This is something that is supposed to develop while one is at school. I was a student who enjoyed working up against a deadline. I developed the habit of finishing little assignments immediately when they arose to avoid having to worry later if I had done them or not. This strategy worked well for me while I was in college because everything was presented in a linear fashion. It is relatively easy to budget your time when everything is already planned out for you in a syllabus. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t close to being that linear, and in the PR world you might as well expect that things can turn sideways at a moment’s notice.
When I first started working at Connect2 Communications, I immediately found myself treading water. I was not only dealing with the commonplace issues of being a new employee in his first professional job, but also realizing that I was responsible for helping coordinate PR for multiple companies. It was an extremely difficult adjustment. I constantly felt under siege by the emails, due dates, and work I had to complete on a daily basis. It wasn’t until I was shown how to manage my time that I was able to finally settle down some and get my head on straight. It is common for me to be calmly working on a pitch for a press release or a briefing book and then all of a sudden have a deluge of emails pouring into my inbox. Before, I would start to metaphorically drown in this sea of email. Now I have learned how to do one thing to manage that: prioritizing. It may sound trite and simple, but it is easy to overlook and hard to do when you are new on the job.
It starts with writing the items down in some sort of planner and getting the due dates for them. It’s too easy to get bogged down by a myriad of little assignments that may not even be due for days. Next, work on the things that are most pressing and complete them first. If it’s Monday, don’t work on a briefing book due Friday when you have an award submission to complete on Wednesday. I found myself frequently trying to complete every item that came to my inbox when I first started and that put me behind the proverbial eight-ball for completing work that had a higher priority. Lastly, when worse comes to worse, delegate. One thing that was and is still difficult to do is ask someone for help completing something you simply cannot get to. As a new employee, I didn’t want to be that guy who said “I can’t do that”. I wanted to be a reliable contributor to the company and not be someone people couldn’t count on. Sometimes though, we need help getting things done, and at the end of the day I’ve found it is better to have said “Can you help me with this?” than “I didn’t get to this because I was swamped with work” and have a missed deadline.
Working in PR means you are always on the clock for something. Anything can happen that can require your full attention immediately. That is why learning how to prioritize your tasks early on is important. Get into the habit of managing your time for the things that are the most important on your to-do list. It will save you a boatload of hassles later on.