Small Steps for Big Organizational Results at Work

February 4, 2019

Public relations is an inherently chaotic business. At any given time, dozens of tasks, personnel and clients must be managed. But with some effort, systems can be put in place to help everything run smoother.

To identify areas that need improvement, audit what works well, and what doesn’t, in your practice or your team’s practice.

This scrutiny can be hard, and it may highlight problems that make some team members feel uncomfortable or defensive. But when everyone views existing flaws as reflections of a process — rather than criticisms to be taken personally — progress can be made.

Once faults in your work processes have been identified, think of simple ways to help reduce the dysfunction. For example, if your shared computer drive or personal drive is a mess, dedicate a few hours a week to creating a new organizational system for the drive and its contents. (Be sure to back up all of your computer files first.)

I recommend establishing a pattern for naming computer files, and sticking to it. For example, press releases might follow a file-naming convention such as: “Client_PressRelease_Topic_Date_Timestamp.” Social media plans might follow a file-naming pattern such as: “Client_Platform_Dates_EmployeeNameInChargeOfPosting.”

In 2017, reported that “the average executive loses an hour of productivity every single day searching for missing information.” Following conventions to name computer files may seem annoying or time-consuming at first, but as you adjust to making them part of your daily work, they’ll save effort and energy spent locating files in shared drives and web folders.

Tackle your inbox.

Speaking of web folders, how’s your inbox doing? Probably pretty cluttered, right? Maybe with thousands of emails you’ve yet to respond to? You’re not alone. But a disorderly inbox can undermine your motivation and make it more difficult to get work done. The stress of seeing all those emails you need to read and reply to can set back your work day — and even your entire work week.

To tackle your inbox, start by setting a dedicated time each morning to address its most pressing demands. Maybe it’s the first half-hour you spend at your desk (a time slot that goes well with coffee), or maybe the second hour, when the day’s most urgent needs have already been answered. Email tags, specific inboxes and third-party apps like Contactually,

Unroll.Me or Bananatag can help you manage your incoming and outgoing messages.

Unclutter your physical space.

Once your digital revamp is underway, take a look around your physical office. Is it always in chaos? If so, pull out the paper shredder and get to work. Studies have shown that physical clutter can lead to mental confusion and stress.

It might be necessary to keep physical copies of certain documents, but many can be recycled or thrown away. Talk to your office manager about offsite storage for documents and historical items that cannot be discarded. Scan any documents that you wish to save in digital form.

Once you have some of these new methods in place, continue to make systematic improvements a priority for your business. Take 30–90 days to observe your new processes and document the differences they make in your overall competency. 

Small changes in how your work is done can bring big benefits to your business. 

Ilana Ostrin

Ilana Ostrin is associate director of communications at the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington, D.C.


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