Being a PR can be really fun and exciting. That coverage buzz you get when you land a piece you worked really hard on is incredibly rewarding.
But it’s also not an easy job.
It’s an incredibly fast-paced industry and requires PRs to wear a lot of different hats. You have to be resilient and tenacious. You have to be great at writing and creative problem-solving. You have to be able to work with all kinds of different people.
The most challenging part by far, however, at least as far as I’m concerned, is learning how to balance the mental load.
As a PR, you have a lot of plates to keep spinning. You’re working across a number of different accounts and likely have a number of projects on the go for each of them. If, like Carnsight, you work across different sectors, these accounts could be vastly different, requiring different processes and approaches on any given project. Any given day, even! Your tone of communication is likely to shift from one email to the next. You’ll likely have to shift mental gears multiple times throughout the day.
Luckily, when you’ve had a bit of practice at it, it gets easier and easier until most of the time you don’t have to think much about it at all.
But that can still take a mental toll. It’s a lot of mental work. It’s a lot to balance in your mind.
I definitely found that this balancing act was the trickiest thing to master when I joined the industry. In fact, I still struggle with it at times. Maybe no one ever does master it completely. But there are definitely things you can do to help yourself, and today I wanted to share some of my top tips for managing that mental load.
Write things down
It’s paramount you don’t try to keep everything stored in your brain. It’s too much to ask of yourself to remember everything. Instead, write everything down. To do lists, notes, even little sketches. Get as much of the information out of your head and on to paper. It’s much easier to manage when it’s there.
Group tasks and to do lists
If all you have is one massive to do list then you’re quickly going to become overwhelmed. Try to group tasks and to dos together in a way that makes most sense to you. Maybe it’s by client, maybe it’s by type. I usually go with the former but I’ve also tried batching tasks related to how long they’ll take to complete as well eg. 5min tasks, 15min tasks, over an hour tasks.
Sometimes eat the frog, sometimes let yourself build momentum with quick wins – it’s all about balance
The advice, eat the frog (or the elephant or whatever) first is great. But I do think there are times when the opposite might actually be helpful.
Eating the frog first is basically doing the hardest task on your to do list first. That way you might have the most energy for it and you’ll get the big dreaded thing out of the way before anything else. I love this, an it can be a great way of ensuring your prioritising correctly and using your energy in the most efficient way.
Some days, eating the frog is just too much. It’s important to know how to check in with yourself and understand what your brain needs on any given day. Sometimes, on harder days, letting myself start by ticking off some nice and easy quick wins allows me to build a bit of confidence and momentum before getting stuck into the big hard task.
Know yourself well enough to know when you need to eat the frog and when you need to nibble away at a few side dishes first.
Understand when home and work bleed together
In an ideal world, our working lives and personal lives would remain entirely separate and sacred, but unfortunately our complex brains mean that regardless of how great our work-life balance is, one will usually impact the other.
This is especially the case when it comes to managing the mental load. If you’re stressed and overwhelmed in your personal life, it’s going to be very hard not to carry that into work. The same goes the other way around too.
In order to be your best self at work and at home, you have to get good at taking care of your own needs as well as rushing around after others. It’s so much easier said than done, right? Many of you reading this might have children, be caring for someone or be working multiple jobs or balancing multiple projects. It’s so much easier to give the advice than to take it. But it is worth bearing in mind.
Being your best self will look different every day, just like your needs both professionally and personally will change every day. Be as kind to yourself as possible and remember that it’s nothing to be ashamed of if your work or personal life seems to be bleeding into the other. Just take note, take a deep breath, and ask yourself ‘what’s one small thing I can do today to feel more at peace in my work/home life?’ (or in control, or happy, or fulfilled – whichever feels most resonant to you).
Delegate and ask for help
Despite what society likes to tell women all the time (😜) no one can be perfect and no one can have it all and get it right 100% of the time. You must and I mean must know when to ask for help or delegate some of your overwhelming mental load to someone else.
This shows strength, maturity, self understanding, effective communication. The list goes on and on. Asking for support is vital. Find someone you feel secure asking, and if you can’t find someone, well frankly reconsider who you keep close by – both professionally and personally. Everyone deserves a helping hand when they juggling a lot.
So there you have it, my quick tips for managing mental load at work. They’re not anything ground breaking, I confess, but I hope if nothing else this serves as a reminder that if you’re a PR struggling a bit with mental load at work, you’re not alone.
Celebrate those coverage buzz wins, take breaks when you need and remember, you got this!
For more tips on mental health and productivity at work, check out my blog on managing stress in PR.