Laura Petrolino

12 Days of Christmas: 9 Productivity Tips for Communications Professionals

By: Laura Petrolino | December 16, 2019 | 
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PRODUCTIVITY TIPSOn the ninth day of Christmas, Spin Sucks gave to you…nine productivity tips, eight communications podcasts, seven PR pros to followsix SEO tricksfive breakable habitsfour productivity toolsthree AI expertstwo PR trends, and one mindset shift in a pear tree.

You start off every year with a bucket of resolutions, a handbag of goals, and a box of good intentions.

This is going to be your year!

The year you’ll accomplish <fill in the thing you’ve been hoping to accomplish>.

And then something happens. 

That thing is called life. 

It jumps into your box of good intentions and your bucket of resolutions, throws a temper tantrum, and then steals your handbag of goals, and runs around in uncontrollable circles. 

You are left out of breath and with your best-laid plans in total chaos. 

That’s where these nine productivity tips will come in handy.

They’ll help you create a structure that makes it easier to stay on track, even when life has different plans. (And trust me, it does.)

I think productivity results from creating proper structures in three categories:

  • Lifestyle
  • Scheduling
  • Distractions

Let’s dig into each. 

Life Productivity Tip: Get Enough Sleep

The first thing you need is to sleep. 

If you aren’t getting enough sleep you can throw all the other productivity tips here out the window.

It is not cool to not get enough sleep.

It’s not something to brag about.

It’s not something to hang your hat on or throw out in meetings as if you are harder working than other people because you don’t sleep.

It’s just dumb. 

There is more research on why you need sleep than there is on pretty much any other life hack.

Sleep is your superpower. 

And if you doubt me, I recommend you listen to anything (and everything) from Matthew Walker.

Once you do, you’ll make sleep a priority.

Your life will change and you’ll become more productive. 

(Plus, I have a total brain crush on Matthew Walker, and you will too.)

There is a reason the Guinness World Records book thinks it’s perfectly OK to have a world record for holding the most rattlesnakes in your mouth. 

But they’ve eliminated any world record having to do with sleep deprivation because it’s too dangerous. 

Not to mention there are some pretty bad precedents for the disastrous effects of a sleep-deprived workforce.

The Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger space shuttle disaster were all the result of human error caused by sleepiness.

Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep.

Good for your health. Good for your relationships. Good for your productivity. The end. 

Lifestyle Productivity Tip: Exercise

Anyone who knows anything about the Spin Sucks crew, knows we take our exercise seriously.

We will fight you in real life if you try to tell us exercise and your success as a professional have nothing to do with the other.

Studies have shown that employees who exercise: 

  • Have 21% better concentration;
  • Finish work on time at a 22% higher rate; and
  • Report feeling motivated at work 41% more often.

This is why many companies have started paying their employees to exercise.

It’s good business sense. 

If you think you don’t have time to exercise or don’t know where to begin: Start HERE

Lifestyle Productivity Tip: Diet Matters

I hesitate to even bring up diet as part of these productivity tips.

Any discussion of diet almost always goes into a debate about which diet is right, why you should eat this or not eat that, and so on. 

But the fact is, diet does matter for your productivity. 

If you struggle to focus or be alert during the day…

Or you find your mind wandering and have trouble sticking to tasks…

Look at your diet. 

I’m not going to tell you what to eat or what the perfect diet is.

There is no perfect diet. That’s very individual.

The best diet is the best one for you. 

Realize what you put in your body matters.

And don’t convince yourself a diet of french fries and soda is going to serve you and your productivity as well as one of healthier options.

Scheduling Productivity Tip: Your Morning Routine

Just like diet, finding a morning routine that works for you is very individual and very important. 

Your morning sets the tone for the day.

Many of us wake up and immediately let external factors determine the quality and trajectory of our day. 

We check our phone. Look at email. Scroll social media.

We look to see what we missed or what we need to catch-up on vs. first deciding what our focus of the day will be. 

Don’t do that. 

Focus internally first.

Set your own path for the day.

Then do what makes the most sense for you to anchor your mind. 

Some people meditate or journal.

Others exercise.

Some people set an intention or gratitude.

And others do something completely different, but a task that resonates with them. 

A friend of mine has started working on a creative project first thing—an art mediation of sorts. 

Finding a more productive morning routine is one of my goals for 2020.

I AM one of those people who lets the external signals dominate my morning.

