Barry: Mostly, I just try to be aware of the larger purpose of what I’m working on at any given moment. Where does it fit? And if I’m staying inside one circle too long, then I try to balance it out, because I have a seemingly endless to-do list in each category. Getting the order right is the trick, and attempting to have meetings and activities that deal with more than one category. I write down almost everything I’m hoping to do each day, including e-mails, especially if they are important ones. If it’s not important enough to write down, then there’s probably something more important I should be doing…
You’re trying to do some good, hard journalism as you attempt to lay the foundation of your non-profit, which presents certain problems, right?
Michael: Yeah. As I mentioned last week, I get caught up in the fun reporter work and procrastinate the other stuff. But I’ve also found that good content gets my calls returned. For two weeks I was trying in vain to get a business meeting with the City of Portland, then last week one of their managers mentioned that he was impressed that I’d scooped BikePortland on a small item. We’re having coffee Thursday. It’s just another argument that balancing the tasks is important.
Barry: Your journalism provides a vivid “proof of concept”! My own Arts Dispatch blog works the same way, just to a lesser extent. Do you have a couple of sure-fire time-management tips you can pass on to our readers?
Michael: For me, routines are everything. I can’t even dream of finishing a boring task—and until I started doing our accounting, I didn’t actually understand the word “boring”—unless it’s something I have to do by a certain time each week. But even then I regularly fail.
One other time-management tactic that also applies to volunteers’ time: The moment I sense enthusiasm, I pounce. Every time I or one of our handful of volunteers expresses a hint of excitement about a task, I now try to get things moving immediately. The community organizers I’ve met say that’s the most important part of mobilization: Making a task available at the moment of engagement. What about you?
Barry: Sometimes lying on the couch is just napping and sometimes it’s the most important thing you do all day, because you get some clarity on your tasks at hand. And I think you’re exactly right about pouncing on enthusiasm—if suddenly you have a hankering to get some figures in columns, seize the moment! That’s especially true when you’re working with other people, I think. And the addition of others to your Army of One presents a whole new level of complexity to Time Management. Maybe we can get to it another time.
Hey, what are you working on this week?
Michael: My monthly print deadline is coming around, so I’m trying to pull together some public records about Portland’s stop-sign locations—our cover story is about the best crosstown bike routes. You?
Barry: I have some meetings with arts organizations that I set up last week, and some administrative details I have to attend to now that there’s some likelihood that this project will actually fly. Also, it’s my mom’s birthday on Friday. (Happy birthday, Mom!) Talk to you next week when we discuss sales and The Pitch.
Michael Andersen publishes Portland Afoot, a ten-minute newsmagazine and wiki about low-car life in Portland, Oregon. He also writes about entrepreneurial local journalism on NiemanLab.org, oldforestnewtrees.com, and Twitter. Barry Johnson has written about the arts since 1978, when he started writing about dance for the now-defunct Seattle Sun. He has edited arts sections at Willamette Week and The Oregonian, and recently finished a twenty-six-year stint at the latter by writing a general arts and culture column. You can find his up-to-the-minute thoughts on the arts at http://artsdispatch.blogspot.com.