Survival Guide for the Absent-Minded Communications ProfessionalBy Laura Petrolino

As many regular readers know from my many “tales of Petrolino,” I have a bit of an absent-minded streak.

Luckily, as a communications professional, I’ve developed a handbook of survival tools to help my absent-mindedness work for me instead of against me.

And you can too!

Hello My Name is Laura and I Am Absent-Minded

Let’s first talk a bit about what it’s like to be absent-minded for those communications professionals out there who aren’t so lucky.

To be clear, being absent-minded doesn’t mean you’re dumb or flaky.

It doesn’t mean you’re careless or unfocused (editor’s note: This said “your” instead of “you’re” and I almost left it just to prove absent-mindedness is real).

It simply means your brain is so busy contemplating the really important things in life—the deep, philosophical understandings of life’s meaning—you have no room to deal with the minutia of every day living.

(Definition: Mine.)

So for example, I lose my keys…often.

Ok, let’s be real here—I lose a lot of things…often.

This means I also misplace my car in parking lots and end up having to go to the grocery story three times to successfully remember to get the one thing I had gone for in the first place.

It’s almost impossible for me to successfully do a load of laundry in one pass. I’ll forget it in the washer a few times and then the dryer a few more times (in fact I’m pretty sure there is a load of laundry floating around in washer/dryer purgatory even as we speak).

I also have many items which have been put in many “special places,” specifically so I won’t lose them. They will never be found again. RIP.

And that’s all fine. Being absent-minded in my personal life might be inconvenient at times, but is just a part of my charm.


Being absent-minded in my professional life, however, is a different story.

And, as a communications professional, I live in a fast-moving world which requires me to balance multiple projects, timelines, people, and ideas all at once.

So after years and years of effectively working as a communications professional with an absent-minded streak, I stand here before you today with the secrets to my success.

Survival Tip #1: Acceptance

The first thing you must do is accept this is a problem.

Once you accept your a communications professional with an absent-minded streak you can put a plan in place to overcome it.

For example, I used to insist I didn’t need to write things down in meetings or keep a to-do list of every (and I mean EVERY) small item I needed to get done.

I was wrong.

I need to. I need my to-dos to be in minute detail and I must take really good notes of my to-dos during meetings.

This isn’t because I forget, this is because my brain is constantly trying to race off to something new, which means if I don’t have a detailed list for each project I’ll get distracted, want to move on to a new thing, and not complete everything which needs to be done.

My list keeps me focused and on track.

Once you accept your absent-mindedness, make a list of the ways it most frequently strikes, then compare that list to your work as a communications professional. Develop your survival strategy from there.

Survival Tip #2: Alarms Are the Friend of a Communications Professional

I set alarms for everything.

I have an alarm that notifies me 15 minutes before every meeting and then again five minutes before.

Every morning I also set my “Priority To-Do” alarm.

This is a list of the things that MUST be accomplished that day. It will pop up at intervals on my computer to remind me those things have to be accomplished, and therefore helps me prioritize.

As a communications professional (especially in an agency) you constantly are adding more items to your to-do list and it’s easy to get distracted as new things roll in. My priority alarms remind me to focus back in on those things that have an end-of-day requirement.

I’ll also set alarms if I need to remember to go back to something.

Professionally this might be a project or client communication, personally this might be a pot or pan on the stove (and I am not ashamed to admit these alarms are the only thing that keep me from burning my house down).

Survival Tip #3: Prepare to Be Lost (and to Lose)

You will lose things…including yourself.

You will lose your car, your keys, your phone, <insert item here>. Likewise, you will get lost and perhaps end up wondering around in new locations.

the strategies for these two dynamics are slightly different, but not completely.

My biggest pieces of advice is to take pictures and video of everything (hey as a communications professional you should be great at that anyway—hello visual content).

I  no longer put anything in a “special place” without taking a photo of where that special place is.

Likewise, every time I park my car somewhere I take a photo of where it is. I’ll also often video myself walking away from my car to my destination. That helps me put surroundings to my photo and provides a bit better context.

Often I’ll text myself where I’ve put something. Then, when I lose it, I just check my texts.

Next, have back-ups.

For example, I have several pairs of keys. I’ll often lose one pair for a couple of weeks before it pops up again, but that’s ok because I just pull out the second pair (placed in a photographed location).

And finally, you just need to be ok with being lost (and having things disappear).

For the most part, I don’t stress when I lose something. I just find my back-up and assume it will pop-up eventually. It normally does.

Likewise, when I find myself misplaced, I simply take a deep breath and try not to become upset or anxious about the situation.

In essence, I put my skills as a communications professional to work and practice some self-crisis communications.

You’ll always find your way eventually IF you don’t let your brain go haywire.

Don’t Forget to Be a Communications Professional

If that happens, I simply can’t help you.

(Hehehehehe, get it? Man, I crack myself up!)

Are you an absent-minded communications professional? What tips would you add?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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