I’ve been a PR consultant for over six years now. I constantly have to juggle several projects, meetings with clients and journalists, self-improvement, sports and self-care, conferences and business trips. Over time, I have developed my own series of rules to ensure my personal and professional efficiency. I want to share them in the hope they can help someone else in the same way they’ve helped me.
The right start
1. The morning is my most productive time. Thirty minutes after waking up I’m already properly working. For the first three hours of the day, I’m the world’s most productive and disciplined person. This is when I do the most complicated and intricate tasks. I try to schedule all of my meetings and calls after 11am.
2. From the outset, I create a working environment with no distractions: I don’t open social media and I don’t pick up the phone until I complete an important task. (Of course, this is unlikely to work out well if your job is in social media marketing.)
3. I train every morning. During business trips and on vacation, I train before breakfast, after drinking two glasses of water. In Moscow, my training comes two hours after breakfast. If I have an early-morning meeting, I train as if I’m on vacation. I totally agree with the neurobiologist Wendy Suzuki who says to train before you engage in mental activities.
4. I meditate in the mornings; this helps me to keep my emotions in check. To buy time, you need to exclude emotions that have a negative effect on the quality of your work. Imagine that you are a panel of jurors who make a decision on the basis of facts; whatever you did in the past determines your future. Don’t let emotions control you and your time.
5. Each person has their own reserve of energy that they can spend working on any given day. I have noticed that I can stay focused on my work for 5–6 hours straight, and now I don’t waste my energy reserves on extra things. If I receive an email about a project that will be discussed tomorrow, I’ll read it tomorrow.
6. I don’t let any services and banks call me during the day (I always ask them to send me text messages) and I’ve unsubscribed from all newsletters except for Benedict’s Newsletter and Medium Daily Digest.
7. It’s important to remember that your work becomes less productive with every hour. This is why I leave perfunctory tasks such as compilation of data, media monitoring and updating task statuses until the evening. But people with different biological rhythms may instead become their most productive in the evening. It’s all very individual.
8. I no longer settle for incomplete knowledge. I won’t start working on a task until I have all the information.
9. I always carry a phone charger and a power bank in my purse.
10. I outsource everything that costs less than my working hour. I never do house-cleaning, and I take things to the dry cleaners. In other words, I never waste my time on learning “how to carefully wash a silk blouse.”
11. I don’t waste time on making unnecessary choices about my daily routine. For example, my breakfast is always the same.
12. One super important thing is that I stopped working on weekends. At most, I will write an article, which is basically doing something for myself.
Meetings and calls
13. I try to set up all meetings and calls myself, as it gives me an opportunity to choose the date/time/place. When I go to meetings organized by my clients (with partners or colleagues), I dress in business casual or smart casual, so that my clients have no reason to be embarrassed.
14. I spend 30–40 minutes max on work meetings. This can be difficult in Russia as everyone loves to spend time chatting about personal stuff. I also try to have breakfast or lunch meetings.
15. I only agree to a meeting if I understand its objective. If there’s an objective, we’ll meet; if there isn’t, a call is sufficient. If I have several meetings in one day, I do them in one place and with breaks of no more than 10 minutes in between. I pride myself on being able to set my priorities. To start with, I did this with tasks, then with projects, and nowI do itwith people.
16. I plan all of my calls for certain days and meetings for others. As a result, I’m never in a rush from a meeting to a call, but I’m always available for a call.
Staying on course
17. I plan my week. Usually, on Fridays I already know the schedule of the week to come. It goes something like this: I’m at home on Monday, Tuesday to Thursday are meetings and events, and on Friday I’m at home again. It doesn’t work out that way every time, but this set-up is ideal for me.
18. I sort my mail and messages in a timely manner. If I can’t answer right away, I mark the email or letterand return to it later, but I never leave mail unanswered.
19. My rule is to reply to all emails within 36 hours. I also use email for work. When I receive a task in messenger, I write it down in an email and send the email to myself.
20. I write down all tasks. Absolutely all. If I start a task, I always complete it: that’s my iron-clad rule.
21. Lifehack: if someone says “remind me in an hour” or “call me in 30 minutes,” I set up an alarm on my phone for precisely that time. People are often surprised that I call back exactly one hour later, such as 11:38am.
22. I work on all my projects at once. I don’t schedule project X for Tuesday and project Y for Wednesday.
23. I use every minute to work: I make calls in the taxi; I write emails and texts on the plane or train; I watch lectures and make work calls in a beauty salon, or in the mornings when doing my make-up.
