A study by CareerCast earlier this year revealed that public relations is the fifth most stressful field in America, lagging only behind our military, firefighters and airline pilots. While that is laughable – I can honestly say I’ve never been shot at on the job or had to rescue someone from a burning building – the numerous, unrelenting deadlines and knowledge your work will be seen by the masses does add a distinct level of stress.
In order to be successful in the communications field, time management is one of the first skills you must develop. Yet in many ways teaching someone how to manage their time is like trying to teach them how to hit a baseball. There are certain fundamentals you want to instill, but just like no two batters have the same stance, each person must find a style they are comfortable with. The key is to focus on results, not necessarily the execution.
With that in mind, here are five time management philosophies I’ve adopted over the years that have served me well:
- Take Ownership. You must work with a mindset that the success of any project you’re involved in is squarely on your shoulders. Of course that’s not always true, and teamwork is essential, but adopting this mentality will compel you to consider even the little details, remember key deadlines and make sure the work is great, not just done on time.
- Write it Down. Whether written on a white board, post-it note or with an online tool, lists are essential to meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals. It helps to keep a weekly list of your main projects as well as a daily list of tasks to keep you on track. There is an acute sense of satisfaction that comes from crossing tasks off your list after they are completed.
- Manage Expectations. There is rarely any downtime in communications. Even when you feel your plate is full, a colleague will need help or a client will have an exciting new project they need you to manage. In these situations, be sure there are clear expectations on when the work must be delivered and what exactly the objectives are. Oftentimes their deadline may not be quite as urgent as you thought it would be.
- Limit Distractions. If you’re going to do anything well, you need to focus. Email, social media posts, texts, phone calls or just a colleague stopping by all take away from your concentration. These distractions also result in work taking longer than it should or not being done as well as you wanted. If you have to, find a place away from your desk that doesn’t have all the commotion you normally encounter.
- Remember You’re Human. Sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack. Being goal oriented is certainly a requirement for success in the communications industry, but not every deadline is a top priority for a client or your co-workers. Don’t get too stressed out if a relatively minor project has to be completed a day after you wanted to get it done.
What tips or philosophies do you have for meeting deadlines and managing your time?