One of my favorite things about working for a PR agency is that you have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and industries. I’ve worked on everything from food brands and technology companies to non-profits and major consumer brands. Although working here has provided me with a wealth of experiences, the beast of working at an agency is that the workload can sometimes be overwhelming. Picture this – you’ve got 25 unanswered emails, four missed phone calls, a to-do list longer than the Nile River (and growing) and it’s already 3:30 p.m. Feeling like you’re in a crunch yet?
I feel fortunate to be so busy. It means that business is good. But is good business worth feeling like you’re about to crash and burn? Not quite.
A colleague sent me a wonderful article when I started at Pierpont. Peter Bregman’s article “A Practical Plan for When You Feel Overwhelmed” was an eye opener. He made a very valid point that I’m sure we’ve all experienced. “The more numerous our options, the more difficult it becomes to choose a single one, and so we end up choosing none at all. That’s what happens when we have too many things to do. We become overwhelmed and don’t do any of them.”
To escape this conundrum (as he calls it), he recommends the following:
First, spend a few minutes writing down everything you have to do on a piece of paper. Resist the urge to use technology for this task. Why? Writing things on paper – and crossing them out – creates momentum.
Second, spend 15 minutes – no more – knocking out as many of the easiest, fastest tasks as you can. Make your quick phone calls. Send your short emails. Don’t worry about whether these are the most important tasks on your list. You’re moving. The goal is to cross off as many items as possible in the shortest amount of time. Use a timer to keep you focused.
Third, when 15 minutes are up, turn off your phone, close down all the windows on your computer and choose the most daunting thing on your list, the one that instills the most stress or is the highest priority. Then work on it and only it – without hesitation or distraction – for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, take a break for 10 minutes and start the hour-long process again, beginning with 15 minutes of quick actions.
I adopted this methodology and found it surprisingly successful. In my opinion, the key takeaway is to get organized and stay focused on the task at hand. At the end of the day you’ve done your best and gotten as much done as possible.
I leave you with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”