While working at a fast-paced public relations agency can look easy and seem glamorous, the reality is that there can be a lot of chaos happening behind-the-scenes. Juggling clients and editors, securing placement opportunities, attending conference calls and in-person meetings, compiling reports, monitoring the news, and maintaining cohesive strategies can be overwhelming. If we’re not organized, we end the day with an overflowing inbox, post-it reminders covering our monitors, and clutter all over our desk. The best way to combat this stress is by staying organized.
As someone who is constantly reinventing my organization routine, here are some of the practices that have worked the best for me:
Mastering the To-Do List
Start your day off by writing down the tasks you have to do. Once everything is listed out, highlight and prioritize the three to six most important tasks to complete by the end’s day. As you complete each task, cross it off the list. Now let’s say you get to the end of the day and you haven’t completed everything on your list… SHOCKER! Well, it happens to the best of us. It’s OK if you don’t complete everything on your list; in fact, we never finish a to-do list because there is always something to do! There is no shame in rolling it over to tomorrow’s list as long as those smaller to-dos aren’t going to affect a colleague’s workflow or client deliverables.
Another method that works for me is calendar blocking, and it’s very simple. It’s essentially taking the to-do list and setting aside time on the calendar for the task, meeting and/or social event. Rather than seeing your day ahead on a list, you’re viewing it in batches of time. These can be done in 15-minute intervals or every hour block to totally co-ordinate the day ahead.
Trade in the sticky notes on your monitor for calendar reminders
Setting calendar reminders is a great way to stay aware of action items, announcements, and deadlines. The most important part is to make the calendar reminder before you risk forgetting! If an editor has a deadline and needs information by next Friday at 9:00AM PT, set a calendar reminder! If you’re submitting a client for an award and the deadline is on July 10th at 12:00PM ET, set a calendar reminder! If you submitted a byline and the article is expected to publish in their August issue, set a calendar reminder! The truth is, we just can’t remember everything and visual clutter on the desk can be just as stressful — clean space, clean mind.
Another way to stay organized, especially for teams, is using cloud-based or online services like Quip, Google Drive, Asana, and Slack. This is especially helpful for jobs that require you to travel and work remotely. It’s a great way to ensure that goals and priorities are aligned across the team. It also allows you to keep priorities on the top of mind keeping your to-do list at the ready wherever, whenever. At Konnect Agency, we have teams scattered across the states in different time zones and utilizing these tools allows us to be flexible and stay connected, even when we’re not at our desk.
Schedule Your Outgoing Emails
If you’re pitching editors on a different coast or international time zone, there’s no need to get up at 4 am in order to ensure your pitches are at the top of their inbox. Instead, compose the email in advance and then schedule it to go out on a later date and time. By delay-delivering your email, you’ll have the opportunity to edit later if needed and allow the email to arrive at an optimal time, which reduces the chances your email being missed. You’ll also gain back control or your time and manage your schedule accordingly.
Own Your Inbox
With emails from clients and editors popping up in our inboxes at any time of the day, creating a system can help us stay organized and not feel overwhelmed. For me, in my inbox, I have a folder for each of my clients along with sub-folders for individual client initiatives and opportunities. While I’m going through my emails, should I find something that warrants an action item, I flag it. I also find it helpful when I color code my emails, so I know where projects stand. While every email provider offers different features, you just have to find one or two that works for you. I also find it helpful when I take the time to look through my emails at the beginning of my workday when I create my to-do list and at the end before I leave the office. You’d be surprised what you might have missed when you’re looking at your inbox with fresh eyes!
Staying organized isn’t always easy and it sure doesn’t happen overnight, but once you find a system that works for you, it pays off tenfold in regard to owning the job, not feeling overwhelmed and staying on top of everything! Don’t be afraid to try new methods or evolve your current ones. Happy organizing!