Public Relations and Marketing are fast paced industries. We have days (weeks, really) where it’s non-stop from the moment we open my eyes in the morning all the way through to closing them again at night. Days fly by and sometimes we have to ask ourselves, “did I accomplish anything?”

That’s where the 80/20 rule comes in.

Google got it right with their 80/20 rule. To keep their employees motivated and innovative, they encourage 20 percent free time to spend on something company-related that is of personal interest. Google’s allowance of the 20 percent free time is responsible for some of their best known products such as Gmail and Google Suggest (which auto completes your internet search). Google has recently moved to a more structured approach to innovative thinking, but it’s an interesting idea to think about applying to myself and my teams.

Often, a first instinct about the 80/20 rule is, “but I’m so busy I don’t have time to think.” Therein lies the problem. Here are some ways to try to make more time to ponder:

Make it a priority

Each of us is no more or less busy than the next person. If you take a few minutes to look at your schedule, you’ll likely see that you can spare 30 minutes here and there. In finding those 30 minutes, try to avoid immediately filling them up with more from your to-do list, which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do.

Block off time in your calendar

The next logical step is to block the found time off in your calendar. Blocked time, at least in my world, is negotiable. It’s time that you’ve blocked for myself and not for a client or immediate task. If something comes up or some one needs some time, the blocked time tends to vanish. Be ok with that happening occasionally, but time that is set aside needs to be a priority and guarded. (see above)

Encourage the rest of the team to do the same

In blocking and defending free time, encourage the rest of your team to do the same. If you’re all blocking the same 30 minutes off there is a better chance that it will stick and not get filled up with something else. One can dream.

Look for inspiration outside your day-to-day

Use this time to learn about what’s going on in other sectors and industries. Be inspired by cutting edge companies, new research and new approaches. Then bring that back into what you do, thinking about how it can be applied to the challenges that exist within your company, your communications program, your marketing efforts and so on.

Don’t expect to find enough hours to have a full 20 percent of time to dedicate to brainstorming and innovating. Starting small, like 30 minutes a week, is better than nothing. If nothing else, setting aside 30 minutes of reading not directly related to your day-to-day tasks and role is probably going to prevent full burnout of myself and my team.

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