I’m borderline compulsive when it comes to being productive. I can’t stand wasting time, and I’m always looking for ways to do things more effectively and more efficiently. If I can save myself an hour each day to put toward billable work instead of admin tasks, or just knock off of work early, sign me up. As such, I’m always on the lookout for PR tools to improve productivity.
Interestingly, my “favorite PR tools to improve productivity” aren’t even designed specifically for PR professionals. They’re just tools that help me manage the flurry of activities flying at me each day, and I know my PR peers can relate to that.
So here they are, my four favorite PR tools to improve productivity:
1. Project management system
If it weren’t a waste of time to write songs proclaiming my love for my project management system, I’d be more prolific than Taylor Swift. A thoughtfully selected project management tool is a must for busy public relations professionals. It keeps track of everything you’re working on for all clients and projects – which, as we know, can be difficult. Every project has tasks, and every tasks has subtasks, and if you have dozens of clients with dozens of projects each – and multiple team members involved – this is a lot to keep track of. This is true for not only independent practitioners and agencies, but also for in-house teams. The right PM system can also make project reporting much quicker and easier.
I used to be a project manager for a sizable in-house corporate PR department. We kept track of all our projects using spreadsheets, Word documents and email task requests – and we sometimes had 200 projects on the list at a time! However, this was over 10 years ago, when there were not as many project management options on the market. Now there are a ton, some of which are quite affordable. There’s no excuse not to put this tool to work for you. (By the way, for my agency, we use Wrike.)
2. Time-tracking program
I’m a huge fan of time-tracking, and this other blog post explains why. Since this post is covering my favorite PR tools to improve productivity, let’s talk about how time-tracking helps with that, specifically.
Tracking how you spend your time during a workday is the only way to know whether you’re spending it well. Simply put, you can’t become more productive if you can’t identify where you’re wasting time. For instance, years ago my time-tracker showed me I was spending way too much time on email, and a lot of it was related to setting up meetings. Cue the introduction of tool number 3 below and a dramatic drop in time spent on email.
My agency uses Harvest for time-tracking. I can set budgets for all accounts and projects then easily make sure I’m not dedicating too much (or too little) time to each. It also integrates with my Quickbooks accounting software, which makes it incredibly easy to create and distribute invoices, including those based on hourly work, per time tracked. This improved my productivity related to book-keeping and accounting.
3. Meeting scheduler
Anyone else hate exchanging an average of 27 emails to set up one stinking meeting? Yeah, me too. Major time suck.
Now I use Meeting Scheduler for Gmail by cloudHQ. It’s a free Google Chrome extension that lets you send out a link so that other people can choose a meeting time with you based on your availability. It works directly from Gmail, and is 100% integrated with your Google Calendar. There are many meeting scheduling tools available, though. So, pick the one that works best with your software situation and budget.
4. Pause button on email
Oh, email. Such a wonderfully helpful tool in some ways, and so maddeningly problematic in others. One of my biggest qualms with email is the distractions it causes. When I’m trying to concentrate on writing a press release, or researching news outlets or developing a communications strategy–anything that takes focus, really–email is my worst enemy.
Anyone else feel the need to peek at your inbox every time you see a new email come in? Did you know that it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back into a flow state after an interruption? Who’s got that kind of time? When I recognized what a distraction email was, I tried closing my email browser tab when I needed to focus on a project. However, I often found that I needed to go into my email to find information for said project. And when I’d open my inbox, I’d inevitably be distracted by new emails vying for my attention.
That’s why I now hit the “pause inbox” button when I need to concentrate on a task. I can get what I need in my email without seeing the new emails arriving, thereby eliminating that distraction. I use an app called Boomerang for my Gmail account, which also has a version for Outlook. (Just be sure to ask your IT department before downloading any software, if you’re working on a company-issued computer.)
Have any other PR tools to improve productivity that you want to share? Post them in the comments below!