Most people at work and in school wish the day would go by faster. In PR, it’s a different story: There isn’t enough time in the world to get everything done that needs to get done, and that’s probably why Public Relations Executive is listed in the 10 Most Stressful Jobs among Taxi Driver and Airline Pilot. But like taxi drivers, I somehow survive the traffic jams of my job; it just takes time management and nerves of steel. Easy, right?
That’s not to say I haven’t had my crashes. Every once in a while, I’ll feel beyond overwhelmed at work and realize that I’m missing a meeting or a deadline on a task that had completely slipped my radar. It’s especially hard for interns, whose time is less valued. As an intern, you’re seen as dispensable, so your tasks pile on faster than you can handle them– you’re expected to be up for the challenge, no matter what else you have going on. It gets frustrating, because you feel like you’re juggling so much that you’re going to drop the ball at some point. But guess what? If you’re able to juggle everything without dropping the ball, you won’t be so dispensable anymore. You’ll be needed, respected, and appreciated.
Easier said than done, though. How exactly does time management work?
How to Not Drop The Ball
Here’s a term for your buzzword list: Managing Up. I actually heard this one in a staff meeting at work, of all places, and it means working effectively and building a strong relationship with your boss. Here are a few ways to manage up:
- Grab coffee with your manager and tell them your goals for the job. Alternatively, email a memo to your closest supervisors, so that your managers know what projects to give you and appreciate your ability to think about your career.
- Understand their perspective. As stressed as you are, your boss is probably more stressed, and they’ll be appreciative when you’re responsive to
- Anticipate your manager’s needs. Make sure to be thinking about how you can make their life easier, and it will make your life easier in turn.
Granted, I work in the communications industry. But in any job with tight deadlines an multiple projects, your boss will be just as nervous as you are about something getting done, so she/he will want updates on what’s getting done. This relates to my last point of managing up– you want to keep an open, positive line of communication with your managers about your workload.
- Don’t wait until you’re done with a project to tell your manager how it’s going. It’s tempting for me to wait until I’m all finished, then present it to my manager with a grand AHA! HERE IT IS email (not literally, but you know what I mean). However, this means there could be a long period of time when your manager has no idea you’re taking care of it, and might even give you a new task because they forget you’re busy with another assignment. Tell them what you’re up to. Give frequent progress reports.
- Send updates whenever you’re swamped and give a heads up when you’re going to be out of the office. If you have to run out for an hour to complete a task, for example, send a quick email letting your teams know how they can reach you.
- Before signing off and leaving the office for the day, follow up on each of your projects with your teams to make sure everything has been taken care of.
Don’t Go Overboard
As important as it is to be proactive, you also don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. Be honest about what you can and can’t handle– and if there’s something you truly have no time for, make sure your boss knows before it’s too late.
- Plan for a crisis each day. When planning out your schedule and workload, leave yourself a cushion of time in case an urgent request comes up.
- Be assertive with your time. Ask if a deadline is hard; often, your supervisor will say they need something by noon, but it can really wait until 3.
- It’s okay to say no. Delegate tasks that can be delegated (even to another intern, if you’re an intern) and be honest about what you can and can’t take on.
Think One Step (Or Three) Ahead
If you work ahead and know what’s coming, you can make time that didn’t exist. When you’re feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day, you can create more.
- Look at your calendar at the end of each day to see how tomorrow looks. Have a ton of meetings? See if you can take care of any tasks the night before so you don’t feel swamped.
- Always assume something is going to take longer than it actually is. It’s better to overestimate a task and be left with extra time, than to underestimate and get left behind.
- Use the Time Management Matrix: This is life-changing. I discovered it last week when Googling time management tips during an SOS moment at work. Just draw the grid and bullet-point your tasks according to Urgent/Important, Not Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important, and Not Important/Not Urgent. See below example:
I know this was a doozy of a post, but it’ll save you from a doozy of a work day. These are just a few of many time management tips, so if you have one I missed, share it in the comments below!