Organization is key to what we do here at INK. It could even be considered a little passion project of mine – with endless comments from coworkers on my ability to stay organized and keep others on track. In all honesty, it’s something I pride myself on. But, what does it really mean to be organized? Regardless of whether you believe being organized is a learned skill or a congenital trait, there are steps anyone can take to bring more organization into their lives. It’s a talent that can be crafted over time, if the commitment is there. Here are a few tips and tricks from me on keeping focus, being efficient, prioritizing, and at the end of the day, getting shit done.
1. It all starts with email. In PR, we are slaves to our email. There is nothing we can do to change this. Countless articles out there advise to check your email only 3-5 times a day to increase efficiencies. For a lot of us, this is unreasonable as we are accountable to our clients 24/7 and this is simply the culture in which we find ourselves in today. Instead of cutting down the amount of times you check email, focus on how you organize your email.
~ Start with your folders. Folders are key. The number of folders is up to you and how you work, but I have one for each client, and then subfolders for main campaign buckets that are consistent across my accounts including Planning, Media/Analysts, Reporting/Coverage. Decide on your set up, stick to it, and be consistent in where you file things away. If you aren’t consistent or if you get too granular with your folder names, it’ll be jumbled and you won’t be able to find anything when searching. Sometimes simplicity works best.
~ Filing process. I personally leave anything that I still need to respond to in my inbox until I’m able to reply. And you better believe I respond to emails ASAP to get it the heck out of my inbox. For anything that requires an action item on my end, I add into Asana (or whatever your to-do list process looks like) and file it away. Don’t leave to-dos in your inbox, it’s just clutter and it’ll become unmanageable when you have a lot on your plate with new emails coming in every minute. Your goal should be an inbox of 0. I try not to let my inbox go over 5-10 emails at a time before organizing. This will keep your day on track so when urgent emails come in, you’ll be able to clearly review your to-do list and determine what needs to shift based on priorities.
~ Use Rules. Outlook rules are your friend. I keep rules for general notifications such as Twitter and Google Alerts. This enables me to review these folders when I have a moment of downtime vs. being distracted by the constant dinging of the Outlook new email notification. This also keeps your inbox to important emails that need your attention vs. notifications and newsletters.
2. Priority Priority Priority. We talk about priorities a lot in PR as campaigns and programs are constantly shifting and adjusting to meet changing business needs. Organize your day by 1) Priority – things that HAVE to get done that day, 2) Secondary – things you’d like to get done, but can push if needed, and 3) Ongoing – things that need to be thought about every day, or things to check on that don’t have a hard deliverable. Also, I recommend organizing this for tomorrow’s activities BEFORE leaving for the day. This will help you decide if you need to work a bit later or come in a bit earlier to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, this will help you accommodate new priorities coming in and empower you to push back on teammates or adjust your current list of action items if needed. Keeping a firm grasp on your current priorities is crucial to clear communication with your internal team, as well as clients.
3. Various Methods of Communication. Today we have lots of tools and means for communicating, especially if your company allows you to work remotely. However, sometimes this can lead to tool overload and inefficiencies in terms of knowing how to reach people. Email, Slack, phone – it can be convoluted to know when to use each method of communication and for which purposes. Organizations should set clear guidelines for when to use each. For example, whenever sending something for someone to review, email should be the method of communication. If a quick question needs to be addressed, Slack and phone are best. Whatever the process, stick to it so your internal teams are on the same page and you’re as efficient as possible in getting the responses you need, and that you’re responding to others with what they need to get their job done. And if you aren’t sure, ask and encourage your company to get on the same page so items aren’t missed.
All this being said, organization comes down to personal preference. These are tips that work for me to organize my life that very well might not work for you. At the very least, if you’re struggling to keep your head on straight, give these a shot and see if they help. Give me a shout with your questions or tips you’d like to share!