The follow hints for managing the daily crush of work and demands are best practices we’ve lifted over the years from four score time management books read and seminars attended. The challenge for any PR firm or busy professional service organization, is to take care of a zillion things on the to-do list, sort out the important from the merely urgent and still be able to deal with the unexpected. For your planning pleasures, here are nine tricks I’ve found useful for managing the daily maelstrom:
- Create a daily to-do list first thing in the morning (or at the end of the previous day) and prioritize (No. 1, No. 2, etc.). Assign a rough amount of time to each and rough deadlines for completion.
- Address the toughest action item first. Then second toughest. It’s all down hill from there. Psychologically, it’s a huge confidence builder and personal pat on the back to wrap up the difficult client call, pitch a cranky journalist and make the awkward collection calls on overdue accounts. You can get a real sense of power and achievement and gain momentum during the day while growing your ability to bring open items to closure.
- Block out times to eliminate distractions and focus on the most important items. Turn off email. Don’t jump back and forth to the internet. Don’t take or make phone calls.
- There is also power in knocking off the small things. Set small blocks of time in the morning, at midday and in the afternoon for getting rid of the items that don’t require lots of creative or strategic energy or time (e.g. making follow up phone calls, providing data someone else is waiting for, checking news trackers and on-line alerts, reading notes, returning emails when people are asking for input, etc.). Grouping these type of action items and attacking en masse is more efficient than going back and forth throughout the day.
- Don’t look at something and set it aside without giving it a priority if it needs action. Almost every time management guru recommends handling something just once. Make a decision on what needs to be done and advance the cause – immediately!
- If someone has asked for help, they obviously need it. Analyze the need and move them to the top of the queue after taking care of the toughest things and the details. Your fast response will help them get on with their job rather than just waiting for an answer, improving their efficiency and effectiveness as well.
- Take an occasional break and reward yourself with work on a favorite long-term client project, creative need, writing assignment, light reading, browsing humor internet sites, checking Facebook or LinkedIn – whatever can help clear the mental pipes.
- After checking off those things from your to-do list, have a good glass of wine, designer coffee or whatever you prefer to toast your success (even though it’s only noon!).
- Update your to-do list and notice how many important steps you’ve taken – and in record time!