It’s PR, Not ER: How To Stay Sane When Everything is Coming Undone

master time management = stay sane

If you’ve been doing PR long enough, you have had moments when your heart is pumping, your palms are sweating and you know that there is just way too much to do and not enough time to do it. The stress of multiple deadlines, competing priorities and never-ending fire drills is getting to you. You aren’t sleeping at night, instead waking up at 3 a.m. worrying about that important client meeting or deliverable. A single stressful day is one thing, but how do you avoid a week or more of feeling so overwhelmed? Trust me when I say that your manager needs you to suit up and show up; coping with stress is important to everyone in your life who relies on you.

Here’s the thing that I’ve learned (the hard way): fun doesn’t happen on its own. You need to schedule it, plan for it and make it a priority. It’s easy to get caught up in work and deadlines, but you’ll be a better PR pro, a better employee — heck a better person — if you get a handle on your time. When I make sure to schedule time to do something I love, I feel better about everything else. Why is that? Because if I don’t protect some time for me, the other things I could be doing (a client email, a team follow-up note, even those dishes in the sink!) have an insidious way of sucking up all your available time until you just fall into bed at the end of the day knowing you’ll have to do it all again tomorrow. You must fight against “task creep”; the things that make your life fun aren’t nearly as demanding as the annoying responsibilities in our lives. This is also true of long-term career goals. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of day-to-day tasks, but are you setting aside time to do the things that will take your career to the next level?

It’s important to put time on your calendar to do things like read that management book you’ve been wanting to dig into or attend that networking event that you know could open new doors. I’ve learned to take control of my calendar and say no to things that I don’t really need to be involved in to make sure that I have time to do the things are important to me. If it’s on my schedule, it’s more likely that I’ll really do it – whether it’s time to brainstorm for a client’s PR plan, dinner with a friend or going for a run.

Let’s start with the beginning of your day. Many of us start the day by immediately checking email. We want to know right away if there’s something important that needs attention. Nine times out of ten there is nothing that can’t wait until I get to the office – or at least out of the shower. And I never feel better after reading those messages – I’ve just started my day with negative inputs. Lately, I’ve been working on doing things differently. Take the first 30 minutes of your day to figure out what you want to accomplish. Control the first 30 minutes of your day – before all of the other responsibilities and people in your life start demanding your time and attention. Take the time to do things like:

  • Have a cup of coffee or tea
  • Exercise
  • Jot down what you are grateful for today
  • Write a note to someone you care about
  • Meditate

Then you can check your email! Trust me, it will all still be waiting for you. And sometimes if you’re really, really lucky, someone else already dealt with that tricky issue that popped up.

Choosing what you do and when you do it will have a remarkable impact on your productivity, your happiness and your satisfaction at work. Be aware of your choices and make them purposefully!

Cathy Summers
Vice President


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