The simplest changes are often the most powerful, even it's as simple as turning off your notifications or looking at things in a different creative manner. In Public Relations it becomes very easy after a few years - and as I enter my tenth year in the industry, I should know - to get stuck in a rut, or get used to doing things a certain way that may have worked but isn't working the same way. These things can be mental exercises, or subtle lifestyle changes, but I believe there are actually methods centered around simple technology adjustments that can absolutely change the way that you work. Here's how I've changed mine.
Downsize To One Machine - Get Docked
I used to have a lot of machines. I'd work out of three locations and have an iMac in one, a different iMac in another and then a laptop that I'd use in my home office. This was at first seeming a great idea - it didn't require me to bring a machine anywhere, and I thought the cloud would support me endlessly. The truth is, as well as being extremely costly, I'd find myself (despite a relatively regimented backup schedule and daily cloud storage monitoring) consistently unable to find things, and unable to keep a continuous flow of work.
As a result, I sold off or gave away every work-based computer I had and upgraded to a Macbook Pro, and got an LG 5K display for both of the offices I now work out of. The important thing to note is that I absolutely - as do many others - work significantly more efficiently in a desktop environment. The use of USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 in the 5K display and Macbook means that I effectively have my office with me at all times. When I back up to a cloud backup service, and to the physical hard-drive I have in my home office, I'm only guarding the data of one machine. When I have to work for business, I effectively take my desktop with me. Furthermore, the screen charges my laptop and in one cable I plug into a bevvy of other devices - my podcast setup, my USB hard drive, my speakers...and within a few uses I realized how much time I'd waste retrieving files from computer to computer.
If you're a PC user, the Surface Dock for the Surface Laptop/Surface Book has a similar function.
Focus is key in PR - if I get knocked out of my rhythm of work I may lose an hour of activity getting started again. This is a powerful way to keep on task. In fact, that leads to my next point...
Take Time To Set Up Tasks (and Use Productivity Software)
In a business that can one day be a question of sending emails, writing emails, responding to emails, writing documents, making phone calls and re-writing documents, it's easy to lose track of things. Many Public Relations people I know live minute-to-minute, myself included, which means we oftentimes will forget things we have to do, especially when they're more than a week out.
I forced myself - painfully - to adopt task manager Asana, but also Appsana, a persistent app-based version that never hides from me, despite the fact that at times I'd like it to. More importantly, I also forced myself to take the task of actually setting up tasks.
This may seem strange, but in a very fluid industry, it's hard to set up specific things. Perhaps it's "pitch launch starting today," or 2 or 3 days later that I'd need to follow up. Or maybe it's an offhand comment from a new business prospect that I should follow up "in a few weeks." In both of those cases I'd set tasks, with due dates, with specific times I'd know that I'd follow up on. This helped for two reasons - 1. I actually got more done, because I kept on task, and 2. I felt better about my day - because I had a tangible way of looking at what I'd done. Furthermore, I'm also able to evaluate fairly if I've done much with a day - sometimes you won't! - meaning that I can learn day-by-day about what I've actually achieved.
Get A Phone Setup That Works For You
If you're in public relations and you're not on the phone hours and hours a week, I have no idea how you are in the industry and I'm very, very jealous.
For the rest of us, this is where I'll get far more pragmatic: it's time to switch to anything that uses Bluetooth W1 or going digital. In essence, Apple's new bluetooth standard means that their Airpods open, go in my ears and I can talk to clients. I can talk and talk and talk without what every bluetooth headset in the world otherwise connected to a phone has done, which is stop pairing after a few months no matter what phone I use. The W1 standard just works and I'd recommend you switch to an iPhone for it. Seriously. It has changed how I work - simply because I don't have to think about the conversation, the burning phone on my ear, the weird craned neck positioning, or anything else, really. I don't have to worry about the call going to speaker or some other nonsense. It just works.
However, if your computer like mine works fine and you have a microphone and headphones, I'd also recommend simply converting to an all-digital version. Google Hangouts alone can be a perfect replacement for taking business calls, and Skype can even take the task on - though I've found the quality has become slowly but surely worse over time.
The important thing is that it doesn't have you physically changing your station to perform a call. My goal for you, fair PR person, is to get you into a position where you can make a call as easily as you'd send an email - and no, that doesn't mean phone pitching - so that you don't lose your focus. Here's to you, hard worker.