I had been a reporter fresh out of college for a year and I was supremely independent. I had beats to cover, and I spent my days bopping around town interviewing everyone from first-graders to politicians.
Week after week I turned in several stories, and within a few days they would show up in the paper. My boss, a good editor and kind man, rarely said anything to me about them though, leaving me to figure that either he loved my stuff or it was so bad he didn’t know what to do.
After almost a year, I finally got brave enough to ask. It turned out he was happy with my productivity and my writing, and was spending his time editing the less-pretty copy and trying to motivate the less productive reporters.
I breathed a sigh of relief, and kept on. For 16 years I roamed Phoenix, meeting amazing people and writing interesting stories. My editors through the years were thoughtful with their suggestions and intelligent in their editing.
But with the high level of freedom the job provided me, there was one thing I had to make sure of: that I managed my time well. Newspapers have daily deadlines, and sometimes I had odd deadlines for specific sections. I was out of the newsroom a lot—some of my beats were clear across the fast-growing city. We didn’t have the Internet yet, so I couldn’t stop at Starbucks (we didn’t have those, either) and work on a story to turn it in faster. Every story required I go back to the newsroom to write.
I got to thinking about how I managed all that freedom and flexibility in my let’s-have-fun 20’s and remembered a few things that helped me meet deadlines and still spread my wings creatively. These worked great for me as a reporter, and hopefully will translate to most other careers.
Here are 5 tips to help you manage your time well:
1. Start every day at the same time. Use the first few minutes of each day to organize that day’s schedule. Knowing what’s ahead makes it doable.
2. Use a daily planner, smartphone, or an old fashioned notebook. Find any system that you love because that will motivate you to use it.
3. Take advantage of your GPS. Traffic alerts are helpful if you drive to work.
4. Timing. Whenever possible, allot a specific amount of time for your appointments and stick to them. Running over just messes up the rest of your day.
5. Ask for help. It’s ok to be overwhelmed. Being up front with your boss is always the best policy and you’ll usually find them to be accommodating.
6. If you have free time during the workday, keeps tabs on it! Don’t use a spare 30 minutes to scroll Facebook and suddenly realize it’s an hour later. Set a reminder in your phone.
7. When you’re working, work. You don’t want to stay late if you don’t have to, so if you complete your responsibilities during the workday then your personal life isn’t robbed.
You’ll also like Exhausted From Work? 5 Ways to Refuel During Your Day, 3 Tips for Working in a Man’s World, 4 Apps That Will Make the Working Woman’s Life Simpler, and Have a Problem at Work? Go Direct and Talk About It!