Life of a Social Media Rockstar

November 2, 2009 / Daily Life / 18 Comments

Pat Law is my new idol. No, she’s not another Japanese singer. She’s a digital strategist for Ogilvy and a social media rockstar in Singapore. She recently wrote about how she stays on top of her ballgame with a demanding career and her online presence.

Her 3 tips for balancing her life:

  • #1: Work comes first
  • #2: Set a daily schedule
  • #3: Draw a line

Like her, I too work in public relations with some focus on online media, albeit in-house. I think I do #1 and #3 fairly well. Work will always be first, and I draw a line between my roles as a blogger, a PR person and a friend.

But #2 is something I constantly struggle with. (See my sparse blog archive for proof). Since most of my work is project-based, there are times where I will work on 3-5 projects simultaneously. Most of the time, this means I will end up burning weekends. And then there are times where I will have nothing substantial to do. (Although, I have yet to see this in 2009).

This is how my work day looks like during a moderately busy period.

9:00am Arrive at the office. Open Outlook. Reply to the gazillion emails before my meeting.

9.30am Rush to meeting.

12:30pm Come out of meeting. Check Twitter and Outlook. Update my to-do list. If there are very urgent emails or stuff, skip lunch with colleagues and work. If not, have quick lunch with colleagues.

1.30pm Resume work or respond to more emails.

2:00pm Rush to another meeting.

4:00pm Break. Either go downstairs to pick up a drink, or play something mindless like Restaurant City for 5 minutes.

4:30pm While clearing work, get interrupted by a stakeholder. Do urgent job for them.

5:30pm Resume normal work and respond to emails.

7:00pm Finish up the most urgent stuff. Review to-do list for the next day. If there are still more urgent things to do, stay past 7.

7:30pm Order take out or eat with colleague who stayed late too.

8:45pm Arrive home. Log on to Adium (Mac’s IM client) and Mixero (Twitter app). Chat with friends, reply any DMs or @replies. Check personal email, and Facebook. If it requires urgent response, reply.

9:00pm If there is some juice left in the brain, open Google Reader, or read a book. Get inspired to update my Delicious and/or Tumblr. Otherwise, play the guitar or vegetate with anime.

9:30pm Hang out with mom for a bit because moms need TLC. Make her watch Maru or CuteOverload with me.

11:30pm Wait for the boyfriend to wake up (since he’s on the other side of the world) Chat on MSN, Skype or on the phone.

12:00am Sleep.

Looking at her, I know I have lots more to learn – not just about the world of social media, but also about time management and life in general. Expertise and the realm of rockstarhood seem to come with some level of sacrifice. She sleeps less for one, and almost dedicates her whole day to social media and work, while mine is still peppered with other interests and quite a bit of downtime.

I’ve also only been working for one year, so there’s no way I can be on par yet. But I guess it’s time to step up my A-game. Ashita mo ganbaro! Thanks Pat, for the inspiration!

Dear readers, what is your work schedule like? How do you juggle your different roles and responsibilities? Any tips to share?

  • You’re too kind, Ivy. I don’t deserve such honour to be honest. I’m just glad my article inspired you. Most of my work’s project-based too, and I find that by prioritising them, it enables me to be more productive. Here’s a trick – don’t work according to people’s schedules. Rather, make them work according to yours. For example, back in my Suit days, my creative teams knew I’d knock off on the dot at 1830h, and I sure as hell won’t stay about to wait for some artwork to be ready. As a result of that, if there’s anything they need me to obtain the client’s approval in advance, they tend to give it to me by the early afternoon. 😉

  • wow you work long hours. I’m only allowed to work 40 hours a week, ’cause the government says so, so I can get paid overtime and they can take half of the money.

    I usually don’t have too much work today. Today I have quite a bit and of course I can’t do it because all the servers are down 🙁

  • It is a long schedule and a routine. Those are three simple rules that makes a lot of sense, and I definitely want to live by them as well. Because I also juggle many different contracts altogether, I find that I tend to spend more time on one thing than the other, which I need to really start controlling and maintaining. Hopefully when I step back into the office life, it’s better 🙂

  • When I first started working at my last place of work, it was hard for me to balance my life and work commitments. Like you, I was always working on multiple projects and it was easy not necessarily to become disorganised, but to lose a bit of the control over my daily schedule. I found that the only way to deal with it was to draw a strong line between my work life and home life, and I made sure that during the day when I was working on one thing I didn’t set it aside and work on something else unless it was an absolute priority. Setting strong rules is absolutely essential I think, particularly around when you will work and when you absolutely won’t. When your colleagues see that you are willing to work overtime consistently, regardless of how nice they are they tend to take advantage of it.

