August 28, 2012 / by Frank Salatto

PR execs have the seventh most stressful job in America for 2012, according to CareerCast.  The few professions listed ahead of PR pros include enlisted soldiers, police officers, firefighters, and other professionals who face serious risks every day.

Having an overloaded, fast-growing task list is one major reason why PR ranks so high.  The job is an endless stream of news releases, media pitches, internal communications, crisis comms, and in most organizations , social media.

To help you alleviate some of that time management stress, here are six time tips from PR pros, for PR pros.

1.       Prioritize

Not all tasks are created equal.  You’ve got major campaigns that sit atop your list.  Then you’ve got tasks on the back-burner that you’ll get to whenever there’s a break in the action. Then you have social media, which requires your attention around the clock.  The key to balancing these tasks – plus the inevitable crisis communications that force you to drop everything you’re doing – is predicting how much time each task will take, says PR Geek Speak.  Then you can decide, based on importance of the task and how long it will take to complete, the order in which you’ll tackle each item.  Once you’ve ordered your list properly, you’ll never look at your overflowing list and think, “Wow, I don’t even know where to start.”

2.       Communicate when you delegate

Delegating items on your task list is crucial to getting everything done on time.  Delegating can go haywire, though, if the communication is off between you and the person who’s helping you.  The key, says Beyond the Hype, is making sure you’re clear on deadlines, the reasoning behind the deadline, who you’re targeting with the campaign, and what your desired end-goal is.

3.       Don’t procrastinate

There are few more cringe-worthy (and trite) phrases than this: “I work better under pressure.”  Entrepreneur trainer Karen Southall Watts says it’s the top excuse everyone needs to confront.  The truth is, you work better when you take your time and are thoughtful about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for.  So instead of procrastinating, get started on tasks early.  Use your “down-time” to get ahead.  PR is unique in that the job is unpredictable.  Your task list could be thrown out the window in a moment’s notice with a single insensitive tweet from an employee or a major piece of coverage that hits the wires.  If you avoid procrastination, these types of sudden assignments won’t put you behind the eight-ball.

4.       Stop telling people how busy you are

There’s really no need to tweet or post a Facebook status about how busy you are. It comes across to your audience as a petty complaint because, in reality, everyone is busy.   And as a PR pro, you’re paid to handle that heavy workload. Keith Trivitt says it best: Instead of telling people how busy you are, do something about it!

5.       Clean up at the end of the day

Think of how much time you spend reading, replying and deleting emails.  Now think of how much time you’ll save if you just take a half-hour at the end of each day to clean up your inbox.  As Tom Gable says, there’s no better way to start each morning than with an empty inbox, with the ability to focus on real tasks instead of email clog.  It’s a minor change to your daily work routine, but once you get in the habit of doing it, you’ll see just how much time you’ll save and stress you’ll eliminate.

6.       To-do list

There are lots of ways to do it: You could make a monthly, weekly, or daily list or you could just have a running list.  The important thing is not how you do it – it’s just that you do it. Making a to-do list will help you prioritize your tasks (which we already know is critical) and is a visual, tangible reminder of what you have coming down the pike and what needs your attention right now.  Plus, it feels fantastic to cross one of those items off.  One quick tip, courtesy of Agent99 PR: Break down tasks as much as possible.  If you have a major campaign, break the tasks down into news release, landing page, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.  That will give you a better idea of all the work you have to get done.

Photo: Dave Stokes (Creative Commons)

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