A New Pro’s Never-Ending To-Do List

I have a never-ending to-do list.

It’s not just work items on that list. It’s things for my multiple side hustles, it’s household chores, it’s taking care of an 18-year-old cat with kidney disease, it’s making sure I get in a workout — and the list goes on and on. It’s a lot. It’s overwhelming.

And I’m not the only one in this situation.

As new professionals, we constantly feel like we have to prove ourselves. We are the new ones in the office who don’t want to look like the stereotypical millennial that doesn’t put in the hard work (disclaimer: I have never once seen this stereotype in action). These misperceptions often make us work harder, but our generation also recognizes the need for a work/life balance.

So what is a new pro with a never-ending list to do? If you’re in the same situation, I’ve compiled three best tips for dealing with your own to-do list that doesn’t ever seem to end.


Priority lists constantly change; they aren’t static. One week, you may realize that you need to prioritize one side-hustle over another. Another week, household chores may jump to the top. After that, maybe you have to put your main job as the priority (plus some self-care to deal with those long hours). Just stay organized and keep an open mind.

Power Through

Even if you’re careful to prioritize, there are times when you just have to power through to really get your list under control. Things like a lack of motivation or an especially busy week can double your work. To help you get through it, treat yourself to an activity you enjoy afterward to really power through.

Take a Step Back

Sometimes, we’re just too close to things to see them clearly. Try taking a step back and reminding yourself that it’s okay to not get every single item checked off. Regardless of how productive your day, week, or month was, it’s never a bad time to take a break. Spend a quiet Sunday morning with a cup of coffee, or curl up with that book you’ve been dying to read. It’s actually good for your mental health.

Overall, to-do lists are a great and wonderful tool for keeping your life on track, but don’t get so caught up by them that you end up overwhelmed. Consult your list, but allow for spontaneity. And hey, if that means an item doesn’t get checked off, that’s okay.



Carving Out Time For Hobbies

Juggling your many responsibilities as a new PR pro probably leaves you wanting to curl up on the couch with your Seamless and Netflix to recharge before you face another day. Set that remote down though, because research has found that engaging in a hobby is a much better way to decompress and re-energize yourself.

According to a 2013 study by Concordia University, people who have hobbies are generally healthier and have a lower risk of depression and dementia as they age. Similar research by a team at San Francisco State University noted that professionals who engage in hobbies, particularly creative activities, are better able to conceive creative solutions for problems in the office. Seems like hobbies are all-around good for you, but what can they do to improve your day-to-day life as a new pro?


Hobbies give you time to clear your mind.

Focusing on a task or project that requires your full attention gives you the opportunity to disconnect from the world around you. The more difficult your hobby, the better. Concentrating on one task for an extended period of time allows your brain to reboot. Just like shutting off your computer every once in awhile is good for it, giving your brain a chance to restart can bring you back refreshed and with a new perspective.

Hobbies boost your confidence.

Think about the last time you were really excited about something you accomplished. That rush of adrenaline, the joy of completing something you’ve been working towards, the pride you felt knowing your hard work had paid off – it felt good right? Maybe like you were on top of the world? Mastering a hobby or a skill can have the same confidence-boosting effects. Whether you’re learning to knit, working on your golf game, cooking your way through Chrissy Teigan’s Cravings or learning to code, conquering your own mountains can make you more confident when approaching other obstacles.

Hobbies relieve stress.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been struggling with the same problem for days or if your roommate is the source of your angst, spending time on something that is solely for you can wash all that tension away. Concentrating your time and energy on a hobby can put you into a relaxing meditative state. Your brain only has a set amount of room and if you fill it up with fun things, there’s no room left for whatever was bothering you. Plus…

Hobbies ignite creativity.

Zoning out a bit and doing something out of the ordinary can get your creative juices flowing. Spend a little time using your brain in different ways and you’ll start to find new ways to connect the dots of your everyday life. Creativity is just like muscle or math, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Hobbies create a balance.

Everything is good in moderation. Work, sweets and Netflix are just a few of the things that should be balanced with other things. Every hour of every day shouldn’t be spent on work, work, work. Making time for things you’re interested in is a way of giving yourself a break that you shouldn’t feel bad about. Hobbies aren’t wasting time or frivolous; they’re life-enriching ways to explore new interests and learn new things without feeling like you need to dedicate your life to them. Balancing work and play makes doing things you’re not-so-excited for not-so-bad.

Robyn Rudish-Laning (1)Robyn Rudish-Laning is a member of South Carolina’s PRSA chapter and is communications coordinator for the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness. Robyn is also a member of the New Professionals executive committee. She is a graduate of Duquesne University and is currently located in Columbia, SC. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter or read her blog here.

Zig when others zag: Managing work/life balance

Public relations can be a 24/7 job, especially as technology keeps us tethered to our work even when we’re away from the office. What does work/life balance mean in our field? PRSA New Professionals Mentoring Chair Alyssa Stafford spoke with Judy DeRango Wicks, APR, Fellow PRSA, to get some insight on how to be successful in the balancing act.

