Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Five things to do on your furlough

With furloughs becoming increasingly common in newsrooms, here are some thoughts on how to make the best of these potentially stressful situations.

Get physical.

Clean the closets. Paint the bathroom. Trim the rose bushes. Do something completely different from your normal routine that will clear your head and make your muscles ache. Do this first. It is the most important.

Get fresh perspective.

Now that you have your mind off your regular work, you can read the papers and watch the news like a normal person, not like a news person. If the project is painting the bathroom, you have to cover the fixtures with newspapers, patch the cracks, prime the walls and apply two finish coats. To get this done in a day or two means getting up early, working steadily and being physically tired at night. Notice how little time you have to skim the headlines, much less read the jump on sprawling newspaper stories? Now that you have a fresh perspective on the press, you can begin to understand how your audience feels.

Get technical.

Start a blog. Make a video. Learn Flash. Figure out Twitter (if you do, clue me in). This is not so much to build your technical competence as to demonstrate that, yes, you can learn new things, overcome unanticipated challenges and adapt to the inevitable changes that lie ahead in the news business.

Get ready.

Polish your resume. Line up some freelance pieces. Update your network. Having a properly packed parachute doesn’t mean you will use it. But you will feel better knowing it’s there.

Take naps.

Scientific studies have shown that naps reduce burnout, which is defined as “irritation, frustration and poorer performance on a mental task.” Sound familiar? Although your normal routine probably doesn’t allow time for a mid-day siesta, it does now. Take advantage of the gift of time to recharge your batteries. But finish painting the bathroom first.


Blogger Chris O'Brien said...

Darn. Just had my last furlough day yesterday! Oh, well. Maybe I'll get lucky and get another week of "bonus vacation" this quarter.

10:49 PM  
Blogger MizzouCus said...

Fortunately, I'm not having to deal with unexpected (and unpaid) time off, but I do have a response to your quick question about Twitter.

I recently was one of those thinking it was useless...why would anyone care what I had for breakfast? However, Twitter isn't designed for that. It's designed for sharing ideas and links to other people's ideas. Think of Twitter as an editing tool for the web: rather than search endlessly for what I think is interesting, I can "follow" other people with similar interests and allow them to point me in the right direction, while "editing out" the noise. And I can add my own ideas and links to their tweets, and forward them on to others follow me, and so on.

I recently wrote about how newsrooms can better use Twitter on my own blog. There's a post about the importance of using Twitter to promote two-way discussion, as well as my thoughts on the LA Times devoting a new position to social media tools like Twitter.

Finally, this post by Steve Thorton at TwiTip really brought the idea behind Twitter home to me. Thorton explains how Twitter is different than Facebook, and the comparison made it a lot easier for me to understand just what Twitter was really all about.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha. Most will probably keep working off the clock as they're accustomed.

1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. It can actually be really good for your creativity to take a block of time off and do something completely different (like physical work) for a while.

The most important thing to do is to plan how you will spend your time. I find if I plan some definite things I want to do on my days off I enjoy them much more and feel more refreshed. If you don't plan you end up just bumming around feeling down.

4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smoke a joint and rewatch season one of The Wire.

2:00 PM  
Blogger ed murrieta said...

I figured out something about Twitter. It's a good way for advertisers to promote new products and daily specials.

Ed Murrieta

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


...sorry for the cap-emphasis.. but i believe folks ought to stop hoping things in journalism will get better soon enough

2:57 PM  
Blogger John Fensterwald said...

Well, I did prune the roses. Check one off the furlough life list.

6:48 PM  
Blogger John Fensterwald said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Bernard Re, Jr. said...

I got caught up on our blog - VISIT

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going Fly Fishing! No better way to gather your thoughts.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about spending some time volunteering with a nonprofit agency? Not only might it bring you some new perspectives, but you do some other good for someone other than yourself in the process!

8:05 AM  
Blogger SmearedEyeliner said...

When they finally add furloughs onto the pay cuts, raise freezes and no 401K match, I plan on going to my mother's to job hunt. I've got my resume all updated and ready to go. I need a change anyway.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Jackets said...

I think the idea of a nap at work would be great. I feel so refreshed after a 30 min nap...i think that would really increase my afternoon productivity. ca

7:57 PM  

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