Agony Aunt: My organisation skills haven't kept up with my expertise - I'm drowning in work. What can I do?

The chairman of Cathcart Consulting gives her verdict on this and other professional conundrums.


Corporate resolutions

We want to make some 2020 resolutions for the whole agency and stick to them. What would be your top three?

Great idea. And you could start by borrowing from the traditional approach to our own personal behaviours and promises to change:

• Stop smoking. Or in corporate speak, drop the hot air. Resolve to banish blah-blah. Be 100 per cent reliable: always do what you say you are going to do, or say why you can’t. Commit to everyone engaging their brains before they open their mouths. Smoke out any tendency to promote ‘fake news’ or dodgy claims. Install ‘smoke alarms’ to alert anyone in the company who is in danger of sliding back into second-guessing or ‘fake news’.

• Lose weight and exercise. Is the firm lean and hungry enough? Is your approach to staff training and welfare state of the art? Does it involve everyone? Be creative about training and development – stretch people. Banish the flab of over-servicing and any sogginess in your systems.

• Read more. Develop a company-wide, passionate approach to reading and make sure everyone has access to professional, business and current-affairs books and magazines. Encourage debate about issues in the media and feedback from current titles. Subsidise books, ebooks and audio books. Create a writing prize. And keep it up.

Keeping the plates spinning

I have a PR degree and have done well, but I am feeling drowned by work and as if the plates will stop spinning. It seems my organisational skills haven’t kept pace with my expertise. What can I do?

Maybe it is time to ‘back-fill’ any missing skills? Don’t blame yourself, though – the fact you have recognised the problem and want to address it is the best first step. You have a great professional qualification, but of course there may be other business needs as a career progresses.

You might consider the "slow down to speed up" advice of Emanuela Giangregorio, a performance improvement consultant who runs the Practical Project Management course for the PRCA (in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester). She had some sensible things to say when I met her recently. "We don’t give enough time to planning before doing," she said. "Everyone has had the hindsight experience of moving forward too fast and then tripping – wasting time and budget, creating unnecessary frustration and over-servicing. In comms projects, it is essential to slow down, get some basics clarified and planned out – before steaming on with the work."

On balance, planning has to take precedence over the more controversial approach advocated by Tim Harford in How to be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World. But it’s a good read and you will pick up some useful tips.

The PR crystal ball

PRWeek did some great stuff on the past this year – looking at 50 years of PR practice. What are your predictions for the next 50?

As a business, we’ll get smarter. Socially, there will be further fragmentation and division. Technology in media will both threaten our freedoms and liberate us. We will develop campaigns and programmes to create unity and common purpose. And the reality of climate change will be with us before we are halfway through the next 50...

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