Multitasking is my hero

February 9, 2007 at 8:00 pm (Uncategorized)

As a result of my blogging challenge with adorkable grrl, I have been given the ultimate motivation to keep up the blogging momentum: competition. I can’t promise that this will be a great post, as I cranked it out last night while somewhat sleep-deprived, but it’s nice to have that fire under the arse to make sure I keep it up (thanks, adorkable grrl!).

Multitasking has become a requisite function of the business world. In job interview prep, it’s a must-have. Unless you can demonstrate your ability to multitask effectively, you may as well be chopped liver to the average employer.

It is humorous to note that despite the high demand for multitasking as a barometer of success, debate abounds on whether or not multitasking is more or less effective than focusing in full force on a single task. Whatever the case, multitasking is a necessary evil for successful business practice, and essential to every PR professional.

There are a number of variables (particularly in agency life) that demand sophisticated multitasking skills in the PR world:

  • The number of clients you represent (which can range from one if you are in-house to two to five in an agency)
  • Depending on the diversity of your client base, the number of industries you must monitor and keep abreast of on a consistent basis
  • The innumerable amount of journalists, bloggers, events, speaking and awards contacts you must maintain consistent relationships with on behalf of your clients
  • The necessary reporting tasks that justify your existence to clients, which can range from basic bread and butter coverage reports to metrics such as share of voice to AVE reports
  • The need to craft written materials at the drop of a hat that pack a punch, hit all of your clients’ key messages satisfactorily, and are entirely devoid of any grammatical, typographical, and spelling errors

With all that, is it any wonder that PR has been termed one of the most stressful jobs in the US? Here’s some helpful tips that I know have helped me multitask to work smarter, not harder:

  • Instant message or use the phone rather than e-mail. The less superfluous junk you can keep out of your inbox, the better! Plus, it is so much easier to quickly explain something in realtime than it is to reply to an e-mail. This definitely helps.
  • Try not to touch anything more than once before filing it away. Whether it’s a new client document or notes from your last meeting, it helps to just find a place to file it away immediately so you can a) easily find it again and b) avoid the paper trap. This works great for e-mail too, since an overcrowded inbox makes it very time consuming to locate information quickly.
  • Don’t be afraid to use technology to help you keep track of everything that you brain can’t. While all of us would love to believe that our brains have perfect little mental boxes that help us intuitively remember everything we have on our plate, this is delusional thinking at best. Outlook is a wonderful tool for multitasking and time management. I use the task function religiously, which is a great way to keep tabs on both urgent and long-term tasks I need to direct my attention to.
  • Spend 15 minutes at the start of your day planning out your tasks and arranging your priorities so you can easily move from one item to the next. This helps gives me direction for the day and once you have a task order set up, it is easy to move from one task to the next fairly seamlessly.
  • Most importantly: Be flexible! Don’t get flustered when you are interrupted by other small items that are bound to get wedged into the course of your already perfectly planned out work day. Just take a deep breath, try to stay focused, and above all, don’t panic!

One of the most difficult parts of the PR industry is that a person’s task list is divided up into so many small parts. Switching from pitching various clients to different journalists, focusing on short-term and long-term goals for PR campaigns, and fielding any of the other small requests that filter in through the day is difficult to do seamlessly. The ability to do so is one of the many qualities that mark a truly great PR professional.

If anyone else has some great tips on multitasking, please speak up! I’d love to hear them. I haven’t looked at adorkable grrl’s post yet, but I’m sure she has some great advice to share as well.

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4 Comments

  1. Adorkable Grrl said,

    Heh, heh… yah, my advice would be to only go out with one guy at a time… 😉

    Love,
    ADG, aka. KK

  2. Brian G. said,

    Flackette,

    My one comment re: instant message is that it can quickly become more of a time suck than email. Rarely is a stream cut off at one post and one response – the social nature of IM takes over. Along with picking up the phone, I’d add “walking over to someone’s desk” as the better alternative.

  3. Flackette said,

    Adorkable Grrl,

    I chuckle when I think of how different our posts were! We know how to keep it interesting. 🙂

    Brian G.,

    Good points, especially on the social nature of IM. Even when you know you have other stuff to do, a good conversation is tough to end. It’s always to take the ol’ blinders off and make the walk to a colleagues desk as well. Something I do far too rarely!

  4. Anonymous said,

    You’ve touched on some excellent tips. Thanks, Flakette!

    In your comment you mentioned having a hard time ending conversations during the workday.

    I wanted to provide a suggestion for how to avoid those 20-minute conversations. If you engage that coworker at their desk during day for VERY short intervals they will not feel the need to have a 20-minute conversation at yours.

    -KC

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