piece of paper. And finally, I also flag emails and address them throughout the day or week as needed. Often I color code those according to project area, so they’re grouped.
What do you do that everyone else thinks is crazy?
I bring my dog to work. I love having her here, and I think it totally releases stress to pet her and take her out for a midday walk. So if you’re talking to me on the phone, it’s not uncommon to hear her bark in the background (like if UPS knocks on my door), and generally I just figure that to work with me, you just have to deal with my dog and that’s that. If you saw her, you’d understand, because she’s just so sweet. However, if I do have a really important, formal meeting, I put her in my car in the office building’s garage, where she takes a nice nap with her blanket until I’m done.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
Throughout my career I have often been a remote employee, including now. I used to work at home, and work life and home life would blend together quite a lot. When I took this job with the Almond Board, I asked them to set me up in an office near my home, in an office building right near my son’s daycare/preschool, and they were amenable to that. So most days I go there, rather than working from home, and I just lock myself away and work. It’s kind of weird, and some people wonder how I manage not to go crazy being alone all day. But I really feel like I’m not alone, with my office neighbors and with talking on the phone and emailing all day long. And it’s an effective way for me to be really productive and be done pretty much at 5 p.m.
How do you fight procrastination?
Left to my own devices, I’m a terrible procrastinator. I think most of us are, really, so it’s good to have systems and sub-deadlines in place that prevent it, and to have others involved so that we all check each other.
How do you handle email overload?
I monitor it pretty constantly when I’m at my desk, but don’t necessarily respond right away. I try to answer easy emails right away to just get those off my plate, then flag emails that require further reading or action and color code them, then get to those throughout the day or week as necessary. It’s always great on Friday afternoon to take stock of where you are, and look ahead to the big priorities for the next week. And then try to leave for the weekend with a clear conscience!