Time Management: Six Steps to Peace of Mind

By Cathy Hodson

In the fast-paced, ever changing world of online journalism, is it possible to still, as author/entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki tweeted recently, “rediscover the magic of doing one thing at a time”?

Twitter post by Guy Kawasaki, April 14, 2013

Twitter post by Guy Kawasaki, April 14, 2013

Managing your time is a must for web editors. News can happen very quickly, and you have to be prepared to have your day turned upside down at any moment. Natural multi-taskers, web editors learn very quickly how to juggle their responsibilities but still make room for the occasional emergency.

One of the most important tools in a web editor’s arsenal is time management. Organization and prioritization are integral partners with time management – you really can’t manage your time if you are not organized or cannot prioritize.

Here are some tips on maintaining time management, organization and prioritization:

1. Handle everything only once. Any assignment, any piece of mail, any notes from a phone call, any verbal order you receive – only handle it once. Take the piece of mail and do something with it – add it to a folder for a project you are working on, pass it on to a colleague, or deposit it in the circular file. Actively do something with it, don’t just set it on your desk to be dealt with later. Deal with it now.

2. Keep information and resources for each project together – whether you use paper folders, electronic ones, or a combination – use some type of organizer to keep everything you need on one topic or project together. The photos for this year’s election candidates should all be kept together in one place so they don’t get mixed up with the candidates from last year. The article your boss just handed you about mobile apps should find its way to the reference folder you have for mobile information. By keeping organized and handling this information just once, everything should be where you know where to find it when you do need it.

3. Try to keep one day of your week clear of meetings and interruptions. Physically block out one day of the week on a recurring basis on your calendar so that no one can schedule a meeting for you that day each week. If you have to relinquish for one meeting, fine. But otherwise, keep one day each week as free of meetings as you possibly can. This will enable you to have some actual “work” time to catch up on projects you need to without interruption.

4. Learn to say no, or at least how to barter. Keep a running list of your current projects. When your boss comes to you and says, “You have to drop everything for this new project,” you can honestly show him or her that your schedule is packed, or at the very least it gives you something to barter with. “I could move this project to the back burner if your new project has a higher priority?” The boss can then see what those other projects are and help you move something if the new project does take priority, or perhaps understand that the new project isn’t really as important as the other things you are working on, and can wait.

5. If you have a “time stealer” person – someone who is in your office frequently – either for business or personal reasons – set up a regular time to meet with them so they can continue to use you as a business resource, but you can contain their interruptions to one dedicated session. If they are in your office for personal reasons – schedule a lunch with them now and then to catch up, but learn how to say, “I’d really love to hear all about this, but I’m on deadline. Let’s do lunch some time and you can fill me in then.” Learn to recognize activities and people who usurp your time, and learn to handle them so they don’t handle you and waste time that could better be used for concentrating on the project at hand.

6. Even the best laid plans, however, can be turned upside down. Hurricane Katrinas happen. Learning to delegate important facets of projects to your staff can make them feel involved, engaged and part of the team. If you do not have staff to delegate to, one of the best practices is to break a project into manageable pieces. That way, when you can’t work on one part of the project because you are waiting on someone else, you can move ahead to another portion of the project and get it underway until the first portion of the project comes back to your bailiwick.

What are your favorite time management techniques? Please share them in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “Time Management: Six Steps to Peace of Mind

  1. I am dealing with this currently, as I am home sick with press releases waiting to be posted, and no one to delegate to! Sometimes there are unexpected delays. I try to work as far ahead as I can on recurring work, so a delay doesn’t cause an emergency.

  2. Some great suggestions here, Cathryn. I always liked to swap between large and small projects during the day. That way, I made progress on the larger projects, yet I got a breather at strategic moments that let me also make progress on other deadlines. It also kept me from burning out on big projects or becoming overwhelmed on stacks of smaller ones. I also tried to process email at regular times rather than throughout the day so I could deal with it in chunks, yet not get bogged down in it all day long. Those made my day go much smoother and helped me manage my time more fluidly.

  3. Jen, good idea to work ahead on recurring projects! Very prudent and shows initiative. Alan, I love your idea to deal with email at certain points rather than continuously. I tend to be a slave to my email, but I am going to try and schedule email pockets of time. Great suggestions both of you! Anyone else?

  4. Great post – Cathy! Every one of these points resonates for me.

    Especially the first one. I find myself re-reading emails that I should have handled in the moment. Sometimes I want to “think before I respond” and my default position has been to go on to the next email. Do you have a “think about” folder?

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