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6 Ways to Improve Your Time Management

The role of a publicist can be demanding on time, and we can often get pulled in many directions within a day. Over the years, colleagues and friends have asked me for advice on time management because I get a lot done and handle many schedules and deadlines. Here are some ways I manage my time and stay focused on the task.

1/ The Vital To-Do List

It’s pretty standard for me to have a couple of “to-do lists” as it is impossible to memorize everything and keep a list in my head. Trying to keep a list in your head can easily create a muddle, and things can be overlooked or missed. When I start working on a new project, I will write down all the tasks required to complete the job. Then I will start putting reminders and blocking out time in my calendar. For example: write the pitch, write bio, research media and compile pitch list, pitch exclusive, take trailer wide, pitch interviews and reviews, etc.

Every week I have an overall schedule for the week and then further break this down into a daily to-do list. At the end of a working day, I will review what I got done and plan for tomorrow. Often the next day will need adjustments with some rearrangements. Especially if something came up during the day and either affected my plan. It could be because it was urgent and important, taking over the day - this is often a crisis or last-minute deadline for a journalist. Or because I had a meeting and new action items have been added to what I need to do for a client.

I just move tasks into another day/time that makes sense if it wasn’t completed ‘today.’ This is a strategy to ensure important and non-urgent tasks don’t get forgotten.

2/ Organizing Your Calendar

I color code my tasks/reminders to give me a quick visual of the task. For example:

Orange - events

Purple - meeting

Blue - PR action

Yellow - important

Red - very important

Mulberry - personal

Grey - interviews & photoshoots

Green - financials

You can personalize whatever color and regular tasks that suit your job.

It is also advised to group similar tasks that are compatible. When working a creative job, we need to be creative and logical/business minded. But these require different energies. Therefore it is great to know what time of day works best for creative writing or work, email replies, pitching people for a high rate of email opens, planning etc. I find trying to bounce from creative writing mode to finances and then back to creative mode feels disjointed. Therefore, I may block out half the day for creative writing, have a lunch break, and then spend the next hour doing bookkeeping and finances. Then the next two hours I may spend on email replies, and then I might finish the day off with planning.

3/ Prioritizing Focused Time

Block out time in your calendar and setting reminders helps to stay focused on a task. Don’t look at emails or flip through your phone or social media during this time. If I need to write a press release or bio, I will flip my phone over for an hour or so to prevent getting distracted by text messages. After I finish the creative writing, I will look at my phone, reply to any text messages, and return any calls. This helps avoid multi-tasking and getting distracted or procrastinating. Therefore not dragging out how long it takes to complete a task.

4/ Know How Long Tasks Take Approximately and Set Time Limits

When blocking out time in the calendar, knowing approximately how long it takes to get something done is helpful. For example, I usually block out 1.5 - 2 hours to write a press release. Then I want to have a break from it and return to it with fresh eyes, maybe a day later.

If you’re unsure how long tasks take - start logging times. Just note a start (ex. 2:30pm) and end time (ex. 3:15pm), then calculate how long it took (ex. 45 min). Eventually, you start to see patterns, and it helps create estimated times and manage your time better.

It is important to allow for breaks: I’m best at working 2.5-hour blocks and then 15min-30min rest (depending on the task).

5/ Important and Urgent VS. Important but not Urgent

There is a significant difference between important and urgent compared to important but not urgent. Urgent always takes precedence, and as a result, an important non-urgent task might need to be rescheduled for later in the day, week, or month.

In the PR industry, emergencies come up and can wipe your day. That’s ok. Reschedule the important but not time-sensitive tasks for another day or next week. Block it out on the calendar so it isn’t forgotten. Because a crisis can pop up, this is one of the reasons I need to adjust my daily schedule and planning.

6/ Arriving at Meetings on Time

As arriving at meetings on time is important, I plan the trip on Google Maps the day before a meeting to get an approximate time. In LA, I add an extra 15mins (or more depending on the meeting time) for traffic in case something happens last minute on the freeway or roads. I’ll even add ‘LEAVE NOW’ to my calendar as a reminder. Taking the time to plan my trip helps ensure I manage my time and don’t get caught up on my computer and leave late. Even leaving 5 - 10 minutes can make a huge difference on your arrival.



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