The first weeks (fine, I’ll admit, MONTHS) of my PR career were at times overwhelming and although I felt like I was working at 150 per cent’s capacity, I still wasn’t getting my workload done in a satisfactory way. But praise the lord, I finally feel settled and have learnt a few valuable lessons along the way that has truly helped me be more efficient in my day-day-day work life.
It’s not a fool proof system (yet), but here are my top tips on how YOU can work smarter, not harder!
1. Plan Ahead
I was given this piece of golden advice from Siena, Red PR’s agency manager, and to most people, it may seem like a no-brainer to plan weeks, months or sometimes even years in advance. However, with my background in women’s weeklies where everything is reactive – who has done what and do we have the photos? – I wasn’t used to planning ahead. So this single piece of advice literally changed my PR life.
So at the start of each week, I write down my major tasks for each client in a Word doc. table, which I keep updating throughout the week. Not only does it helps me to prioritise (what does actually have to be done on the Monday and what can wait until Wednesday), but it also makes me feel less overwhelmed and the tasks seem much more achievable. As a bonus, having everything in writing, means I rarely miss a thing! Of course, anything can happen in PR, but at least I am prepared to be reactive by having everything else under overseeable control.
2. Do 10 things before 10
This advice of a gem was given to me from Red PR’s MD, the fabulous Fleur, and it’s something I try to practice every day.
We all have things that we procrastinate doing (for me, it’s usually got something to do with Excel spread sheets), but if you tick of ten things on your to-do list that you have to do but don’t feel that excited about before 10 am, I guarantee you will feel so much lighter. The longer you procrastinate, the heavier the burden of the things you should be doing becomes. And obviously, the lighter you feel, the more efficient you will be rest during the rest of the day as you only have the fun tasks ahead of you.
3. Don’t multitask
This might sound unconventional, and don’t get me wrong – I’m a great multitasker (after all, I am a woman). However, did you know that trying to do everything at once actually has the opposite effect you’re after – it makes you less efficient?
So try to single task. You don’t have to respond to every single email right away. If you’re writing a media release for example, focus on doing that and try not to get distracted by all the emails dropping in to your inbox. Maybe even turn off your email for a while? If it is a crisis situation, you will hear about it one way or another.
4. Take care of yourself
Although I love what I do, it is important to switch off at times.
During my first few months in PR, I didn’t take the time to do things that make me feel good and are good for me, such as running, doing yoga or just sitting at my secret spot overlooking Bronte Beach where no one can see me or get hold off me.
So ensure that once every now and then, you’re switched off – and logged off, even if it is for just for a few minutes or for an hour while you’re doing a spin class.
I believe it’s important to be able to switch off from work in order to be truly efficient and to remain passionate. And being passionate is the best fuel in being successful, no matter what line of work you’re in!
5. Be positive
Being negative eats energy. If you believe a media release you’ve written is crap or an event that you’ve helped organise will not be great, guess what, your prediction will come true.
Being positive boosts energy and makes you more efficient. It’s a cliché, but the power of your mind is astonishing – so use it.
If you struggle with being a cockeyed optimist, just fake it til you make it. Keep saying affirmations like “I’m great at what I do” or “The business section of News Ltd will be begging to have this story exclusively”, and you are increasing your chances that those things actually will happen. If you encounter a road block, see it as a challenge, not a problem.
6. Take a moment to woop
When I was working in women’s weeklies, I used to get my “highs” by coming up with great headlines or witty captions. These days, my high comes from getting a hit – that means, having a media outlet run a story I’ve pitched. I also get highs from writing kick-ass media releases, having a lovely client meeting or meeting fascinating people at the many events we attend or organise.
So make sure to take a moment to cherish the great times! Share your excitement with your co-workers, treat yourself to a cupcake or just walk around like a headless chick. The latter is my preference because after getting a hit, I get such an adrenalin rush I need to walk it off. But it’s the greatest feeling in the world, so make sure you acknowledge it!
Learning to work smarter, not harder, has made me fall in love with my job even more. What are YOUR favourite tips for working smarter instead of harder?