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Pause Your Day, Collaborate More and Add Diverse Sources to Get 2021 Off to a Fresh Start

By Ronn Levine

Two years ago—almost to the day!—Fast Company posted an article titled How to Redesign Your Days to Give You Back a Few Extra Hours Every Week. The author listed five categories where we can make changes:

Quit Something;

Limit Something;

Pause Something;

Delegate Something; and

Add Something.

A lot has changed in two years but I think we could all use those few extra hours back every week. Contemplating these five areas during a pandemic, cultural reckoning and domestic insurgency brings a somewhat different light, but here are a few suggestions to ignite your thought processes.

For Quit Something, they wrote “Quit a recurring meeting. Quit a committee. Quit Facebook. Quit Candy Crush.” I’d say it’s a good time to quit a poor policy: going with the same old speakers for events, sources for stories and members for your audience outreach. Some favorites are okay but take some extra time to do research to find new and diverse sources for your next article and speakers for your next podcast, webinar or virtual event. Almost everyone is available these days. With those new speakers might just come a new audience. Growth consultant Robyn Duda, who moderated a great events panel for us at BIMS, led a charge to Change the Stage earlier this year. “Whether the content is digital or physical, I am challenging us all to set the bar higher, to make our stages and screens inclusive of new, different voices.”

For Limit Something, how about limiting a lack of collaboration? “Journalism has become more collaborative, but our culture, for the most part, has not,” writes Bo Hee Kim, director of newsroom strategy for The New York Times, in NiemanLab’s Predictions for 2021. “Leaders will need to believe that newsroom culture has a bigger impact on the journalism than they understood in previous years—that a strong team dynamic is as important as their sharp and shiny stars. Managers are key to this transition and will need to reset with a new definition of success, followed by support and training to change.” True collaboration was never easy and has become even harder during our remote lives. “The challenge before you as you craft your narrative,” DEI expert Leslie Mac eloquently told us at AM&P 2020, “is how to motivate in a way to lift humanity and be bold as you go about your work. This is not the time for casual work. Together is where we can create change.”

For Pause Something, they wrote: “[Go] on a walk in the middle of the day. [Give] yourself permission to run an errand during your lunch break. Stopping for a moment to assert your ability to do the non-urgent reduces the sense that everything has to happen at a frenetic pace, and that there’s no time to slow down.” Wow, this has just multiplied in its relevancy! Many of us are starting our work day earlier and ending later, amplifying the need to take breaks. There is one problem, however. In his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Dan Pink wrote: “Research shows us that social breaks are better than solo breaks—taking a break with somebody else is more restorative than doing it on your own.” That may not be easy right now. I greatly miss my walks around the office during the day. Try reaching out to a neighbor for a socially distant walk or call a friend while you walk. I need to do more of that.

Delegate Something has become a bit tougher in these times, for two reasons. One, we’re interacting even less, of course, with co-workers so delegating something takes more intentional outreach. And two, maybe “delegate” isn’t a great word anymore because we only think of giving tasks to someone less senior, rather than sharing tasks and perhaps giving one or two to someone who is more suited to them, regardless or your command chain. Wrote Fast Company: “As you plan your day, ask yourself: Is this something that I really need to do myself, or could someone else do this instead?” If this makes you reach out to a colleague, then that’s a good thing. A 10-minute phone call can supersede 30 minutes of emails sometimes.

For Add Something, their advice now makes me chuckle a bit. “Add an exercise class, book a trip, plan a get-together with friends.” No, no and no. Okay, well, actually, I do have a virtual yoga class Thursdays at 5:45 pm from a woman I met in Jamaica three years ago. These can be a bit awkward—move over Romeo (the cat)!—but very helpful. At our last staff meeting, our CEO got such a good reaction to his request for favorite holiday cookies that he’s now asking for recipes to compile into a guide. That is one very enticing and tasteful addition that can be replicated in many different ways. Business-wise, how about adding more member photos to your publications. “It’s always nice to feature the faces of your members and [worth the effort] tracking down those photos,” Lilia LaGesse, senior creative strategist, GRAPHEK, told us at AM&P 2020.

Ronn Levine, editorial director for SIIA, can be reached at rlevine@siia.net.