Managing Time Within the Chaos of PR with Anna Dearmon Kornick [Podcast]

Managing Time Within the Chaos of PR with Anna Dearmon Kornick [Podcast]

In the spirit of getting organized, Amy’s newest guest on PR Talk is setting us on the right path. Anna Dearmon Kornick is a PR pro turned time management coach and host of It’s About Time, a podcast for ambitious women seeking better work, life, and balance. In this episode, Anna shares helpful strategies for professionals looking to manage their time productively. As we all know, organization is a necessary, but sometimes tricky, part of PR, but by incorporating some of these tips, you might find great results.

Rediscovering Purpose in the Chaos

After working as a scheduler for a U.S. congressperson, Anna moved back home to Louisiana and started her ten year career in government affairs as a PR crisis manager. That position had her choosing work over life, and in an attempt to find order in the chaos, she realized her life had become chaos. So Anna quit, but looking back, she realized quitting didn’t need to be her only option. As a time management coach now, she can see that diving into the basics of time management sooner could have fixed many of the issues she faced. 


Clarifying Vision and Values

Today she works with professionals looking to find balance in the crises of life and work. She now understands that balance is impossible without boundaries, and setting clear boundaries starts by clarifying your vision and values. Once you have a clear idea of what you want, it is easier to prioritize. Anna explained how to organize work into four zones to determine what tasks align with your vision in order to eliminate, automate or delegate. 

The four zones are as follows, but keep in mind you want to prioritize your genius zone tasks at the top:

  1. Genius Zone: Where you are proficient and passionate
  2. Disinterest Zone: Where you are proficient but not passionate
  3. Drudgery Zone: Where you are not passionate nor proficient
  4. Distraction Zone: Where you are passionate but not proficient


Organizing Your Stone Tasks

Now that you have found the tasks that fit your vision and values, it’s time to organize them by importance and urgency. Anna compares the jobs you have to stones represented as boulders (essential tasks that aren’t urgent), big rocks (essential and urgent tasks) and pebbles (the little tasks that can be distracting but need to get done). Once you have designated your tasks in their proper grouping, you can prioritize your workload by placing a boulder at the top of your schedule and working through the other rocks.

Amy takes the rebel side of things and questions the idea that she would even prioritize a “boulder” like business development. How does one push themselves to work on an important boulder like business development when there are other things like client work (big rocks) to hide behind? If you constantly avoid the boulders, Anna encourages a change in mindset by personally identifying with the boulder. For example, telling people that you are “very involved in your business development” can change how your mind sees that task, improving your efforts. 


Workflow Strategies

Categorizing your workload is not the only thing that will create balance in your professional life. You also need to identify workflow strategies that organize your days to be the most productive. Below are four different approaches you can incorporate into your workload.

Time Blocking: Creating blocks of time in your schedule for specific projects is the basis of this strategy. Instead of pushing yourself to do a million things in one day, you can choose just a few important tasks based on the methods above. Once those are selected, block out the time it will take to complete those tasks in your calendar.

Creative Flow: Client texts, email chains, slack notifications, you name it, are taking up a lot of your creative time, but if you can organize those tasks using the methods above, you will find space for your creative flow. This means designating two to four hours of uninterrupted time spent in an environment that encourages your creativity. 

Themed Days: Themes can come in the form of days, weeks or even months. If you work on social media every Monday, your team knows to get the post they want featured to you before then. Designating a specific timeframe to one theme not only sets you in a good rhythm but also sets team expectations. 

Startup and Shutdown Routines: Sometimes, it can be challenging to differentiate work from life, especially when you lack the physical barrier of an office. And since a PR pro is never finished, many of us mull over our uncompleted tasks after hours. Start-up and shutdown routines can help transition from non-work brain to work brain and vice versa. Both practices repeat daily with five to seven physical actions, which can include sitting down at your desk (start-up) or reviewing projects that still need work (shutdown).


