Lindsey Chastain, founder and CEO at The Writing Detective, is busy.
The Oklahoma-based entrepreneur writes for three websites, is the director of client services for a PR company and has a farm and a family of six. Did we mention that she’s busy?
Chastain, in her season of busyness, prioritizes streamlining tasks, whittling down superfluous assignments and getting to the nitty-gritty of what’s most important at work and at home.
“Organization really has to be my thing,” Chastain told PR Daily. “Otherwise, I would not be able to balance everything.”
Like Chastain, PR professionals have multiple timelines and responsibilities tugging at them. Here’s how you can keep your workflow manageable by streamlining practically everything.
Get your mind right first
Whether you use old-school paper or like new school, electronic ways of doing things, staying organized starts with a mindset of knowing how to prioritize.
Chastain said that she stays organized by having an overall idea of how much time things take and works in batches to break down her responsibilities.
“I know a press release is going to take me about 45 minutes to write. I know a pitch is going to take me about 15 minutes to write. I know an article is going to take me about two hours to write,” Chastain said. “So, I kind of have an overall idea of how much time that I have blocked out for that day.”
Write (or type) everything out
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with organization, start small, even with a to-do list.
“It doesn’t need to be something complicated,” Chastain said. “You can check off the to-do list and that little rush of dopamine helps … (people) overcome stress or anxiety. It gives us that little push that we need to say, ‘OK, I can do the next thing now.’”
David Barkoe, founder and CEO of Miami-based PR agency Carve Communications, also likes to-do lists.
“For me, I’m a lister. Make a list but don’t just make it – cross things off when you complete them,” Barkoe said. “Also, prioritize items on your list. If you know it’s important or should be done first, circle it, star it, capitalize it or something to note its importance.”
He credits a lot of his creativity and organizational skills to keeping a notebook on his desk, which he uses for tasks, ideas and other useful things related to his profession.
“I’m somebody that still believes in doing things on paper,” Barkoe said. “I am old school.”
Chastain writes on paper, too. She uses a paper planner where she jots down her personal and professional tasks for the day, week, month and even year.
“I keep track of how I’m spending my time so at the end of the week, I can go back and review,” she said.
Beyond writing and checking off daily duties, staying organized can look like delegating certain assignments and responsibilities to specific folders and locations.
Strategize your sorting
Chastain lives by this notion and uses an email system, Spark Mail, where a “Smart Inbox” ranks and assorts her tasks and assignments by priority so her work doesn’t get lost.
“I don’t ever look at an email and not do anything with it,” Chastain said. “My goal is to by the end of the day (have) no emails in my inbox. They have all either been added to the to-do system, assigned or put in a follow-up folder.”
Another element of her productivity system is using a customizable workspace dashboard that helps her keep her Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and databases in one space.
“If something comes in my … system, it gets assigned to the company that it belongs to,” Chastain said of managing the multiple hats she wears.
From a strategic and organizational perspective, Barkoe said he and his team work in 30 and 90-day batches and ask themselves what client-facing needs must they get done in the next 30 days.
“Do we have some stuff to pitch right away because a client is announcing something next week or going to an event?” Barkoe said as an example.
After answering these crucial questions, he and his team get to work.
“We really never try to look past the 90 days,” Barkoe said. “I’ve learned over the years … (that) business changes every 90 days. The way we as an organization stay organized for our clients is picking up on everything in 90-day sprints.”
Barkoe said that he likes to be coordinated and prioritizes those 30 and 90 days by making lists to break down the days into manageable tasks for his clients so there are no surprises.
“So, we know what we need to plan for while always developing new opportunities rather than waiting around for the client to give us something.”
Sherri Kolade is a writer at Ragan Communications. When she is not with her family, she enjoys watching Alfred Hitchcock-style films, reading and building an authentically curated life that includes more than occasionally finding something deliciously fried. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR story idea? Email her at email@example.com.
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