How to not overload yourself

I have always wanted to be everything to everyone. In high school, I took on cheer captain and newspaper editor the same year I was in five AP classes and applied to colleges while trying to hang out with my friends before graduation.

It was hell. But I thought that’s how high school was supposed to feel.

So then in my undergrad years at college, I repeated my mistakes. At one point, I was elected an officer in my sorority, worked two on-campus jobs, took 18 credit hours of class, and eventually had a complete breakdown. I was surprised, but my friends and family were not. I realized that I’m doing both myself and others a disservice if I try to do everything.

It’s hard not to, though, when you’re like me and you feel like you’re disappointing someone if you’re not doing everything humanly possible. You have to remember, though: You can do anything, but not everything.

Be picky with your time and your talents.

Trust me, no one will be let down when you’re doing what you love and being realistic about what you can devote yourself to.

But how to choose?

Think about what you actually enjoy.

What makes you forget about everything else while you do it? What is on your mind all day?

For me, a few things stand out above the rest: Writing, reading, listening to music, dancing, and helping others. That last one is the toughest to sort out, because it means I raise my hand for just about anything someone needs, but look at it this way: You can help others with things that you enjoy helping with. I like helping my sorority with PR and dance choreography for talent competitions, because I enjoy PR and dance already on their own.

 

Check each box on your list, not all the boxes on everyone’s list.

Be a joiner, but be selective. Don’t just join everything to join everything– pick things with a purpose to you.

If you want to get more involved in campus clubs or other organizations and need help narrowing it down, pick up to four that accomplish the following categories:

  • Career/School: Something that benefits your academic success, like an honors fraternity, a club specific to your major (Psychology Club, for instance), or a professional organization
  • Service: Something that benefits others, such as Make-A-Wish or Alternative Spring Break
  • Fitness: An organization that promotes being active, such as a club soccer team or Zumba class
  • Fun: An organization that fits with one of your hobbies or passions, like photography club, Quidditch if that’s your thing.

Start with the essentials.

If you need to make money, make time for a job. If you need to get better grades, block out more time for studying. If you work full time and you want a promotion, stay focused to make it happen. Then, if you’re doing fine, start adding on.

Take stock of your goals and figure out what you need to reach them, and then you can zero in on what is actually important. It’s amazing how much better it feels to have three things on your plate instead of ten.

I know you want to get involved in everything, but if you spread yourself too thin and can’t dedicate 100% to each thing, there’s no point in doing it. I’ll say it again: You can do anything, but not everything. Find what you really want to do. Then go do it, and do it with all the energy you’ve got!

XO,

CC

 

 

Continue building your career at school

It can be frustrating spending the summer in the ~adult world~ at an internship, only to have to go back to school in the fall. I’ve spent the past three summers doing internships, and every time I went back to school, it felt like I was putting my life on hold instead of getting ahead. But this isn’t the right way to think (you are in school to get your degree and therefore get ahead, after all), and you can still take advantage of your time in school by developing new skills and gaining different experience.

Which sounds like bullshit, but I am not here to bullshit you. Some people spend college doing the minimum, which involves skipping lectures and selling your textbooks halfway through the semester to buy a burger (guilty as charged on the latter). You are going to spend it possibly doing those things, but also still growing on a personal and professional level. You can have it all. You can enjoy a burger bought using blood textbook money and simultaneously become extremely hireable.

Sound too hard? Here are a few different plans of action for continuing your career while still making it to class and slaying that degree:

Plan A: Continue your work for the company you interned at

If you have a strong desire to keep working your internship and think you can handle it (school is, like, hard sometimes), ask if there’s a way you can continue after class. If you’e in the area, you can offer to stay on part-time at the office, or you can help out remotely. I had one internship that let me extend my internship through fall and work virtually from school, since I didn’t have to physically be in the office to do my job effectively. It will depend on your industry, relationship with the company, and geographical/time constraints.

Pro tip: Give them a reason to let you stay on– pitch your contributions and show them that they still need you!

Plan B: Freelance for local businesses and nonprofits

If continuing the internship isn’t an option, you can also take on freelance work. Into music and event promotion? Offer to help out your local concert venue. Enjoy shopping and social media? Ask around at the fashion boutiques in your town to see what you can do for their Instagram. Do you already feel passionate about a nonprofit in your area, and think you can contribute your professional talents to their cause? Volunteer on a whole new level. My sorority works with the Alzheimer’s Association, for example, and I would love to do PR for them while I’m in grad school.

Plan C: Work on your resume and personal brand

This actually should’t be a Plan C; it should just always be an ongoing focus as you start out in your career. It takes serious time and energy to update your LinkedIn profile, re-design your resume, maintain a personal website and construct a portfolio. Or at least, if you’re doing all of these things right. In school, you’ll have more time on your hands than when you’re working a full time job, so take this as an opportunity to spend time on yourself.

Also, remember that you just finished your internship, so it’s important to update everything with that new position under your belt! Know it’s a pain. Just do it.

Plan D: Learn and develop new skills

At your internship, did you realize you could work on certain areas to make you stronger in that industry? Now is the time to work on those areas. I learned over one summer that Excel spreadsheets are a major part of entry-level work in PR (Surprise! Sometimes your dream job involves things you thought you were avoiding). So now I know to focus more on learning the ins and outs of Excel, and it’ll make me an even stronger candidate since many PR/journalism/communication majors don’t think to learn it. There are plenty of online resources for teaching yourself skills, and taking the time to develop those skills while everyone else was snoozing through class will set you apart.

2017-2018 is going to be an amazing school year, and you can make it an amazing professional year, too!

XO,

CC

 

 

How NOT to get it done

You’ll find a ton of articles telling people how to be more productive and get things done. Well, here I am to tell you how I don’t get things done.

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If I don’t write it down, I don’t get it done.

Think you’ll remember that mental note? Think again. Everything will fly right out of your head the minute after you tell your boss, “Yeah, I can definitely do that!” And then you don’t.

Use a Post-It. Keep a notebook on you. Set reminders on your phone. Whatever you need to do to get it out of your head and into the physical realm ASAP.

If I don’t tell someone I’m doing it, I don’t get it done.

It’s not always enough to hold yourself accountable. If someone knows what you need to do, even if it’s just your roommate, you’ll still feel more responsible for doing it.

If I don’t block off time, I don’t get it done.

Literally schedule time on your calendar to do a task. Treat it like an important meeting.

If I don’t list my tasks in order of importance, I don’t get a single thing done, I just sit there and panic at all the things I need to do and then don’t do anything.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. I’ll say it one more time: Prioritize. Categorize emails based on level of importance– this is like dividing and conquering, because once you split up your tasks, you’re mentally putting things into more manageable chunks. It’s still the same amount of work, but because you’re separating your tasks into groups, you can tackle one group at a time without feeling overwhelmed.

Once the panic sets in, it’s hard to stay focused, and you’re so distracted worrying about the things you need to do that you don’t do any of it.

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If I don’t stay organized, I don’t get it done. 

Because if you lose the thing you were supposed to do, you can’t do it.

If I don’t get it started, I don’t get it done. 

The hardest part is when you actually start doing the thing. Until then you just procrastinate and do other things.

If I don’t have coffee in my system, I don’t get it done.

XO,

A

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun (Or Need Time Management Skills)

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

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Manage Up

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.

Overcommunicate

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:

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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!

XO,

A