Our Favorite Things…for the Multi-Tasker

If you work in PR, chances are good that you’re a master multi-tasker. But even the best juggler needs a helping hand from time to time. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our favorite apps, gadgets and websites to help you streamline your act and even add to it without dropping a single ball.

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  • Mynd – it’s a calendar app, but breaks a very busy day down visually into very simple to consume blocks. So you know what’s next, who you’re meeting with and what tasks you have to get done. It can also sync with Waze so if you are traveling to a meeting it will tell you ahead of time if there is heavy traffic and you need to leave early.

 

  • I’m going “old school” with this one and recommending the original Amazon Kindle (at a very palatable $70). If you’re anything like me and amass a ridiculous amount of books on your “to-read” list, but never have enough time to get to them, the Kindle is your answer. Whether you’re in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, mid-commute or simply find yourself with a few minutes to spare, you can download all your books to one compact device & carry them with you to start chipping away at the pile. Get through your must-reads before they collect any more dust on those bookshelves!

 

  • Check app – I have it on my iPad and I can check my bank accounts balances for payments and deposits and I can also check on how my mutual funds and stocks are doing…all in one place with one touch.

 

  • iPad – or any good tablet that supports the same capabilities. I can access my email, view documents, update and monitor my social profiles, read books via Kindle or Nook apps, browse the web, manage my banking needs, shop, entertain my kids in line at the grocery store watching Paw Patrol (again), and countless other tasks and activities all in one place. It’s brilliant.

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  • I covet Yipit this time of year – it’s an aggregator for all the social selling apps, but in one place, so when online shopping, instead of scouring Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. for deals, Yipit sends me a daily list of all deals in one spot (they tweet them, too). Extremely helpful – I think it’s the best kept secret!

 

We know these are very few of the many time saving and time enriching tools out there. So, please share your favorites in the comments. The more we share, the more we all benefit. And this is the giving season after all.

 

Cheers!

A Few Of Our Favorite Things For The Holiday Time-Pressed

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or so the song goes. But for many of us, juggling the additional commitments the season brings makes us feel a bit…grinchy.

kittyWe may not be able to offer you raindrop-laden roses and bewhiskered kittens to brighten your mood, but we can share a few of our favorite things to lighten your load.

We asked our staff to share some of their favorite things for four distinct (but, oh so familiar) personality types. Each week we’ll share our ideas starting this week with the time pressed exec.

So, don’t let the stress of the season rob you of its merriment. Take a gander at our favorite things and try a few for yourself. You may even find a few gift-worthy suggestions to help you finish up your holiday shopping (we aim to serve).

Now, without further ado…

 PPR’s Favorite Things for the Time Pressed Exec (or the average worker bee)

  • Feedly – Yes, I am still a fan of RSS. I like how easy it is to consume multiple industry leading blogs in minutes. The user interface is friendly and intuitive. I can scan through 50 or so blog posts in a matter of minutes, figure out which of those are important and read those. It makes staying on top of industry news much faster.
  • I’ve got to go basic on this one and recommend the Keurig coffee maker (http://www.keurig.com/). When you’ve got an early meeting or are rushing to get out the door, there’s nothing better than to have a freshly-brewed cup of coffee available on demand. The perfect start to a productive day!
  • I am old school in this department. My biggest time saver is my notebook. I sit down every Sunday morning and write 2 lists – one is work-related tasks with deadlines, and the other is personal tasks and my schedule for the week. I keep it handy wherever I go.
  • I use the Wunderlist app for pretty much everything – it’s like a virtual list-maker, file cabinet and personal assistant all in one. 
  • Inc.com – they have tons of helpful snippets, lists, interviews and video on everything from leadership and management to tech gadgets and productivity. It’s consistently interesting content that can be consumed and digested quickly. I’m always in awe of how much quality content they distribute, and I learn something new from it every day.
  • Franklin Covey planner – whether you use the paper-based planner or the software, this is the best system for organizing and prioritizing your tasks and meetings, not to mention tracking important information and helping you stay focused on your goals. To really get the most out of the system, try to participate in a day-long seminar – you’ll be sure to experience at least one eureka moment.

What would you add to our list? Please share in the comments below.

Tips For Working Through The Holiday Blahs

Thanksgiving week not only commemorates the pilgrims’ grateful celebration with their Native American neighbors, it also marks the unofficial start of the winter holiday season in the U.S. (including Hanukkah this year).

In most cases, this is the week when U.S. businesses begin rewarding employees with early release days and extra time off to enjoy the festivities.