Tools for Work Organization

The strategies above work wonderfully when you have the right tools. Many of us probably have some sort of project management system in place, but you might want to ask yourself if it’s working. As a time manager, here are the four tools Anna believes everyone should use. 

  1. Collaboration Tool: How the team communicates with each other (such as Slack)
  2. Capture Tool: Where ideas go (such as Evernote)
  3. Calendar Tool: Meeting and event organization (such as Google Calendar)
  4. Client Management Tool: For tracking client work (such as Toggl)

These tools will not only help organize your workload, but when you combine them with the strategies and methods discussed throughout this podcast episode, you’ll be less stressed and more productive. Listen now to hear what Anna recommends as the one strategy and tool you should use above everything else.

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About the Guest: Anna Dearmon Kornick

Anna Dearmon Kornick is a time management coach who helps busy professionals and business owners master time management so they can stop feeling overwhelmed and start spending time on what matters most. Her weekly podcast, It’s About Time, shares stories and strategies to inspire women seeking better work/life balance.

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This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

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Get Your Space (and Your Mind) in Shape for Spring

Get Your Space (and Your Mind) in Shape for Spring

As we begin to shed our winter coats and dust off the cobwebs in preparation for the revitalization of spring, it’s always refreshing to do a little tidying up. The cold months bog us down with clutter — both in our physical spaces and our minds. So when the sun returns, seemingly having flown south for the winter, we doff the extra weight and hit the grass running.

There’s no reason not to apply this newly found energy it to your workspace too. So break out the Windex, everyone, here’s some advice on how to de-clutter for springtime and increase productivity on the job.

Start with what’s in front of you.

This means your desk, cubicle, office — whatever you call home when you’re at work, you should make the effort to respect as such. After all, you spend a sizable chunk of time there, you might as well be comfortable! Dust off your computer monitor. Get that lumbar support in order. Maybe it’s time to throw away those coffee cups and parking stubs. Get a new air purifying plant for your desk (I’m in the market for an Aloe vera plant — they keep easy and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t sunburn.) Take an hour to dig into your space — you’ll appreciate it once it’s done.

Assess what’s on your plate.

Work down the list of all the ambitious projects you’ve been wanting to do since August, but have been putting off to get other, more immediate work done. Cull that list down to initiatives you actually think you will accomplish, not the pipe dreams. Set aside a half, or even a whole, day to knock some of the easier projects off your list for good. If there are still items that you want to keep on the back-burner for a rainy (or snowy) day, see my notes below about project organizational tools.

Monitor your recent performance.

Tools like Toggl, a time tracking application, can tell a lot about how and where you’re spending your energy and what you could focus on more diligently. Whether you work for an agency, billing hours to many clients, or you’re in-house and want to track the time you spend on different projects, Toggl sends you weekly reports that show the concentration of your efforts. The company is releasing an insights feature soon, in an attempt to economize employee productivity.

Set some goals.

I’m a huge advocate for generating and documenting tangible goals. If you’re results-driven, like me, then you know how good it feels to check something off your list and know that it’s done. This is why the tangibility of your goals is so important — goals like “get better at responding to emails,” or “write more often,” are nebulous and you’ll never really know if you’ve achieved them. Of course you can strive towards those vague goals, but additionally, write down a few actionable, quantifiable items that you can definitively check off.

Try out new tools.

Sample Trello board for ChalkTalk

Part of a Trello board for our podcast, ChalkTalk.

I’ve already thrown in a plug for Toggl, so I might as well keep it going. We use Trello as a project management tool to keep our team in the loop. Each client gets their own page (Trello calls it a board) and we make a to-do list for every campaign running for that client. You can comment and communicate within the lists, updating the team on the status of the campaign. If your inbox is already gasping for air, giving updates in Trello eradicates the need to send minutia via email.

Spring is springing and it’s a great time to take advantage of your renewed energy by doing some cleaning up. Start with your physical space to clear the air so you can focus more deeply on upcoming projects, goal-setting and tools that will make your life easier and more productive.