Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. The PR industry is often ranked as one of the most stressful industries to work in. That’s right, PR pros are ranked as having more stressful jobs than corporate executives. Yikes.
I admit that I work better under pressure. It’s ideal for me to have too much to do in order to function at my best. That may seem weird to some of you but my guess is the majority of us are in the same boat. That’s OK but it’s not an excuse to be stressed out and flounder in a sea of overwhelm.
As PR professionals, a big part of our job is to assess situations, tasks, projects and problems and rank them according to importance. In my experience, if I’m feeling overwhelmed it’s usually because I’m not organized enough. Meaning, I’ve let my inbox fill to overflowing and my task list is spread out in a combination of sticky notes, Moleskin pages and Producteev. Not cool but hey, it happens.
Fight Overwhelm and Conquer Your To-Do with these 10 Tips
So what’s a PR pro to do? Cry? Maybe for a minute. Power through? Definitely! The truth is that you can gain control over your inbox and to-do list. It takes discipline and determination. Discipline to keep it down and determination to tackle it into submission. Use these 10 tips to fight overwhelm and help you conquer your to-do list like a pro!
- Spend 15 minutes at the end or beginning of each day to maintain control of your inbox.
This is where discipline comes in. If you don’t take this step, say hello to overwhelm and pull up a chair because he’ll be around for a while.
- Pick 3 tasks / projects that must be done for you to feel successful.
When planning your list of tasks for the day, pinpoint which 3-5 things are crucial for you to complete. These are the projects or tasks that, if all else goes haywire, you must complete.
- Delegate tasks.
OK – if you’re a PR intern, this one really isn’t for you right now, but it will be soon. For everyone else, give your master to-do list a close look and see where you can share the workload. Can you have a team member take a first stab at a news release? Are you doing tasks that others could be doing but you could do them faster? It’s most likely time to delegate. If someone else can do it and do it well, delegate. Usually, lack of delegation is a trust issue.
- Rank tasks by priority.
You can use colors, numbers, alphabetical ranking — whatever. The method doesn’t matter as long as you have some sort of priority assigned to tasks. This is super helpful because it will keep you focused on tasks based on importance, not the feeling of urgency you have to do them. If it relates to new business? Important. Clients? Important. Media? Super important. Everything else should be ranked lower priority.
- Communicate expectations.
To be fair, it’s likely no one else will see your to-do list. That means, they don’t know where their requested task or project falls within your priorities. To help reduce feelings of overwhelm on both your part and that of your teammates / bosses you must communicate. If you explain that you will get to a task or item but have media and clients you have to get to first, they may just take their task off your list and assign it to someone else. One of the WORST things you can do is fail to communicate expectations.
- Make a list of everything you’ve got whizzing around in your brain.
Sometimes (okay, maybe more like daily), even though you started the day with a plan, priorities shift and new projects get dumped in your lap. Don’t stress! It’s OK. Just go back to your list and continue following these steps …
- Get a breath of fresh air.
Take a walk. Go stretch. Actually eat lunch away from your computer. Give yourself a break and realize there’s a whole big world out there that is bigger than anything on your do-do list. Breathe.
- Highlight toward the end of the day.
This is optional but I’ve found it to be quite helpful. It’s midday and with all the changes, additional tasks and unexpected emails, your day may not be going as originally planned. In this case, you have to re-assess what truly has to be done today. Highlight what has to happen before you end your day.
- Be realistic and move tasks forward.
Contrary to popular belief, we’re not superheros. I rarely get to the bottom of my to-do list. Actually, I can’t think of the last time that I did … Be realistic and move tasks forward by a day or more based on priority. Or *ding ding ding* delegate 😉
- Celebrate your success.
You are probably not even aware of how much you do every day. You’re thinking strategically for clients, juggling multiple projects, replying to emails in mere seconds. My friend, you are a beast. You’re amazing! Take that lunch break. Go get Starbucks. Meet your friends for Happy Hour. Celebrate your successes big and small because you’re moving mountains everyday. You’ve got this.
Remember: Your Job is PR, Not Perfection.
Even if you follow these tips perfectly, things come up and some days are just hard to keep in check. It’s the nature of our business and if we’re being honest, it’s part of why we love what we do. Plus, we get to work with amazing clients and colleagues every day. Remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about the pursuit of excellence. Keeping your to-do list and inbox in check are just tactics to help get you there.
How do you keep your inbox down and your to-do list in check? Share your best tips in the comments below so we can test them out too.