Not surprisingly, it’s expected that productivity will suffer a bit over the next 35 or so days. But, we do still have jobs to do and work that must get done. The challenge is finding the energy and drive to work when all you want to do is hit the holiday eggnog and cozy up by a crackling fire.

ToDoAs virtual workers and PR pros to boot, we know a thing or two about working smart, so we’ve compiled a few tips to help you stay productive through the holidays:

  • Just say no to big projects – contrary to popular belief, this is not the best time to start in on a big project, especially one that requires collaboration with your colleagues who may be less present than usual. If you really feel the need to get started, though, focus on getting organized. Identify the people, tools and time you’ll need to deliver the best result. Communicate your needs and deadlines to collaborators as soon as possible and build in extra time to account for the holiday schedule.
  •  Plan for time off – whether it’s your own holiday vacation or your colleagues’, it’s important to communicate and plan for coverage and contingencies (weather delays, sickness, etc.). If you need help with an assignment, give your coworkers plenty of notice and information to accomplish the task in your absence.
  • Focus on work – with retailers’ propensity to pre-announce Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals well in advance of the actual sale dates, it’s easy to get sidetracked at work. But limit holiday shopping to personal time and focus your work hours on work. The days will fly by, and you’ll be showrooming before you know it.
  • Stack small tasks – rather than tackling that big project, now’s a great time to attend to smaller, less time-consuming (yet still important) tasks, such as updating your databases or writing a blog post. Get after that stack of small tasks, and you’ll soon be feeling much more merry and productive.
  • Get organized – As the end of the year approaches, spend some time organizing your workspace for success. Clean out your inbox, organize your files, archive old emails, toss old magazines and unsubscribe from unread or irrelevant newsletters.

Don’t let the glow of the holiday lights lure you to the dark side. Stay focused, and make the most of the season to catch up (and perhaps even get ahead) amidst all the holiday cheer. Then in January, when your colleagues are complaining about how far behind they are, you can relax a bit, knowing you rang in 2014 with a fresh start, a clean slate and a great attitude!

Six Tips for Staying Productive During the Lazy Days of Summer

Beach ParadiseHere in New England, we’ve enjoyed an amazing stretch of summer weather and all the fun that comes with it. With summertime distractions beckoning, I’ll be the first to admit it’s sometimes a challenge to stay focused on my work. Fortunately, working in a virtual environment, the folks at PerkettPR pretty much have productivity down to a science. In fact, our team has been sharing their tips over on our Facebook page, and below we’ve compiled some tried and true suggestions to help you maintain focus, improve your productivity and find time to enjoy the dog days of summer.

  1. Manage your inbox – In the modern workplace, email has taken over as the primary mode of communication. Information is shared, requests are made, assignments are given, status is provided, notes are taken, and countless other workplace activities are all captured and managed via email.  Sure, there are numerous ways to search and filter email content to find what you need, but highly productive – and effective – people almost always practice the inbox-zero method.

    Here are five simple tips to reign in your inbox:

    • Group emails by discussion to organize and reduce the appearance of all those separate emails in your box.
    • Read email from the bottom up (older emails first) – and if you’ve grouped emails by discussion, you only need to read (and save) the most recent email, which includes the entire thread.
    • Take action on every email immediately upon reading it: file it, respond to it, flag it for future action, or delete it.
    • Create a filing system and use it. You can file by account, project or people. For me, it’s one for each account then subfolders for each program delivered for that account.
    • Aim for zero-inbox, but if you can’t get there, treat your inbox like an action list – only keep those items you are currently working on. Once they are completed – file or delete them.
  2. “Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure.“ – Benjamin Franklin
  3. Get up earlier – I am NOT a morning person. But, I have to say, when I do get up early, I almost always have a more productive day. Try setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier. If you can add 15 extra minutes to your mornings, I’m willing to bet money you’ll feel more energized, less stressed, and more productive.
  4. Take breaks – No matter how busy you are or how lengthy your to-do list, it’s important to give yourself a break. Your mind just doesn’t function effectively or efficiently when you’re tired. Take at least three short breaks a day.  We highly recommend taking every opportunity to get outside as well. Go for a short walk, eat lunch al fresco, make a coffee run, anything that gets you some fresh air and vitamin D will help break up the day and invigorate your body and mind.
  5. Limit distractions – We’re constantly juggling distractions at work: from people stopping by your desk to phone calls to incoming emails, IMs, Facebook notifications and more. Luckily, last month we featured a Q&A with Robert Strohmeyer author of PCWorld‘s Simply Business, a popular business productivity blog. In his role, Robert routinely researches and writes about productivity tools and techniques and tests them out himself. Robert shared his top productivity tips with us.
    “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer

