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In another article, we discuss the importance of using a scopist and RealTime writing to help manage your time. While these do play a very important role when it comes to managing a reporter’s time, there are other factors to look at. In this article, we will take a look at planning as a way to increase efficiency and organization, while also increasing profits.
Symptoms of Disorganization
One does not have to look far to find quarters which could be better organized. Papers scattered across the top of the desk, stacks of unpaid bills, phone calls not returned, messy cupboards or filing cabinets, tasks which just don’t get done, stacks of clutter, can’t find an item when it’s needed – these are all signs that order could be improved. But how? What is the magic answer to help organize one’s life?
Do you ever have the feeling that you are not in control, that you are being shuffled through life, doing what has to be done, and wondering if you’ll ever get to the things you really want to do? Do professional commitments to your clients or agency, responsibilities as a parent, and duties as a member of modern society dictate your every move and decision?
Scattered today between a deposition on the east side, three transcript deadlines (and they still need proofreading), grocery shopping, your daughter’s dental appointment, getting the boys to baseball practice, and that project you promised to do for your local community group? Sounds like a typical reporter’s day. Right? Not enough time to plan? Wrong. Planning is a tool for creating time.
A long-term plan is essential for long-term accomplishment. Take a look at what major goals you want to accomplish this year or in the next five years, or even in the next several months. Write them down, and then, taking the most important first, break it down into smaller steps. Write down all the smaller steps which must be done in order to accomplish that goal. Arrange these steps in a logical chronological sequence, the order in which they must be done. This gives you a workable plan to get that goal accomplished. Do this for each of the other goals you have written down.
A weekly plan can now be worked out. This is a plan of the things you intend to accomplish in the next seven days. Include on your weekly plan as many of the smaller steps of your major goals that are realistic to complete that week. Take into account all of your obligations, but set your standards high. Work over the plan until you are satisfied that you will accomplish as much as possible but that it is realistic within the realm of your life and your schedule. When this is complete, decide that you will get all of these done.
On a daily basis, look over your weekly plan, breaking down into further increments the items from your weekly plan that you will accomplish that day. This creates a daily checklist, and clearly spells out what you will do that day. Each day, at the end of the day take a few minutes, analyze what you did, what is left to do, and work out what you will get done tomorrow. Again, with full intention, decide that these will be accomplished.
Be diligent about using your plan. Pay attention to what works and continue to do those things. If certain activities don’t work, drop them and find another way to go about it. You’re searching for ways of getting more done, and you are watching for what is successful. Observation and evaluation should be a continuing activity. If done regularly, you will soon find you have refined your planning to where it has become a useful daily tool.
While it may seem difficult or even futuristic, computers can assist. The program, Microsoft® Outlook®, has a feature which allows you to plan your entire year: appointments, meetings, even tasks such as your grocery list. It even has a reminder feature which lets you know when an appointment is coming up. This is a program which can be found at most computer stores and may even be on your computer already, as it’s part of the Microsoft® Office® package.
You could go the extra mile and spend around $200 on a hand-held organizer. Most of them come with organizing software which combines with your home or office PC and allows you to type appointments and tasks into your computer and then download them onto your hand-held organizer. This gives portability to your computer data files. Use computer technology to work for you. (See article on back page.)
Get Aggressive about Time Management
Get serious about it. Each of us has promised ourselves to clean that garage, some day, or to get organized, maybe tomorrow. We have many reasons why things cannot or do not get done, and they are good reasons, too. There are whole strings of times when we “tried,” only to end up in the same rut after a few days. Don’t look back. Look ahead to a future open to opportunity. Dwelling on past failures does not reap future successes. Pull up your bootstraps and take a deep breath. Resolve that you will overcome barriers and that you will forge the path to your goals and dreams.
Look toward developing a time strategy. This includes prioritizing importances: what is most important to get done, what is next in importance, and so on. Evaluate these against your personal longer-term goals. Look at areas of your life which need improvement, but keep a narrow focus. Don’t take on too much at once. You can always take on more later, after you have successfully reached your first few goals.
Even the best plan can be ruined if distractions are allowed to get in the way. Telephones and email are vehicles through which communication can and will flow in on one. Often these communications come at inopportune times and act as distractions from the moment’s production goals. Schedule certain times of the day for handling emails and for returning phone calls and stick to the schedule. Close your door and keep interruptions at bay.
Be flexible, but don’t give up on completing the targets! Be persistent with clean, clear, crisp intention. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how effective this is.
Keep Yourself Inspired
You are your best friend, so be sure to give yourself a pep talk now and then. Don’t count on others to do so. Acknowledge what you do get done and the accomplishments you have made.
Note your frame of mind, as you sit down to plan the day’s events. What effect does this posturing have? Before even looking at the specifics of what will and will not get done that day, the mere act of sitting down to put together a plan can be a tool, a tool to pull you momentarily out of the daily routine and put you in the driver’s seat. Approach planning with a positive attitude, “Yes, I can control what will happen today, and this is how I will do it.”