Tips for Prioritizing When Everything Is Urgent

04.07.2017 | Sarah Elson

Every PR professional has had days when your inbox feels more like a tennis-ball cannon firing a seemingly endless stream of requests marked “Urgent!” With each ping, you become a little more frazzled. On busy days like these, it can be tough to see the big picture and determine what to tackle first. However, taking the time to prioritize will help you stay focused on your clients’ objectives and ultimately accomplish more.

Below are four tips to help successfully manage your workload and hit your deadlines when it feels like every client urgently needs something.

Take Time to Plan: When things are busy, it’s tempting to start working on the first tasks in your inbox so you can start checking things off right away. But before you jump in, take a few minutes to get organized. Make a list of everything that needs to get done, without worrying about the order or number of tasks. Then highlight everything that must get done that day, and consider how long each task will take. Do you have enough time to get all the high-importance items done? If not, work with your team members to determine whom you can delegate to in order to get it all done. 

Stay Focused on Tier One Tasks: Once you’ve identified your top priorities for the day, stay focused on those items. Of course, new urgent requests could come your way and cause your top priorities to shift. Uncertainty and change is a given in public relations. The important thing is to stay focused on tier one tasks before tackling tier two tasks by negotiating deadlines when possible. For example, if a coworker asks you to proofread a blog post, ask them if it works to deliver your edits the following day instead. 

Acknowledge Emails: Email is the most popular form of communication in business because it’s convenient, fast and less intrusive than a phone call. However, in today’s digitally connected culture most people expect quick responses to their emails, and if a client sends a request, waiting a couple hours to respond won’t cut it. This becomes problematic because it distracts you from the task at hand – if you’re on deadline for a press release draft and receive three client-related emails, it becomes overwhelming. In order to stay focused, take a minute to respond to each email so the sender knows you’re working on it, flag it so you remember to come back to it, and get back to what you were doing.

Plan Ahead: Once you’ve met your urgent deadlines and things calm down, look ahead and start planning for upcoming projects. Get things done ahead of schedule whenever possible to make time for urgent ad-hoc requests. Or, if you have a big project deadline approaching, block time on your calendar to give yourself uninterrupted time to work on it.

In client services, the only certainty is that nothing is certain. Priorities shift and last-minute requests happen, but if you know how to prioritize your work you’ll be able to stay focused and accomplish great work for your clients.


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