There are fewer jobs more stressful that working in television news. The constantly changing stories, last minute breaking news, and the looming pressure of a daily deadline can turn even the most well-adjusted person into a puddle of jello. But the lessons of the newsroom can teach you how to manage your workload, and dissipate stress in real life.
In all TV newsrooms there are strict deadlines. The show has to be ready to go at 6pm—and failure, as they say is definitely not an option.
We plan backwards through the day, with mini-deadlines through the afternoon to ensure there’s no last minute crunch. How can this help you? Know how much time you have to get work done, and exactly how much work you have to cram into that time period. Make sure you aren’t overloaded, and if you are, ask for help.
Make your own “Rundown”
In TV news, the list of stories and their order of importance is called the rundown. It’s essentially a list of each story, the facts about it, all arranged in order of importance. We also write down where the story is coming from. Having all the assigned tasks written down helps everyone keep their duties straight, and prevents us from forgetting something. What you can take away from this; keep a “To Do” list of all the things you have to do and prioritize it.
Spot the “top story”
We often have a lot of news to choose from—we have to evaluate each story, and see how it fits into our lineup. We have to know if it’s lead story material, or if it really isn’t newsworthy in the big picture. Obviously not every story can fit into limited amounts of time, so we have to prioritize. And leave out the stuff that’s just not as important. what you can learn from the producer here; Take a look at your daily lineup of chores and obligations. Something may have to be cut.
The worst time to try to phone or talk to a TV producer, reporter or technician is in the hour before their show goes to air. That’s when all the last minute stories are coming in, new details are emerging and any emerging last minute crunch is happening. You’re likely to get the brush off if you try to wedge a request or even a dinner invite into that part of the day. It’s helpful if you can know when is the best time to approach people –and when not to. Know this about yourself too. Don’t’ try to take care of unpleasant or critical chores first thing in the morning, if you’re a mess before noon.
Clear your head
TV news is a lot like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs all day long, stories that pan out and some that don’t. Each day, I use the phone as a reminder to breathe and take a few seconds to be calm; before I answer the phone, I take 2 deep breaths before picking up. After the big newscast or your big, busy day at the office, take some time to transition to being “fun you”, or “at-home you” again. Everyone has bad or just plan stressful days, so take a few minutes to put the work day behind you. Hit the gym, go for a walk with the dog. Play loud music on your way home in the car or on transit. Whatever you can do to distance yourself from the day will make you happier.
-Erin L is a Canadian TV Producer, hobby silversmith, world traveller and imaginary gourmet chef.