Unplugging as a journalist

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By: Mandy Mitchell

You can read about a zillion articles online about how to be more productive with your time. The productivity advice often starts with “limiting your phone time” and “not checking your e-mail until noon.”

I’m pretty interested in increasing my productivity, but that advice often makes me chuckle.

Can you imagine if you…TV Reporter, anchor, producer or assignment editor…didn’t check your e-mail until noon? Even if you are nightside you may miss an e-mail requesting your presence at work an hour earlier. Or you could miss someone asking you about a story from the night before. Try telling your boss that you don’t check e-mail before noon!

So this got me thinking about what we all could do to reduce our addictions to our devices. We can’t neglect our e-mail, but we probably don’t need to check it every five minutes. Raise your hand if you do that. (I used to be in that club!)

Here are a couple of things I have done that have helped:

  • If you use Outlook, make folders.  Make a folder for anything from any of your bosses. Make a folder for interview requests. Make a folder for anything else you absolutely don’t want to or can’t miss.  If you are on the clock that day, you can quickly check these folders when you get up, then you can do other things like work out or get some coffee BEFORE you dive into the 900 other e-mails.
  • Limit your e-mail during time off. If you are not on the clock that day, or you are on vacation, you should really limit  how much you check these folders. Do it each morning or each night. Take a half hour to read and reply, but that’s it! Do not, as I often do, check your e-mail on your day off while in line at the grocery store because you are bored and your fingers just seem to automatically click the e-mail app. Do you know how many days off I have ruined by reading an e-mail that did not require my attention at the time? I assume I am not alone.
  • Move all social media apps off the front page. You know how your fingers just automatically find the e-mail on your phone? They also seem to find Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They find them and then you spend 15 minutes scrolling through the content without often paying attention to what you’re reading. We all need social media for our jobs, but we don’t need the mindless scrolling. Move all of the apps to a page that isn’t on the front of your phone so it takes effort to get there. If you think about needing to check Twitter for breaking news, or simply to know what’s going on, you will be more likely to actually read it if you have to find the Twitter app.
  • Turn off all non-essential alerts. I am a reporter at a top-25 TV station and I have very few alerts on my phone. I have to click the e-mail to get my e-mail. I don’t have sounds that randomly interrupt whatever I am doing to alert me of a new e-mail. The only things that pop up on my phone are breaking news alerts. I subscribe to my station and the competition. I also get stuff from the AP and the New York Times. I promise that’s all you need. If I get a text it just leaves a “1” in my text app. I  don’t need that popping up as I am trying to research a story or if I am on vacation.

These minor changes have really helped me to decrease my phone usage, which was a real problem for a while. The biggest piece of advice I have is to be mindful of your usage. If you pick up your phone try to notice it and have a purpose for it. Yes, we have to be more connected than our friends who are say, teachers, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a constant leash.

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