Manage Your Time

Time management is critical if you are to be effective in your job and maintain a balanced life.

To make your time management systematic, you will need a calendar-based organizer (paper or electronic). You should stick to ONE organizer for all your needs, professional and personal.

Your organizer should include (or connect with)

  • An ongoing project list — This is a convenient collection of all the things, large and small, you are juggling in your job. A project is anything that cannot be done in a single action.
  • A daily action list — This is a collection of actions you intend to complete on any given day.

There are three main tricks to tackling projects and actions efficiently: Prioritizing, Scheduling and Delegating.

Prioritization

Prioritizing is the deliberate process of categorizing projects or actions according to their importance in your success and happiness. It is helpful to assign an A, B or C to each item to help choose where to put your time and energy.

Sample-Priorities Worksheet

To help clarify the process of prioritization, practice using this worksheet. It works for both projects and daily actions. The worksheet would have you categorize your items in one of the four boxes. Note that the most urgent items are not always the most important, yet urgency tends to drive our time allocation. If you can quickly dispatch the items in box “A,” you can devote more time to the important items in box “B.” Avoid the temptation of box “C” and don’t even think about doing those items in box “D!”

Delegation

One way of quickly dispatching a “to do” item is to delegate the work to someone else, provided it can be handled as well or better by your delegate. Make the delegated task clear. Having an assistant whose job requires frequent handling of delegated tasks can be a great resource — allowing you to use your time for the high priorities.

Time management in busy newsrooms is made extra difficult by the very nature of news. You cannot ignore unplanned occurrences because you live to deal with them — however you don’t need to manage everything. Show your trust in others by allowing them to help manage some situations.

Scheduling

Seems obvious but takes discipline: scheduling is the process by which you break your project list down into “daily actions” for particular days and perhaps even for particular times.

To schedule, review your project list weekly. Prioritize the list. For high priority items, decide the “next action necessary.” Then schedule that action on an upcoming daily action list.

Every day, review and prioritize your daily action list. (Your first action each day should be to prioritize your list.)

Following these methods will help impose order on the chaos. By reviewing all your projects, breaking them down into manageable actions — while constantly checking your priorities — you can handle them in your discretionary time.

Use your discretionary time wisely. You may try protecting certain hours in a week for your high priorities. Let your staff know that those isolated hours are crucial for the long-range stability of the department and ask that they support you in the effort.

Finally, don’t forget to drive out the time-wasters: many high-urgency/low-importance phone calls, emails and office visits are unproductive and sap your valuable time.