RECAP | Homegrown | 25 Hours in a Day with Karl Sakas

At our June Homegrown, Agency Firebox founder, Karl Sakas, shared his tips on how to get it all done when you work in design.
Wherever you work, you have time management issues, be it Freelance, In-house, or working at an agency, we all have this problem. Karl challenges us all to look at our calendar and identify what you can trim, move around, or delegate. Freeing up or rearranging your time can help you get more done.
How do you get it all done?

Focus on your top priorities. Realistically you can probably only get through your top three items on your to do list. So set SMART goals. Break things into chunks that are:

  • Specific: well defined and clear to anyone involved in the project
  • Measurable: determine how long it will take to complete, and when the goal has been achieved
  • Assignable: can individual goals or tasks be assigned to team members?
  • Realistic: can it be achieved given the available resources, knowledge, and time?
  • Time based: allotted enough time to complete. Specific deadlines. If people understand the impact of not doing what they need to do they will make faster decisions


Example of a smart goals

If the goal is to bring in larger projects, going from from $10k to $100k
It’s not realistic to think you’ll do it right away. The logistics of a bigger project will change operations, so you will need to plan for that and get systems in place to handle the changes. A SMART goal would be to sell a $20k project within a realistic timeline. Gradually grow and work up to brining in $100k projects.

Calendar review

To find more free time, do a calendar review. Determine what items you can drop, delegate, or defer. Because it’s easier to do on someone else’s calendar, Karl had us work in groups to review the mock calendar of a super busy, micromanaging person. We all found where things could be dropped, delegated, or deferred. Our busy manager, now has more down time to enjoy life!

Make more free time

  • Schedule down time, you need breaks to decompress and enjoy life. Actually put it on your calendar, and commit to it.
  • Decline low value meetings, events, or invitations. You don’t have to just attend just because you were invited. If it’s important and interesting to you then go. If not, then take that time for yourself.
  • Delegate to team members. Sometimes things you are asked to do are not your responsibility, or the task better fits another person’s schedule. Help each other out when you can, so we all have more time.
  • When you do delegate, don’t micromanage. Explain the outcome you want and when you need it. Then let them figure best way to get it done.
  • Schedule lead in time prior to making big decisions, so you have time to do research and consider the options and/or potential outcomes.


How to delegate

You can’t do it all, so identify where you can delegate. It will help you grow, and give others the opportunity to grow as well. Look at delegating as giving the gift of opportunity to someone else.

Know when to delegate. If something has to happen but you don’t have to do it, that’s a prime opportunity to delegate.
Don’t micromanage the delegation. Focus on the results rather than the how. Tell the why and the when. Discuss the importance of the task and when it needs to be done.

Share relevant information, like guidelines, budget, any restraints, etc. so they have all the details they need to complete the task.

Set in check in times prior to final project deadline. Stick to them, so they know when to have progress to share with you. This will keep them on track and give you assurance that they are making progress, as allow you to redirect if needed.
The first time you delegate a task, it will take more of your time, if you need  to train. But it is worth taking the time investment because it will save time the next time you delegate the task.


What if they do it slower?

Does it really matter? It only matters if they get it done on time.
Think of what can you do with the time you time you gained back that has more value to you.


What if they screw up?

Did you focus on why, when, and share the guidelines?
Use the check in times to answer questions during the process. Help them know what the don’t know they don’t know.


How to say no without burning bridges.

If you say yes to everything you’ll burn out.
When you need to say no to a client, make it feel like they have a choice in the decision, using Karl’s ROC method.



  • Cite a reason why you can’t.
    • ex. It’s policy that I can’t start without the deposit.



  • Give a few options.
  • ex. Pay the deposit and I can get started right away, or don’t pay and the project won’t get done.



  • They have a choice
  • They can direct the outcome
  • Karl warns, that if someone is totally unseasonal and illogical the ROC method won’t work.
  • Set expectations up front.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Think about why it’s important. Within the given constraints what is possible to do?



When you are put on the spot, how do use the ROC method.

  • Stall in a diplomatic way
  • That’s sounds like a great idea, let me review calendar, notes, etc. I’ll get you get back to you by end of the day.
  • You don’t have to give an answer on the spot, tell them when you will give them an answer, and that will buy you some time.
  • If they keep pushing, give them context if possible.

What are some good productivity tools?

  • Trello
  • Wunderlist
  • Harvest
  • Fresh Books

How to get people to adapt to and adopt new things?

  • Incentives. People do what they have the incentive to do
  • Try to frame it around their incentive.


By Amy Lyons
Published June 20, 2015