Is this time of year the busiest?

Is it fashionable to say you're busier at this time of the year? Or is it really more chaotic?

It’s getting colder, the days are getting shorter and there is a pile of work to do before the end of the year. Other people may be feeling stressed, but there’s no reason why you should too. We asked PROs how to remain optimistic and fighting fit despite the challenges this time of year brings.

"The energy sector is not usually more stressful at this time of year", says Chris Pratt, director in the energy and industrials team at communications consultancy Hill and Knowlton Strategies, but with the transition of the Energy Bill through Parliament and an intensification of both political rhetoric and media coverage of energy bills, this year may be different. Pratt also points out that this can be a stressful time for agencies as clients look at budgets for the year ahead, teams focus on hitting budgets and forecasts need to be made for the next year.

Make lists

However, just because it is a difficult time, it does not mean you have to be stressed: “Getting stressed just doesn’t help to get the job done.” Pratt offers this advice for staying on top of things: “It’s important not to get overwhelmed – make lists, prioritise what’s important and speak up early if you’re struggling. We work in teams for a reason and the best teams pull together and help out when someone is getting stressed. This time of year is also an important time for people to take some time off and unwind, so switching off as much as possible and enjoying the holidays is important too.”

Duncan Cantor, director of communications at pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim, says that his busiest month is September, when a combination of Q4 planning, looming end-of-year deadlines, workload build-up from the summer, plus medical and political conferences all make it an “enormously” busy month. Cantor says he has two tried-and-tested methods for getting through the madness: “Firstly it helps to keep my to do list in some form of order. I use the online system called Bullet Journal, it helps me keep track of all the things I have to do, and what I’ve asked others to do."

“The second is that when new ‘stuff’ comes my way, I ask myself the following questions: Will the task help the business – if not, de-prioritise; Am I the right person to do this task – if not, find out who is and pass it on; If I do it, am I opting out of developing one of my team – if so, delegate and coach.”

Eat the frog!

Probably the strangest piece of advice for keeping calm and carrying on is offered by Julia Ruane, director of agency ChiCho Marketing, who says: “The best piece of advice I was given on how to get everything done was to ‘eat the frog‘”.

Ruane, was not being told to eat an amphibious creature she explains, as “the frog” refers to the least appetising thing on your plate, that piece of work that you desperately don't want to do:  “It's either too hard, too boring or you're just stuck for ideas.” The trick is to tackle that first: “By cracking on with that first I get so much more done as the rest of my day is pure fun in comparison! Other top tips I try to stick to – make a to-do list at the end of the day (especially on a Friday) and in the morning it's easier to get going and build momentum, and try to take a break every 90 minutes. You may feel that you are more productive with your nose to the grindstone, but in fact you achieve more if you rest more often.”

Written by Daney Parker