But I also realize the value of shifting that.

I’ll keep you updated on my plans and hope some of you will do the same. 

Scheduling Productivity Tip: Time Blocking

Time blocking might be one of the hardest and also one of the most valuable productivity tip there is.

In our industry, the concept of time blocking can be daunting.

By its very nature, the job of a communicator, especially if you are involved in any type of client service, is to be all over the place, all the time. 

The thought of blocking out chunks of time that you only focus on one goal might seem overwhelming.

But trust me, it’s possible. 

First, realize that while what we do is very important, it’s not brain surgery.

There are very few times in our careers that someone can’t wait an hour or two for a response.

If you think you are an exception to this rule then you need to check your ego a bit. 

You are important.

You serve an important role for your clients.

But they won’t die if they wait an hour for you to respond. 

Second, realize you can do this in phases.

For example, I time block by how I schedule my meetings.

I try really hard to never schedule meetings before noon.

And avoid scheduling meetings on certain days.

This isn’t always possible, but it’s my goal. 

I know my most productive time is the earlier hours of the day, so I’d rather save that time for deep work and schedule meetings time later when my brain is more likely to wander and my natural extrovert is joyful to talk to people. 

Pick your priority tasks for the day and then block out your schedule in order to get those done. 

You can learn more about time blocking here, here, and here

Scheduling Productivity Tip: Priorities

And that leads me to the next productivity tip: don’t try to do everything all the time. 

Pick three priorities for your day and get those done.

This makes it easier to focus, to time block, and to be motivated to work.

It’s pretty unmotivating when you never complete your to-do list, right?

But if you pick three things it forces you to:

  • Focus on the things that matter most
  • Stay focused so you do accomplish those things
  • Feel like you are moving forward on your goals (because you are). 

When you have too many items you are trying to get done in a day you jump from thing to thing and never finish out any of them.

But when you pick three things, you force yourself to prioritize and remove excuses for not accomplishing them. 

It’s easy to justify not completing a to-do list of 30 things, but it’s a lot harder to do the same with a to-do list of just three. 

Gini Dietrich recommends choosing your daily priorities the night before by asking  yourself these questions:

  • What are my top priorities for tomorrow?
  • In what order will I complete each of them?
  • How much time do I need to commit to each task?

And don’t worry, you can block time to do those necessary little things we all have to accomplish, but just make sure your big three are where you prioritize your time and energy. 

Distraction Productivity Tip: Multi-tasking is a Lie

Do you think you are a good multi-tasker? 

Raise your hand? 

Now all of you who raised your hand, stand on one foot and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

While you do that please divide 345 by 7 in your head and jump up and down on the foot you are standing on.

Here’s the reality: no one is a good multi-tasker.

No one. 

It’s simply not how our brains actually function.

And if you think you are a good multi-tasker, you are either an alien with a different neural structure or you are such a bad multi-tasker you aren’t even aware of the fact that you stink at it. 

I’m not just making that up,

A Stanford study showed that heavy multitaskers—those who believe they are good at multi-tasking and it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time.

The frequent multitaskers had more trouble organizing their thoughts, filtering out useless information, and switching from one task to another. 

Another study showed that multitasking actually lowers your IQ

Stop trying to do something your brain wasn’t wired to do.

Save your brain.

Save your productivity. 

Distraction Productivity Tip: Turn off Notifications

This productivity tip is simple but it’s a gamechanger. 

Turn off notifications.

Turn them all off.

Mute your phone.

Say no to push notifications on your phone and computer.

Remove them all. 

You can set them to be off during just certain parts of the day or get rid of them altogether. 

These notifications are meant to encourage you to pay attention to someone else’s priorities, not your own.

They have no place in your day.

Again, remember: you are not a brain surgeon on call at the hospital.

You don’t need to know immediately when someone Slacks you. 

Distraction Productivity Tip: Don’t be a Slave to Instant Gratification

I’m not going to use the term “deep work” as part of this productivity tip because I think it’s overused and it triggers Paula Kiger.

But the fact is you need to spend more of your time doing focused proactive work and less responding to short-term notifications and triggers.

It is very easy to let your day be consumed by these areas of instant gratification.

The tasks that give us that automatic dopamine hit.

You’ll never reach your goals this way.

Become aware of what percentage of your day you spend doing what and make sure it mirrors your goals. 

So there you go friends: nine productivity tips to help you crush 2020.

What would you add here?

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.