Public relations is a fast-paced industry. One of the key skills to thrive in it is time management. You often have to juggle a plethora of tasks that are equally urgent and important. Here are a few things that I found useful in managing my own diary.
#1 Make to-do lists
Having a to-do list is the simplest and most effective way of staying on top of your commitments and ensuring the often tight deadlines will be met. Remembering everything might get tricky. Putting everything on paper will be hugely beneficial. As they say, the plainest ink is better than the best memory.
I’ve a notebook that is only used for my to-do lists (it has a Batman on the cover, just in case you were wondering). I’ve shamelessly stolen the format of my lists from the wise Con Franklin. I divide a page into three sections; the first one is the name of the client I work on — this can also be a category such us admin or finance. The middle column is the most important one — it’s a specific outcome of the task. Don’t fluff here. Be descriptive and write exactly what needs to be done. The final section is the number from 1 to 3 (you can make it 1-5), which notes the importance of the task. This format will let you stay organised and be able to say yes or no to more tasks.
If you’re struggling with prioritising, you can make a very simple graph under the list of your tasks. On the x-axis, note how urgent the task is. Your y-axis will be indicating the importance of a job. Put the letter next to each task and start judging the importance and urgency of each. Things that will appear in the top right corner are the ones that should be done first.
Keep your list accessible and updated. Add new tasks, cross out things you’ve done. Doing your to-do at the end of each day will ensure productive morning the following day.
#2 Send out the diary invites
Your Outlook diary is your best friend. Make the most of it. Make sure that every meeting finds its way to the software. If you’re meeting a client, a journo, or even a colleague to chat about the project, make sure you send them an invitation beforehand. This is something that the shrewd Bibi Hilton told me when I spoke with her about her busy diary.
Use your diary to put your own activities. You don’t need to duplicate your to-do list, but some tasks that need to be done at certain times, for example posting social media update that cannot be scheduled, will be ideal for the diary that notifies you 15, 10, or five minutes beforehand. You can also block out some time in your diary for activities you perform every day, for example reading papers, or community management.
Read a couple of tutorials and make sure you’re familiar with every feature in Outlook; know how to access other people’s diaries and how to check their availability.
#3 Use the one-minute rule
A very simple rule that I’ve already mentioned when writing about email management. If you’ve got a task that you’ve just been informed about and you know it won’t take you more than one minute — do it now. Respond to emails that only require a short reply; do small tasks straightaway, so they won’t multiply and become a burden later on.
#4 Block out time
Some tasks require time. You won’t be able to write a demanding client copy in 15 minutes. Pitching to media will surely take you more than half an hour. The best way to tackle those sort of activities is to block out time. Spend 30 or 45 minutes performing just a single task. Try not reading emails, turn off notifications on your mobile. I’m not a huge advocate of the headphones in the office, especially amongst the most junior members of the team (we’ve to be embracing environment and constantly learn from it!), but there are some exceptions when these might be used. When you need to focus, put them on, play your favourite playlist and dive into the task.
I love PR. It’s pace and that every day is different and exciting. But without decent time management skills, it can get stressful. You might upset your team, not delivering good work and missing deadlines. The sooner you’ll learn how to manage the manifold of your tasks, the faster you’ll become a more reliable and successful practitioner.
If you have any suggestions, would like to guest post or give me a feedback, feel free to email me at kl.marcel [at] gmail.com, tweet me @marcelkl or connect with me on LinkedIn. Thanks for stopping by, have a splendid day!