How to manage your time as a PR professional when you have no timeSep 06, 2022
As a PR professional and agency leader, you certainly know what it feels like to not have enough time in a day. Our jobs are demanding and without a time-management game plan it can feel like you’re always trying to keep your head above water. Our time management matrix for PR professionals will help you and your team tackle each day feeling in control of your schedule and proud of what you have accomplished at the end of the day.
We created the Time Management Matrix for PR Professionals after realizing that traditional productivity models didn’t quite work for our profession. We break time management down into four categories: Manage, Schedule, Systematize, and Replace.
This is the category that most traditional time management models recommend eliminating, but as PR professionals, we simply cannot do this. These are the things you can’t plan for such as client emergencies, last-minute opportunities, troubleshooting, and press requests. This might be a client calling you an hour before a live interview to tell you their internet is down or an impromptu phone call with a potential new, dream client. Either way, these things come up and we need to budget time for them. You can’t specifically schedule when these needs will arise, but you can leave time in your day for when they do. We’ll show you how to do that after covering the other categories.
These are the tasks you must do and plan for to succeed in your career. These tasks might include proactive media outreach, creative thinking, strategic campaign planning, or even hiring interviews to grow the team. This is where you get to plan. We recommend sitting down at the top of each week and mapping out your high-level goals. For example, next week you may decide that your top goals are strategic planning for a new client and onboarding a new account executive. We then recommend time blocking for tasks that will map back to achieving those goals. On Monday, that might mean creating an outline for a communications plan for your new client and creating client briefings to get your new employee up to date on their first day.
Unfortunately, these are also the tasks that get overlooked or deprioritized as more urgent things arise. This is why it’s absolutely essential to proactively schedule these activities into your calendar.
Within this quadrant, we find tasks like checking emails, replying to Slack messages, check-in meetings with the team and other administrative activities. These are things that we certainly have to do, but if we don’t set boundaries around them, they can end up consuming most of our time. One tip for setting boundaries is to pick certain times of the day for communication. For example, you can check emails twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and spend 15 minutes before lunch replying to Slack messages. It’s important to remember that every time you divert your attention to an email notification it takes time to refocus on what you were working on before.
We’re probably not the first ones to tell you that mindless Instagram scrolling, Netflix binges and gossip with colleagues are negatively impacting your productivity. However, as PR professionals, it’s not enough to simply eliminate these activities. We need to replace them with things that energize us, boost our creativity, and most importantly, make us happy so that we can avoid burnout and be present and focused for our demanding careers. This looks different for everyone. Maybe you need to take a walk in the sunshine mid-day, slot a 30-minute reading break into your schedule, or pick up the phone and call a friend during your lunch hour. Try something new and make note of how you feel afterwards. Keeping a list of activities that make you feel rejuvenated, relaxed and focused on your desktop is a great tool to refer back to in moments of stress or overwhelm to help you avoid burnout.
An example day may look like this:
9 am: Respond to emails
9:30 am: Develop a communications plan for your new client
11:30 am: Respond to slack messages
12 pm: Lunch and reading outside
1 pm: Create an onboarding packet for your new employee
3 pm: Check emails
You might think, “it’s only 3:30 pm, am I done?” We’re not saying that. However, if something pops up during the 9:30 am window, you now have the space to deal with it and continue developing your client’s communication plan at 3 pm. If nothing pops up that you need to manage that day, you can slate another two-hour time block of scheduled time at 3:30 pm!
By understanding how your time falls into each of these four categories, you can become empowered to own your schedule and not let unexpected needs and notifications run your day or derail you from making progress on important projects and goals.