What do new professionals need to know about the life of a PR pro?

A career in public relations can be exciting, mentally stimulating and extremely fulfilling. However the first tasks assigned may seem boring – collecting the results of campaigns for reports or awards entries, creating lists of media and influencers, distributing media materials. Soak in everything you can learn, read the plans so you see the “big picture” and remember every tedious step is important – especially the reporting of results! If you maintain a good attitude and speak up with ideas that fit the audience and objectives, you will differentiate yourself and move up. Be the one who “gets it” and “gets it done.”

Remember your manager may be handling multiple crises on any given day, so respect their time in meetings by coming prepared. Build a reputation for being reliable, positive, smart and hard-working. Establish healthy routines – as you get busier, you will need stamina!  When you are overwhelmed, take a break. Great ideas can come while you are taking a walk and your brain has time to work on the latest challenge.

Seek out a mentor at work, in your PRSA chapter, or visit PRSA.org and sign up for the Mentor Match which can link you with a member of the College of Fellows. We have all walked in your shoes, and those who have signed up to mentor have a personal interest in helping others successfully navigate a career in public relations.

What does work/life balance mean to you?

When I hear “work/life balance,” I envision a juggling act that is exhilarating when you actually get everything done!  Public relations is not 9-to-5, so time management is essential and becomes even more so, believe me, as you move from being a new hire / recent graduate to being a manager / parent. You can move mountains on multiple fronts with sufficient planning and good habits.

How did you progress in your career without burning out?

As my career progressed, travel requirements were added to the mix. During the .com era, I was the girl with the light on over my laptop on the plane all the way to the technology trade show and back. “Zig when others zag” became my mantra – try not to drive or fly when everyone else does, because down-time in peak traffic or searching for a parking place is bad for your health. Schedule flights on Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning. If you are going to a great city, make after-hours plans with friends who live there, take a break to walk through a museum or cathedral to nourish your soul when the work is done. You’ve earned it and it makes you a more interesting person when you are dining / conversing with executives and media. As an executive, I encouraged my team to enjoy travel and made sure we had fun together, many times with our agency teammates as well, when the mission was accomplished.

Another source of burn-out can be stress about bills and finances. Get into good financial habits early on, such as saving a percentage of every paycheck, establishing a budget, contributing to your 401K, paying bills on time to build a good credit history. Having a nest egg can detract from stress, and give you the freedom to make decisions when it’s time to change jobs.

How have mentors helped you find work/life balance?

One of my early mentors said, “Do the first things first.”  Don’t procrastinate on what you know your boss or client is waiting for you to complete.  At Ketchum, I took advantage of training classes on how to work with a client, how to prepare for a meeting with a senior executive, how to be a better presenter.  Seek out learning opportunities through PRSA including chapter events and webinars.  Mid-career, when I seemed to always have my nose to the grindstone and took everything very very seriously, I learned from a client that it’s really OK to go shopping when you are in a Paris and the work is done for the day! Get a life! Live a little!


When I was a VP, the CMO actually put into my review that I needed to work on my work / life balance – I was working too hard.  And she was right.  Don’t stop taking care of yourself or you won’t be of much use to your organization.  Later in life, burnout becomes health issues that can take you out of the office for days or weeks. Again, establish good habits as a new professional and you will be able to enjoy your career and survive the most difficult days (which will pass), and fully enjoy the “gift” moments when the story you wanted is appearing in multiple media outlets, and you are now free to enjoy the fabulous city you are visiting with your favorite people!

work life balance


Judy DeRango Wicks, APR, Fellow PRSA, serves as co-chair of the PRSA College of Fellows mentoring program. She headed Communications for financial technology providers Fiserv and CheckFree, and twice received the PRSA Silver Anvil in Consumer Services/Technology. Before this, she headed the IBM account at Ketchum. She holds an M.A. in Journalism and Communications, University of Florida, and a B.A., Stetson University.

Keeping your professional and personal life in tune

As a PR professional tethered at all times to some sort of device, it’s easy to let work take over your whole life. But our passion projects are a huge part of what make us unique communicators, bringing a diverse range of experience to our daily work.

Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie Pitch Perfect. Keep it raised if you recognize these two crazies from the movie:


Well, that’s me, to a certain extent. If you didn’t know, the movie Pitch Perfect is actually based loosely on a book written about the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or the “ICCA” for short. This tournament has been happening for 20 years, and I’m one of the people that helps make it happen. More specifically, I coordinate the high school level of the tournament—the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA).

I’ve been working with Varsity Vocals—the organization that runs both tournaments—for more than 10 years. When I was in college, I sang with an a cappella group that competed in the tournament. I wanted to stay connected to music in some small way, so I asked the organizers of the tournament how I could help. At the time, the high school level of the tournament was very small—holding only a few shows each year. I joined to help grow the tournament.