  • My work schedule constantly changes. It’s not exactly set. Some days I may work 9 to 6. Some days will be 2 to 8. Another day may be 12 to 6. So I kind of . . . have to be flexible. Luckily, I am, but it’s still a pain at times.

    And I think we all wished were a more organised and whatnot, but that’s so hard to do for the most part! X_X;;

  • Wow, you actually have a schedule? I can’t keep a schedule because every day, things are always different. I hate that. =( Geez, you do work A LOT. I don’t know how you can handle it! 40 hours a week’s already crazy for me! =( Well, most of the time, I end up going over by a bit, which sucks. =(

    Hmm, well, I guess for me, if it’s a bug, that’s urgent, then that’s at the top of my list. Then I keep going down that list. The list is according to when the deadline is, and how long it (may) take for me to program it. If it’s something that I think would be the hardest thing to do, I’d try to get that over with first. Or vice-versa, if it’s something easy, and it’d take me a couple of hours, I’d just do it then, and then work on the harder stuff. I guess it kind of depends on my mood too.

  • Wheeeew, Ivy. As I held by breath starting from the first line of your schedule, I ran out of air when you’re at the Restaurant City part. It’s already tiring enough to just read your schedule alone, and I have totally no idea how you manage to balance work and life so well! You still look so energetic and awake when we met at the sushi restaurant last time, heh 😀 that means you must be doing something right!

    I schedule changes from time to time, depends on the work load was handed down – sometimes I could sleep a full 8 hours a day while sometimes I just survive on one-hour naps interspersed throughout the day :/ I guess things will only go downhill after I graduate *laughs*

    Anyway, have a great weekend! Don’t tell us you’re burning this weekend as well!

  • Wow, that looks really hectic! I do have a schedule and to-do list to work on everyday. However, I rarely follow it. I tend to go off the schedule by a lot since I’m a hardcore procrastinator. Perhaps I should start motivating myself to follow my schedule instead of going off track.

    Have a great weekend and take a well deserved break! 🙂

  • Well, I have to agree with Pat that you’re working to other people’s schedule instead of your own.

    The stockholder who calls at 4h30 pm ? Hah, I have worked in industry projects for 25 years management for 25 years and I know why he calls at 4h30 pm.
    It’s because he’ been busy with other things and postponed the question he wants an answer for till the last minute instead of calling first before he gets his work done. Or ( more likely) it’s been sitting on the desk since yesterday and he has just remembered he needs an answer by tomorrow.
    More importantly, he KNOWS he has called you before at 4h30 and you worked late to get the answer out the same day, so he KNOWS he can leave it late.

    Tell him( or her) politely you need to get in touch with (whoever) to get him the correct information and if possible it’ll be today or first thing in the morning.
    AND THEN you do it the next day. After a few times you’ll get the message across and the urgent questions will come in the morning. And only the really unforeseen ones that are truly urgent will remain.
    After 7 pm ? There are no urgent works after 7pm. Schedule them for the next day ( unless it has 6 hours of meetings in it) or the day after.
    If you send it out today, NO ONE WILL READ IT till the next day or whenever they come out of the morning meeting.
    Keep pampering your customers and they’ll never learn.
    Because otherwise you’ll keep on working overtime to make for THEIR lack of planning.
    Draw the line. Make your schedule and to do list for the next day before you leave for home. Leave a few hours unfilled for jobs that take more time or really urgent business.
    Work comes first ,yes, but only in the workplace ! You work to live, you don’t live to work. Otherwise you’re on a straight road to a burnout.

    And about your schedule : 2 meetings of 4 and 2 hours AND you’re trying to get a day’s work done ? No way. IF that happens every day, you’ll never make it. I could write a book about unproductive long meetings, but other people have already done that 😉

  • It looks like you’ve been kept busy in a good way. I don’t struggle so much with time management, but motivation. I don’t work, but I am taking 15 hours in school; morning classes. I juggle my obligations by pumping myself up, once I get in the mood I can get just about anything done. No tips from me, lol. I need some though 🙂

  • It is rather hard to keep track of one’s daily tasks, especially if one is so tied up with many assignments and things-to-do and the never-ending Inbox.