24. Every day I learn self-control. If you have self-control, nothing can put you off your balance and lead you astray from your set course.
25. I practice silence… it’s my favorite discipline! It brings unbelievable results. Sometimes I combine silence with willful diversion. Once, I had 90 minutes to analyze a research paper that was 180 pages long. I turned off all social media notifications, but I couldn’t turn off the phone as it was a work day. I gave myself an affirmation: “I need 90 minutes. I don’t need any calls. I’m switching over to silence.” And there were no calls. It’s rare in my life that there are no calls for 90 minutes, but this practice works!
26. I sharpen my intuition. I have learned three things. First, to identify the moment/situation in which a decision should be made intuitively. Second, to let go; to not be afraid to delay adecision and wait… to articulate a fundamental aspiration and to let it go for a while. Third, to be open to finding answers within the first five seconds after waking up. It may seem superstitious, but this is how I find answers to many of my questions. The logic behind it is that excessive information kills intuition.
27. I have a coach and a mentor. These people help me to grow both professionally and personally.
28. I always read two books at once. One book is always about spirituality/mindfulness, and the other isabout motivation, work and goals.
• Wendy Suzuki’s lecture “The brain-changing benefits of exercise.” Using simple words and easy-to-understand examples, Wendy explains how exercise affects brain activity, creativity, focus and efficiency.
• Buddha’s Brain written by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. It’s one of the most useful books that I read last year. It is basically a scientific treatise on spiritual growth. The book gives step-by-step instructions for different meditation techniques, and explains the interrelation between psychology and physiology, when a person has negative or positive emotions. It contains a lot of advice on communication, wisdom and happiness. The book really influenced the way I see myself and the world around me.
• The Diamond Cutter written by Michael Roach completely changed my approach to work. The first half of the book tells the story of a Princeton University graduate who decides to go into the diamond business after spending many years at a Buddhist temple. The second part of the book gives practical advice for all kinds of business-related problems.
• Irina Khakamada’s book ReStart, about intuition and emotions. I’ve read it twice: first, I swallowed it whole, and then I read it slowly, diving into the details. It’s not an easy book, and you have to internalize the information and advice it gives. It’s good to schedule the ‘restart’ she describes for Friday evening (Irina gives a detailed description of the procedure’s mechanics). I tried it twice, and the results were amazing! If you combine it with meditation and the practice of silence that I absolutely adore (it 100% works), you will definitely get all your answers and find yourself.
• An e-book by Bob Rotella and Bob Cullen called How Champions Think, about becoming exceptional. It is an unbelievably inspiring tale of motivation, diligence, perseverance, obligations to yourself and your sense of purpose. The authors write a lot about the right ways to assess oneself, about valuing your talents and ways to perceive competition.
• The meditation app Breethe contains not just meditations of different lengths and for different purposes, but also inspiring monologues about love and spirituality, calming videos, breathing techniques and master classes on topics such as taming your ego.
• The Insight Timer app contains 15,000 meditations. It is the largest free-to-use library of meditations, spiritual courses and music. As far as I understand, any user can add their own practices and meditations.
• The LitRes app for reading e-books. Its online store has almost any book you can think of. The e-reader has a convenient system of bookmarks and quotes that can be automatically grouped into one list. The app also shows you how much of the book you already read. It always remembers the last page you read before exiting, and opens back on the exact same one when you relaunch the app.
• The Nike Training app. I use this app to train every day. The only things I do without it is running in the park or treadmill sessions. The app contains more than 200 sets of exercises: from yoga, to weight training for muscle building. Everything is super convenient: you select the type, duration and intensity of the training session and the level of workload; you can search routines by muscle groups, by type of equipment and so on. You may find that the role of your online coach is played by Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Sydney Dwyer or a variety of other sports stars. You can create a training program for four, six and eight weeks. This app will teach you to love sports!
• The Wunderlist app for personal goal-setting is the only e-planner I use. You can use it to create a task, establish a checklist and a deadline, set up notifications and add hashtags. I only use the app as a to-do list for my projects, tasks and goals, but you can give other users access to any list, so that they can review tasks, add comments and close completed tasks.
• The Zoom calling app. I usually use this service to call international clients and colleagues, although Russian users are nowstarting to prefer it to Skype. Call participants receive a link ahead of the call and use it to join the conversation. It’s very convenient!