Over the last several years, in large part thanks to the commercial success of Pitch Perfect, The Sing-Off and Pentatonix, the tournament has grown exponentially. More than 150 high school groups competed in the ICHSA this year, at 17 quarterfinal and semifinal events around the country. Even though it’s not my day job, I still manage the tournament and a team of regional producers who run each event. It never feels like an extra burden though, because it’s something I love.


Me producing at one of the ICHSA shows.

On that note, here are a few tips for keeping your professional and personal life in tune with each other:

Learn how to say no to things that don’t make you happy or bring you some sort of personal fulfillment. Your spare time is precious, and it’s easy to get pulled into a million extracurricular things, from serving on boards, to attending networking events that seem to be happening every night. It’s absolutely beneficial to do some of those things, but you also have to commit to carving out time for the things that you truly love.


Marry your passion projects with your professional skills. Did you play soccer in high school and miss the game? Volunteer for a local children’s soccer league as a coach, or see if your area has a semi-professional league that you can help run social media or offer your PR services pro-bono. Working with Varsity Vocals started off as a way for me to stay connected to the a cappella world, but it’s also taught me about event planning, people management, public speaking and public relations.

Last, and most important:

Share what you love in your professional life. Not only does it make you more human, it might help you connect with your coworkers and clients on a more personal level. I brought in my old college a cappella group to sing at a company function last year and found the head of a local association sings in a semi-professional a cappella group! A couple coworkers have also come to shows to support me—one even flew to New York City for the Finals!

And, for those of you on the east coast, tickets are still available for ICHSA Finals at the Town Hall in New York City on Friday, April 29. It’ll be an aca-awesome show, I promise!


Andie Poole is a member of the Central Michigan PRSA chapter and a senior account executive at Martin Waymire, a Lansing, Michigan-based public relations and marketing firm. She’s also the director of high school programming for Varsity Vocals. Andie and her husband Andrew live in East Lansing with their human child, daughter Elliot (1) and dog child, Einstein (5) and love cheering on the Michigan State Spartans with a good craft beer in hand. Follow her on Twitter at @andiepoole.

Work-Life Balance: Life Outside of PR

“Work hard. Play hard.” This is every PR pro’s mantra, but let’s be real—emails can be relentless and sometimes there is zero time or energy left for ourselves or our families. I consider myself a lucky guy, I have an awesome wife and we just welcomed our second child. Balancing a great career while raising a family is arguably the best “problem” one could ask for, though that’s not to say it’s anything short of challenging.  While we all have different aspects of our lives outside of work we are juggling, I’ll let you in on some secrets for balancing those demanding work weeks with a “work hard, play hard” lifestyle.

1.) Communication: Of course communication is my number-one! Communication is the foundation for any complex system and balancing work and family life is no different. Maintaining an open line of communication with your team is key, especially when accommodating a commitment that may call for some wiggle room in your schedule. Communication can also be equally important when it comes to keeping in touch with your family throughout a work day. Oftentimes, I like to take a break at work and squeeze in a quick FaceTime call with my family. This helps me stay in the loop at home, and lets them know that while I am busy, they are still a priority.

2.) Organization: Balancing work and family demands can get hectic, which makes organization crucial – especially when expectations and responsibilities at work may seem tenfold at home. We’re all human. Forgetting things is inevitable. Take notes and stay organized.  Personally, keeping a calendar of important dates and tasks somewhere easily accessible is key to helping me stay on top of the things that need to get done.

3.) Equity: For me, this is where I have another cup of coffee and gear-up to handle business at home.  Attempting to devote equal efforts to a work and home life may seem near impossible, but setting a goal that reflects this is a great step toward being successful at work, and having a peaceful, happy home life.  To start, consider taking stock of the things you find yourself devoting the most time to at work, and make sure you have the resources and training in place to be successful.  Sometimes, learning a new skill or simply asking for a little help can be the ticket to achieving greater stability in both areas. You need enough in the tank to be alert and effective after work too.

4.) Gratitude: Positivity is important and optimism is infectious. No matter how stressful the days may get, making an effort to maintain a thankful, positive mindset is crucial. A good attitude at work goes a long way toward building relationships with your colleagues and supervisor, which ultimately paves the way for a less stressful work environment overall.  In the end, a positive outlook is the first step to perseverance and success.

Find something you enjoy and commit a portion of your week to it.5.) Balance: Find something you enjoy and commit a portion of your week to it. Often, we fail to make this a priority due to an already tight schedule, but creating a window of time for yourself, and sticking to it, can create a more balanced you.  For me, I enjoy riding my skateboard a few times a week, as it is the perfect solution to creating that balance we all strive for. Plus, it allows me to be outside and relax. How do you balance your hectic life? If you have any of your own tips for balancing work and family life, we’d love to hear!


Ronald Barnes is a member of Sacramento’s PRSA chapter and an account coordinator at Prosio Communications, a California certified small business, and woman/minority owned public relations and marketing firm in Roseville, which specializes in media relations, crisis communication and community outreach.  Ronald earned a public relations degree from California State University, Sacramento, where he successfully passed the Principles of Public Relations beta-examination. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn and Twitter.