If there's one thing a public relations professional could use in the New Year, it's a way to manage time to improve productivity. A public relations professional's time is partially dictated by clients, deadlines, and other outside forces, so time management can be especially daunting.
My friend Elizabeth Saunders wrote the book The Three Secrets to Effective Time Management, and it will be out on Amazon and in bookstores very soon. We recently had a chance to chat about her book and I was immediately trying to find a way to tie it to what public relations professionals do. Here are three principles that can help you tame the time-management beast and accomplish your goals.
Secret #1: Clarify Action-based priorities
Since there are not enough hours in the day to do everything, you must prioritize. This priority vanquishes procrastination and helps you on the road to accomplishment. This next point seems so simple but it's elusive sometimes. If you don't get the work done, nothing else matters. It doesn't matter if you are the first person to answer the email, show up at the meeting or answer the phone. What matters is that you make DOING THE WORK a top priority. So when you're setting your priorities for the day, make sure they include actions that will help you deliver work to your team or client.
Secret #2: Set Realistic Expectations
Reality always wins. We have all kinds of grandiose goals, especially at the start of a new year. But by properly calibrating your expectations to match reality a bit more, you can actually get more done and put the rest out of your mind. This is very helpful advice for perfectionists, who - when they can't be absolutely perfect - sometimes freeze and can't accomplish anything. Self-acceptance is the cure. Accept that you will not realistically able to accomplish everything perfectly, and be satisfied with mediocrity. I know that sounds like a lame goal, but think about the alternative. Doing nothing perfectly is not acceptable.
Secret #3: Strengthen Simple Routines
Routines seem like they come naturally to us, things that are based on our schedules and just naturally fall together over time. Instead, Saunders suggests that routines can and should be changed to bolster your ability to accomplish tasks. Furthermore, routine responses can be slightly altered to help you with weak areas. One example that hit home with me in PR land: the tendency to agree to unreasonable deadlines when in an in-person meeting. I do that all the time! A simple change in routine would be for me to say, "Email me the details and I will put a timeline to the project." That mental road block would interrupt me from my normal response of "Sure, I can do that." And then kill myself staying up all night to get it done.
This year, instead of setting my goals unreasonably high, I'm going to try to use these ideas to streamline my time management. And I'm hoping it will help me get more accomplished. How have you tackled the time management monster? I'd love to hear. And buy Elizabeth's book. There's a ton of great advice in it.