Working in PR means a never-ending to-do list (client research, social media management, editor desksides, staying on top of industry latest trends to start), not to mention a barrage of back-to-back meetings, client requests, and seemingly nonstop email/slack/text exchanges each day. So how do savvy PR and marketing professionals stay organized?
Here are some of my favorite, hard-earned tricks, tips and tools to keep you at the top of your game and more organized with your to-do list, your clients, and your schedule:
1. Make your to-do list mobile
Whether scribbled in a notebook, or a combination of email and appointments everyone has a preferred method of keeping a list of what needs to get done. A great way to ensure you’re priorities are top of mind is to choose an app that will keep your tasks at the ready, even when you are not at your desk. Get immediate access to anything you might need on your list right when and where you need it with an app like Todoist or Wunderlist with Gmail integration.
2. Conquer energy-giving tasks first
With your to-do list in hand, it’s time to get to work. Each day you’re faced with a list of tasks, and among them, a sense of each tasks priority or deadline. There are a ton of productivity methodologies out there – and many, like the popular “eat the frog,” or “worst first” concepts advocate selecting the item on your to-do list you dread and getting that out of the way first. It makes some sense, because once you’ve crossed off that task, the rest of the day is likely downhill. But I’m advocating a different approach; start your day with a task that lights you up and gives you an energy surge (instead of post-frog nausea). Once you’ve found your groove it’s much more likely that you’ll have the stomach (ha!) for the task further down on your list.
One caveat, of course, is to truly understand what tasks are a priority – immediate client issues, editor requests, and sample pulls are likely to take priority over Pinterest research!
3. Step away from email and embrace project management
Email is handy, but easily becomes unmanageable when work gets busy. Instead of dealing with multi-response threads and not having the right team members on a particular series of emails, not to mention a lack of clarity about who is owning what, move away from email and think like a project manager.
Start your day with a task that lights you up and gives you an energy surge…
These days, online-to-mobile accessible project management software enables client and agency teams to collaborate on various initiatives start to finish with integrated conversations, timelines, dashboards and tasks. If you’re an agency CEO or company owner, I’m partial to Asana, check out Teamwork and Basecamp. For individuals and teams, take a look at Trello. For many of us in the fashion & lifestyle space, the aesthetics of our organizational tools are just as important as our client’s new lookbook. Trello is a visual collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards and checklists so you can see what is being worked on and who is working on what.
4. Set up Systems and Automations
There are likely multiple tasks that you perform over and over – client onboarding, media tracking, invoicing – and without a clear process in place you’re basically scrambling each time to find all your previous documents, emails and spreadsheets and modify them to the project at hand. Using a project management system will help, but truly organized types swear by their systems. The next time you find yourself sitting down to do the same thing you did last week, stop and take the time to create a template and checklist that documents your approach. Not only will you be more efficient the next time around, but you can more easily handoff these type of projects to someone else who can simply follow your best practices (cue the confetti and the extra glass of rosé at lunch).
5. Batch pitch for better workday flow
If you’re pitching 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 an editor’s inbox. Instead, set aside time to batch and then schedule pitches to send when you want them go out. An email application like Boomerang not only lets you schedule emails to be sent at certain times, but you can also better automate follow-ups with email reminders. Basically, the app will put the outreach as unread in your inbox at a time you designate, making it easy to quickly shoot over follow ups without having to take an extra step to review your tracking sheet, calendar reminders or task list.
6. Track Your Time
Oh where does the time go? Unstructured meetings, endless brainstorms and yes, long client lunches are all to blame for making it feel like the days are simply too short to get it all done. If you’re feeling like you never get time to actually sit at your desk and do the work, it’s time to get vigilant about tracking and analyzing your time.
Timing apps like Focus Booster or Be Focused both use a time-blocking method to split your day into chunks of time with breaks in between. Toggl will track the time you spend on projects, pitches, releases and status calls with categories and names for each entry. You might be afraid to look at RescueTime, the app that tracks how much time you’re spending in Gmail, Facebook and Poshmark, but you should.
There’s nothing quite like the rush and pace of PR, but we’re working with two hands, one brain and finite patience to keep everything turning. With these tools and tips for staying organized and getting the job done right, the first time, you can start to GSD (get sh*t done) in a way that will leave your coworkers and clients wondering how you did it.
In case you’re more of a scroller than a reader, here’s the 101:
- Have your to-do list follow you around with ToDoist or Wunderlist
- Email is out. Project Management is in. Asana. Basecamp. Slack. PS: Trello might change your life
- Work on what you love, first
- Create systems for recurring tasks
- Batch pitching and follow ups with an app like Boomerang
- Identify time sucks with Be Focused. Focus Booster. Toggl. RescueTime