At which time do you wake up in the morning?
During the school period, I wake up at 7:05 and then get the kids ready for school, and drive them there. When I’m traveling, especially in the US, I wake up much earlier due the jet lag but it’s nice to get an early start of the day.
What is the first thing you do?
I often check my phone first thing in the morning but I’m trying to get rid of this bad habit and start the day with a clean mind. As I have hard time resisting the urge if I have my phone near my bed, I try to keep it downstairs so it’s no longer about self-discipline, just pure logistics 😀
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
There are two Hungarian news sites I often read as they cover national and international news quite well, but I’m subscribed to several dozen substack and news outlets’ newsletters that I find very valuable too. I check Linkedin daily, and friends tend to share relevant articles too. I use Twitter more for political entertainment than for serious information.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I work extremely flexibly: after dropping the kids at school, I usually head to a café or a hotel lobby or the office, but if I need to go for a checkup or have my car washed, I’ll just work in the waiting room or on the train. For meetings that require a silent background, however, I would plan my location accordingly.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Way too many times as I live inside my inbox, which also serves as a kind-of to-do list. When I need to focus on drafting an offer or a complex topic, I turn my email tab and other notifications off.
When is your first meeting?
Usually not before 10am so I can get to a silent location or to the place where I meet the other person physically. As I work with colleagues, freelancers and clients in a dozen or so countries, most meetings tend to be online.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I don’t have any ‘no meeting days’ as clients or colleagues may not be so flexible or available, or some issues need attention relatively quickly. I occasionally block off a full day if I go to a spa or have personal time off. Meetings are spread all over the week but I do guard my sport and family time against any meeting interference.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
As I wear many hats where I’m the boss of our training company, I’m a consultant to the association, or I’m a hired trainer for a client, the internal-external distinction isn’t applicable.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
As I’m not a stock broker, I don’t follow news on an hourly basis, but I do check some sites once or twice a day. If it’s truly a breaking news event, it will reach me on multiple channels anyways.
How do you organize your calendar?
I have multiple calendars based on the businesses I’m involved in, a personal one, another for ‘self-development’ tasks (that includes gym), and a shared one for family tasks and events. I book everything in the calendar so I have a clear idea which hat I’ll be wearing. I don’t organize my days or parts of the day according to the companies I run or the kind of task I want to focus on at any given time of the day, but I do block off time for tasks that require dedicated, focused attention.
How do you take notes?
I enjoy typing when I’m a (video)call, but I also love handwriting when it’s a face-to-face meeting as it gives a very different vibe and I can also express myself differently than with a keyboard. To be sure I keep all my notes synced and backed up, I used my iPad mini with a stylus instead of paper.
What is your relationship to Excel?
As Facebook’s relationship status used to say: “it’s complicated”. The truth is, I don’t need to crunch a lot of numbers, and when I do, it’s usually prepared for me or presented to me by someone else on the team. I love using Google Sheets but not for number-crunching, rather for project tracking or creating lists, and it does the job extremely well, especially given the native collaborative functions it offers.
What is your favorite app & why?
I use Upwork a lot as many of our freelancers work through it. I also love Pocket, which I use to save long-form articles that I come across but don’t have time to read at that moment. I got to love Substack as there are so many high-quality newsletters and authors on it. Perhaps my true favorite app is Google Maps which I find as the least biased source to find not just restaurants but any professional service since the reviews are by and large genuine.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Usually around 2 or 3, though if we count coffees as well, the number probably doubles or triples.
Which time do you go to bed?
I try to go to bed before 11pm as my sleep quality is radically better if I fall asleep before midnight and have around 7.5-8 hours of sleep. When one of my sons wakes me up at night, that’s a different story.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
As public affairs has become such a unique blend of best practices, politics, social trends, strategic communication and many other disciplines, much of the stuff I read in long-form articles, Linkedin posts alerting me to some helpful resource or insight, conversations with peers and colleagues all contribute to my understanding of the latest trends. And not the least, studies and reports from EU consultancies, the Public Affairs Council, and podcasts are also helpful.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
Be strict and disciplined in guarding your time with family and doing sports. Put it in your calendar and treat it as a meeting with your CEO: do everything you can not to cancel it.
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now?
There are quite a few: for the Public Affairs Council, I’m working on a large training assignment that we’ll deliver later this year; for my EU, advocacy and communication training services, I’m trying to identify my ‘ideal client’ and create workshop offers that resonate with them. For my EUtraining.eu business, we’re adapting our services to the latest developments on how EU institutions select and recruit future staff, and we’re also launching a comprehensive 24-module elearning course on EU decision-making, history, institutions and all the key policies. For Speakerhub.com, I’m looking to take it to the next level and get more associations and companies to use our white-label speaker directory.
What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
I think the biggest challenge is to decide whether a trending issue is signal, or noise. There are scandals that disappear in three days while others can stain an organization for years. It’s hard to distinguish between a smart tactical move and taking a strategic approach on an issue. Getting the right perspective and wisdom on what the best course of action is so PA professionals can advise their C-suite ‘clients’ and engage externally when it’s needed.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
Aaron McLaughlin is someone who not only walks the talk but he writes about as well. There are many others whom I’m honored to call friends and colleagues that I consider best-of-class practitioners.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
Yes, though I would often turn my phone off and leave it in the hotel room and reply only in the morning or evening, but not in between. I sometimes go completely offline for a day or two, but usually not longer than that.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
Entangled life is a fascinating read: it’s so different from the political, self-help or fiction books as it describes in detail the fascinating and unknown world of fungi. Surprisingly but not surprisingly, it’s been a bestseller. I also have many psychology books on my table, and the full list is on my Goodreads page and includes books like Making numbers count, Atomic habits, Persuadable, Brave new world and dozens of others.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 years?
Critical thinking, good judgment, separating wheat from the chaff, understanding strategy (both for public affairs, and corporate/business strategy), interpersonal skills and communication, even if ChatGPT becomes ten times smarter than it is already.
How big is your PA department (PA employees)?
Given the many businesses I’m involved in, I can only say that I work with about 20-30 people on a daily basis, but no direct PA department to speak of in my line of business.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
The most important is to be directly connected to the executive committee or the board of the company, and the place of the PA function inside the organization is a secondary question. Having said that, it’s usually preferable to have the PA function close to corporate communications, perhaps the legal department, or to have a standalone corporate affairs department. This can greatly benefit the effectiveness of the team, and give it enough trust and resources to do their job properly, both in-house and towards external stakeholders.