PR Time Management Part 1: Accept and Move On
I’ve tracked every hour of work I’ve done since my PR internships in college. If we’d had web apps back in the day, I could probably mine some pretty cool (or frightening) stuff from my work patterns over the years. Time management is a constant undercurrent of PR and other services businesses. How you track, what you track, when you track, what you bill, what you don’t bill…it’s complicated and even with guidelines, everyone has their own process and interpretation.
When I first started at Porter Novelli in 2000, they sent a group of us to a Franklin Covey time management course. It was there that I learned to create a functional to-do list, bucket out my time for the day in a timeline, and most importantly to add the arrow symbol for moving something to the next day. I also got enough material for a pretty solid SNL skit on crazy people (Starr swears it changed her life and to her credit, she is the most organized and efficient person I know). One of the best moments was a mantra they had us repeat. The instructor said, when things happen in your day and your schedule must change, just say to yourself (there are hand motions too), “Accept, and move on. Accept, and move on. Come on, say it with me.” In my experience with PR, change is a constant and you’ll drive yourself crazy accepting it over and over. My edit is “Expect and adjust.” But never stop planning and for goodness sake, stop muttering to yourself.
Today, we use Todoist for the most part for task-oriented planning and Harvest for time tracking and analysis. Great tools that I highly recommend to any agency owner. Todoist is simple enough to be useable on a daily basis. It’s the first tool – minus maybe Check – that is just as easy to record a task in the app as it would be to write it down. (I still write them down. I can’t help it.) Harvest is an amazing upgrade from the terrible, clunky software we used for years to track time. That was an upgrade from the homemade spreadsheets that I cut my teeth on. It is because of these tools that we can spend less time tracking our time and implement standards across our company. In Harvest, we are able to populate the app with clients and client activities like media relations, counsel and planning, social media, and content creation, so that everyone is billing to the same approved activities. By adjusting these options, we are able to implement new guidelines for time management across the company. Which is what we just did in a new approach I’ll share in my next blog.