We’ve all been there.
You have so many pressing “to-do” items that if something else comes up you may lose your grip on a productive workday—along with any personal time that evening.
Moments after you walk in the door, your phone rings. A major media outlet has learned of an unexpected bug in a client’s software, and you’re being questioned about it. Your day has quickly turned into a PR fire drill. The mad scramble begins—and you haven’t even had your first cup of coffee.
So much for your productive day.
But wait. Despite the unpredictable nature of PR work—urgent media demands, requests for assistance with client issues, last-minute meetings, etc.—you can maintain your productivity. It’s your role and obligation to clients to keep working efficiently.
The key is to be proactive, plan accordingly, and think long-term. Below are five tips to help you preserve your productivity—and sanity—amid the daily PR rush:
1. Plan your week, and beyond.
Think through the coming week. In addition to writing down what needs to get done, list other tasks that can be completed, because clients or your boss always appreciate your accomplishing more than you promise.
Look down the road at the start of each week. What should next month look like? For example, pay attention to timely and seasonal events. If you’re in consumer lifestyle PR, start thinking in back-to-school terms as soon as summer vacation starts so you’re not scrambling in August. With respect to longer-term strategy, plan for the next quarter before your client or boss asks.
2. Plan your day.
Once your week is mapped out, it’s time to coordinate your days. Though it may not always work out to the minute, block out times of the day—for example, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.—for specific tasks, in prioritized order. Leave windows of time for project reviews, client or colleague discussions, and other unexpected activities. This will help provide structure for your day, leaving room for PR emergencies—which is what our job is all about, right? This also leaves room to remain flexible and calm for working that pressing media inquiry or to offer quick, thoughtful feedback on an executive’s “big idea.”
3. Take occasional breaks.
Get up from your chair once in a while. Walk away from the computer. Head outside for two minutes. It’s that simple. The point is to give yourself a breather and clear your head, especially if you’re managing multiple accounts and tasks. If you end up not needing that extra “unexpected” time allocated in No. 2 (above), use it to take a five-minute break before getting back to your work. You’ll be amazed at how even a small break can lead to hours of focused, productive work.
4. Learn to say “no.”
This is perhaps one of the hardest tips to follow, because most of us are ambitious by nature and believe we can do it all. Don’t just say “no” when you want to, but when you must decline because of more pressing commitments. If a client or your boss asks, “Can you get to this right away?” and you realistically can’t, be honest and say so. You can do so in a polite and even accommodating manner, offering a response like: “Would two hours from now work for you? That way I can give my full attention and deliver the best results.” What client wouldn’t take that over a rush job? (Or even better, request “end of day” to allow yourself even more time and not throw off the rest of your day’s activities.)
5. Be yourself.
They say it takes more muscle energy to frown than to smile. Similarly, it takes more effort to put on your “work face” than to simply be yourself. Let your true personality show throughout your daily work. After all, clients and media want to deal with genuine people, not those who are trying to be something different just to get the job done. Being yourself will naturally lead to a more relaxed, focused state of mind and, ultimately, better productivity throughout the day, particularly when dealing with challenging issues.
Carm Lyman is co-owner and president of Lyman PR, a consumer lifestyle communications agency. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on twitter @carmlyman or @lymanpr.