    I think you are doing quite well in this area. Perhaps, there are things I could learn from that! haha 😉


  • Ivy

    @Pat Law: Hi Pat! Thanks the for tip! Setting your own time instead of doing whatever comes to your plate is definitely something I should practice more often. Well, some of my projects will inevitably eat into overtime (like right now; I’m at APEC) but I think I’m generally too dependable so my stakeholders take advantage of that. Appreciate that.

    You’ve done a great job for your clients and the digital sphere in Singapore. so you definitely deserve it. It’ll take a while for me to get to where you are and I have have much more to learn but thank you again for the inspiration. 🙂

  • Ivy

    @Lissy: 40-hour weeks sound so good! Since I started working last year, I don’t think I’ve ever had more than a handful of 40-hour weeks. Paying for overtime is not mandatory in Singapore if you’re paid above a minimum wage. The general work culture here requires you to stay late at work – not crazy late like the Japanese – but later than the office hours stated in your contract at least, lest your bosses/colleagues may think you have nothing to do. But of course, industry and the department you’re in matters too. I do communications for a telco that’s rarely out of the news so our job requires us to always on standby.

    @Smartee: Yups, juggling many projects/contracts can be difficult since you need to balance different timelines and different stakeholders. All the best to your return to office life! 🙂

    @Skye: Ditto! Well said!

    When your colleagues see that you are willing to work overtime consistently, regardless of how nice they are they tend to take advantage of it.

  • Ivy

    @Tara: Hahaha! But your job scope is radically different from mine. But your job sounds very fun actually – although I have to admit, I really, really HATE children.

    @Simply Precious: Yes I have a schedule. Or at least try to have one since I’m usually interrupted by some urgent work. But recently I’ve kinda catered for that too. LOL!

    You do IT, ya? Been working with a few IT analysts and managers lately. You guys have tough jobs too (especially with “clients” like me.. muahaha.. but that’s another story).

    Hmm, maybe I should move back to North America. All you people are enjoying 40-hour work weeks while I plough through 60-hour work weeks with no extra overtime pay. Then again, my priority right now is to gain experience and exposure – and I have to admit that I’ve been very fortunate so far.

    @Teddy: You’re sooo busy foran undergraduate! Heard from Claudia it was actually quite difficult to even schedule the sushi meeting with you! We definitely need to meet up again in December – after your exams of course. I’m usually quite free in December so I should be fine. *crosses fingers*

  • Ivy

    @Dayna: I find it harder to follow a schedule as a student for some reason. Perhaps because there’s no remuneration involved.. hahaha! Or perhaps, I just never took school as seriously as I do for my work. 😛

    @Walter: Very true.

    Actually, I don’t deal with stockholders. I deal with stakeholders which is PR lingo for anyone who has a stake in any given issue or project. So it could be anyone from a disgruntled customer, a brand influencer to our C-suites. Depending on the person and my workload, I will accept or reject the request but most of the time, it’s not quite reject-able since I am relatively close to the bottom of the food chain and I have some specialized knowledge, so there are tasks where I have no one to delegate to.

    But like you accurately pointed out, it’s also true that I tend to accept most requests that come my way. I guess I need to be more stringent about my timelines and learn to say more ‘no’s. 🙂

    Thanks for the tip!

    @Olivia: Motivation was a problem for me in school too – especially for those classes you’re forced to take just to graduate. Grr! I got rid of them fairly early in my undergrad years, so I could spend the last 2 years of my undergrad studying what I was actually interested in. Hope that helps! 🙂

    @Budak Baba: Ahhh! Neverending inbox! Don’t even remind me! T___T Hahaha, I’m still keeping afloat but people who’ve ever emailed me via my site would know I take quite some time to reply to my emails. I’m not so on-the-ball like Pat. Looks like I still have much to learn too. 🙂

  • I like how she set the rules like that. It’s a good one. Maybe it should be summarized as: at work, schedule, and at work, work comes first.

  • Although I’m not in the workforce yet, this post shows me what its like out there in the hectic corporate world. An eye-opener 😀

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