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As freelance reporters, we all know that the ultimate goal is to get the transcripts out the door and delivered to clients in a timely fashion and with accuracy. But what do you do when you’ve been out every day this week and now the pages are piling up, you haven’t even started working on a transcript that is approaching deadline, trial dates keep swimming through your mind, and you’re laying awake at night trying to figure out how you’re going to get all of the work done?
If you’re fortunate enough to have a scopist, proofreader, office manager, et cetera, to keep everything flowing nicely, great. If, on the other hand, you aren‘t, read on. The following are a few methods to my madness of keeping everyone happy, including myself.
When I was in my first year of reporting, still learning how to keep my schedule in sync with clients’ needs and the reporting firm’s demands, a superior gave me this bit of wisdom: Work on one “old” deposition, then a newer one. Pretty simple. And if you find yourself really behind, take care of two “old” depositions, then a newer one. You will soon meet yourself in the middle, accomplishing your goal of getting the older work out the door while taking care of the newer work.
Next, and as a follow-up to my first suggestion, eliminate distractions. Do you have a laundry list of not-so-time-consuming “to-do” items that can be accomplished in a few hours’ time? If so, take the time to rid yourself of those pesky chores that can make your mind wander from getting down to business and being serious about the bigger stuff. Your mind will be cleared of the clutter of unfinished business, enabling you to focus on the larger tasks at hand.
Now that you’ve cleared your mind, visualize the rewards you might expect to reap from accomplishing what lays before you. A cohort suggested to me once, again when I was young and easily unnerved, to place something on my desk, a small gift to myself perhaps, that is a reminder of how I am rewarded for hard work. Of course, my first thought was that a Mercedes wouldn’t fit on my desk, but I got the idea no less. A magazine photo of a nice white-sand beach with crystal-clear water does wonders taped to my computer monitor.
I learned the next trick at a seminar for increasing my writing speed. The suggestion was made to practice at speeds that were 40, 60, even 80 words per minute faster than what my goal speed was, which enabled me to easily write my goal speed. While that can work wonders in writing, translated into goal setting I have found that if I make a list of “The 10 Things I Must Do Today” and I accomplish five of them, I was able to do much more than I would have without the list. It keeps me focused.
But probably the most important thing to remember, when you’re backlogged and running out of steam, is knowing when to say when. We probably wouldn‘t be human if we didn‘t have dollar signs in our eyes as we look at the stacks of notes we have yet to produce into transcripts, but if you’re leaving someone hanging, waiting for a transcript, and the days turn into weeks, it may be the last stack you ever see. We are in a competitive business, and clients will only like you because you’re nice, attractive, or a friend of a friend for so long. What matters to them in the long run is accurate, efficient service. So do away with the greed monster, swallow your pride, and turn down more work than you can handle.
Finally, to quote a popular advertising slogan, just do it! A lot of time can be spent on fretting and wringing hands, wondering how you’re ever going to get it all done. But certainly nothing will be accomplished without putting the nose to the grindstone, bearing down, and going for it. And nothing ever feels so good as dropping into bed at night, knowing that today was a very productive day.
Pamela Weyant lives in Omaha, Nebraska and has served the Omaha-Council Bluffs area for over twenty-five years.
Special thanks to the NCRA for giving us permission to share this article with our readers.