Thursday, April 29, 2010

Journalist: How to Survive a Long Day

A typical day in the life of a journalist is FUN: You meet new people, talk on the phone, travel to different towns on a daily basis and learn about new events, laws etc. .....fun right?

Well, what about the days when all you have are phone interviews or you find yourself stuck in front of your computer typing up 5 stories?? On those days, writer's block, boredom and neck strains are bound to make their way over to your cubicle.

So here are 10 things I recommend you do so you DON'T lose your mind (or quit your job) ::

1) Stretch

I will never get used to sitting at my desk for eight hours. I'm an active person and sitting in one place for longer than two hours bothers me--and my body.

Neck pains and back pains are killers. But headaches are worse. Here are a few stretches to exercise these areas that you should do daily:

Stretching Exercises at Your Desk

Just because your brain stays in the same 'zone' for eight hours doesn't mean your body has to. Move it around!

2) Make Countless Trips to the Water Fountain

Obviously it is healthy to drink water because it will keep your eyes moist, skin clear and your body hydrated. But more importantly, it gives you a good excuse to get up out of your chair and move around. Your butt will thank you, I assure you.

If that's not reason enough, check out the health facts: How Water Helps Your Body

3) Spend 15-20 minutes on your favorite website, Facebook, Twitter etc.

I highly suggest this. If your brain has been concentrating on ONE story, event, person etc. it needs a good sidetrack.

website- read your favorite news site, fashion site or health site. You'll be reading information that you know you enjoy. It will refresh your mind and boost your energy.

Facebook/Twitter/Blog- take a couple to check up on your friends' lives. If you've been working a lot, then I'm guessing you haven't been in touch with your friends either. Now is your chance!

4) Take a break with a sweet snack

Once a week is not going to kill you. If you're someone like me, who regularly works out and eats healthy, indulging yourself in a sweet snack at the vending machine is FINE.

It will give you some sugar to boost your energy as well as your attitude. If you've been writing/working all day, why not treat yourself to a snack?

Still, staying healthy is important. So 'chose wisely' : 10 Healthy Vending Machine Snacks

The treat will taste so good that your attitude will be revitalized and you'll be ready to start writing again.

5) Have a quick chat with your cubicle buddy

You're not the only one stuck at a desk. Which means you aren't the only one dying for a writing break.

It's OK to take a social break. Catch up on their lives (you do work with them 40 hours a week). Schedule a 'night out' (it will give you something to look forward to).

This isn't high school or college: you are ALLOWED to talk during work. After all, we are journalist. Our business requires us to be social. Consider this a good exercise.

6) Go out for lunch

At the Salem News, we have a writer's lunch every Friday. By the end of the week, everyone is dying for this. It gives us a chance to get out of the office and enjoy a good meal (how many times can you bring in Lean Cuisine for lunch?)

Even if it's not Friday, get in your car and grab lunch yourself. Once again, you'll get out of your chair, out of the office and into one of your favorite spots to eat.

By the time you return from lunch, an hour will have passed by, the day won't seem so long and you'll get back into 'writing mode.'

7) Clean your desk

I'm a neat freak. I can't stand when my desk is filled with Post-its, notepads and newspapers. I make it a daily routine to clean my area.

I have found that when I do, I feel clean and put together.

Also, say your editor or publisher walks by and sees your mess?

You wouldn't walk into the office wearing sweats, so keep your work area as clean as you would yourself. All that clutter could be whats clogging your head.

8) Take a coffee break

By the end of the day, with a couple stories to finish, your brain needs caffeine. No need to go crazy (it is the end of the day) but it is also necessary.

I suggest going out to Starbucks or Dunks to get it. Once again, it will get you out of the office, into your car and out socializing.

9) Read YOUR paper

You are much more energetic and motivated in the morning. So how often would you say you actually read your own newspaper? A lot of times I see reporters walk in, sit at their desk and get straight to the story.

Now that is a great work ethic, but it doesn't give you the chance to check out what your colleagues have been working on. If you have a moment and can't write anymore, take the time to read.

Maybe their writing will inspire your own stories.

10) Exercise BEFORE you head to the office

This is crucial. Like I said, you have way more energy in the morning than at the end of a long day. So when 2:00 p.m. rolls around and you are anxious, fidgeting and can't focus on your story, you are going to wish that you exercised your body at the gym earlier that day.

Furthermore, your body won't be as stiff if you work out that morning. At the gym you stretch out, so your body will be too when you're at your desk.

Don't kid yourself. Saying, "I'll go to the gym after work" almost never happens. (Unless you end the day early). But around dinner time, when deadlines are in, the last thing you want to do is head to the gym. So do it before. This way, after a long work day, you can relax at home or enjoy a night out with friends.

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