    He notes that his biggest productivity killer is distractions. To combat this, he relies on the Pomodoro Technique, which requires the removal of all distractions (turn off IM & email, mute your phone, close the door) and total focus on one task or assignment for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. He then repeats this cycle throughout the day. I’d never heard of this technique before, but I’m intrigued. In fact, to develop this post, I’ve instituted the Pomodoro Technique and so far it’s working! ;-)

  6. Organize your tasks – One of my favorite tips comes from our own Jennifer Hellickson, a veritable productivity guru at PerkettPR. She suggests, “Chunk out like-minded tasks together. Set aside time to make calls, and do them all at once. Schedule times during the day to check your e-mail, update social media accounts and do other things like writing or research to avoid splintering your attention too much.” Simple and brilliant.
  7. Organize your day – I, and several of my colleagues, are Franklin Covey devotees, but even if you use a plain old notebook or generic planner to write down and prioritize your tasks, it’ll make a word of difference.  Especially in the agency world where reactionary activity is often the norm, you need a way to record and monitor your priorities to help you stay on track with your deliverables. Plus, once you write it down, you can achieve the simple, but uplifting sense of accomplishment every time you cross something off your list.

Regardless of seasonal distractions, maintaining a high degree of productivity is always a challenge. Try some of the tips above and let us know how they work out for you. Or, if you have a favorite tip we missed, please share it in the comments. I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get – there’s a hammock with my name on it out there!

The Way I Am Working Isn’t Working

SprinterAt least that is what I found out at my favorite SXSW session, “The 90 Minute Solution: Live Like a Sprinter,” with Tony Schwartz, bestselling author of “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live.”  If you are like me, always tired, always working too long but not getting enough accomplished and being distracted by too many things, then this is for you.

Most people would consider me a workaholic – I work hard, I’m not afraid of long hours and I thrive on pressure and on getting things done.  But here is what I found out. I am living by the myth that the best way to get more done is to work more hours.

I am operating like a marathon runner. In my life, I am working and living in a long distance race with no end. And as a marathoner, I am reserving energy – always holding some back, because I don’t know when I will need it. The result is I am never fully engaged in a task, and since there is no end, I am never fully engaged in rest. According to Tony, we are not meant to be “always on” like a computer – our bodies are meant to pulse rhythmically between working and re-energizing. He says, “the sad truth is that most of us don’t do either one very well.”

What I need to do is work and live like a sprinter. A sprinter is fully engaged for the entire race. A sprinter knows there is an end and can see it, so they can put everything they have into that race and then they rest at the end.

According to Tony, the best way to live like a sprinter is to build in a rhythmic workflow with intermittent renewal.   Tony explained in detail how sleep and rejuvenation are more important than food, and why our bodies demand recovery during the day every 90 minutes. His advice boiled down to this:

  1. Go to sleep earlier, because you can’t get up later – most of us are already getting up at the very last minute possible, but aren’t getting to sleep when we can. He said to prepare for sleep and make it ritualistic so that you ensure that you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
  2. Spend your energy more skillfully. Work in 90 minute bursts like you are sprinting in a race. Pick an activity and completely focus on that activity for a full 90 minutes. At the end of the 90 minutes, take a break. This could be taking a walk, breathing deeply, stretching, a 10 minute nap – but something that will allow you to rejuvenate and be ready for the next sprint.
  3. Do the most important task you have first. Chose this task the night before so that you can sleep knowing you have a plan. Give that task your full attention for the first 90 minutes of your day and you will see yourself getting more done.

What resonated with me most about his talk was when he said – we’ve lost our finish lines and we need to reinsert them in our lives. When we are engaged we need to be fully engaged. When we are resting we need to be fully engaged in rest.

I once asked my dad when I was a kid, “at work, how do you know when you are done for the day?” He told me, “I’m never done.” Like him, I have no finish lines. So I am going to give this a try, I am hoping it will make me be more productive, less distracted, better rested, and probably a much more enjoyable person to be around.

I’m interested – do you work like a marathoner or a sprinter?  Do you see any value to this advice and do you think it could make you better at your job and your personal life?

Note: I wrote this in 90 minutes. Time for a break.

Photo credit: Sheffield Tiger