Winning the summer lull

Have you gotten a little lazy this summer? I’m not judging. When it’s blazing hot outside and your teenager rolls out of bed at 1 p.m., it sucks all the productive energy out of you. If you’re enjoying a season of rest and relaxation, don’t let me ruin it for you.

But if you’re frustrated because there are piles of things to do and never enough time, this message is for you.

If you want to get more and better results in less time, you need to choose the right stuff to work on, and then not get distracted while you’re working on the right stuff.

How do you choose the right stuff to work on? If you’re in media relations, the right stuff boils down to four main activities:

  1. Determining the 20% of your media list that’s most important
  2. Engaging with those media about anything
  3. Pitching them good stories
  4. If you’re already doing the above: Canvassing your organization/clients for better stories

How do you stay focused enough to work on those four main activities?

Eliminate distractions and time wasters. Research shows that social media makes us dumber and unhappier, and that our amazing super phones are making us less productive. Combat this by setting up systems to avoid being tempted or distracted by social media and busy work. There are a plethora of tech tools designed to help you with this – UnDistracted is my favorite, and sometimes I have to even resort to Freedom (I use the paid version).

The low-hanging fruit is turning off email notifications. If you’ve done this, you know how freeing it feels. If you haven’t yet, give it a try and you will be shocked at what a difference it makes. Instead of always being “in” your email, check it periodically and purposefully at predetermined times.

Re-arrange meetings and other “time sucks.” Block off time in your calendar, preferably in the morning, to focus on the four main tasks listed above. Then protect this time as you would an important meeting. When people need you for a meeting, an opinion, or a non-essential task, let them know you’re free in the afternoon. Do whatever is in your power to avoid a Swiss cheese schedule that pokes holes in your focused working time. This may be hard at the beginning, but I promise as you stick with it the results will make it easy to justify.

Prioritize your work around those big four. When you wake up, before you connect to anything – phone, TV, radio/podcast – write down the single most IMPORTANT thing you must accomplish today. And then act on that goal instead of reacting to email, social media, or other people’s ideas for how you should use your time.

It’s amazing what you can get done in fewer hours when those hours are focused and productive, leaving you time left over to be as lazy as you like.

This article was originally published on August 3, 2022

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