The average person spends half of every day at work. If you’re a journalist, I’m willing to bet you spend more time than that work.
Finding happiness in our work is important because we spend so much time in our workplaces, performing work-related functions. People who are happier at work have greater job satisfaction, making them more committed to the workplace, less likely to want to leave their job for another one and more productive while they’re at work.
But finding happiness at work isn’t always easy, especially in a newsroom.
Working as a journalist means gathering information and producing non-stop content, all while under the pressure of deadlines. Of course, you love being a journalist or you wouldn’t do the job, but there are some small changes you can make in your day-to-day practices that will make you a happier journalist.
1. Build autonomy. People who feel they have more control of their work tend to be happier in the workplace. The best way to have autonomy as a journalist is to always have story ideas and meet your deadlines with great content. If your editors trust you to consistently do your job well, they’ll leave you alone to do it.
2. Embrace editing. All copy is better when edited. You will be happier in the newsroom when you let go of being tied to every word you’ve written and embrace the editing process. Don’t think of editing as an editor chopping on your story. Think of it as someone helping you craft a better story for the audience. Embrace and participate in the process.
3. Have a mentor and/or a sounding board. It’s normal for journalists to feel like no one understands you as well as other journalists. Find a trusted mentor and/or friend in the newsroom who will listen to your frustrations and offer you advice.
4. Notice who you spend time with. Journalists are cynical by nature, but there’s a difference between a questioning attitude and just choosing to be negative about everything. Spend your time with people who inspire you and know how to have fun. Avoid people who bring you down through their constant whining and negativity.
5. Focus on your why. Yes, journalism can be a grind, just like any other job, but focusing on the purpose of journalism can help you stay focused and inspired. Personally, I view journalism as the ultimate service to a democratic society. I’ve adopted the definition of journalism providing the people with the information they need to know to be free and self governing. That makes your daily grind pretty damn important to the functioning of our nation.
6. Inspire yourself. What are some little things that make you happy? For me it’s good pens, paper I love, meaningful quotes, and a refreshing beverage always readily available at my desk. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and make your workspace comfortable.
7. Declutter your space. Speaking of workspaces, keep yours orderly, at least to you. As author Gretchen Rubin says, “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” It’s amazing how just organizing your desk can help you feel more grounded and productive.
8. Make a list. Make a list of things you need to do each day, including a master list of stories you’re working on for each deadline. Update the lists throughout every day, making sure to organize the next day before you leave the newsroom each evening. Having a plan helps eliminate stress and keeps you focused.
9. Focus on one thing at a time. We often feel stressed when we feel like we have too much to do. When you start to feel stressed, review your lists mentioned above and focus on just completing one thing at a time, marking items off as you go. One thing is much easier to accomplish when you’ve cleared your mind of the swirling to dos.
1o. Get up from your desk. It’s easy to spend all of your time in the newsroom sitting at your desk writing or interviewing. Leave the office and go out into your beat at least once a day. Also, make sure you work in spurts. Get up every 30 minutes or so and walk around. It sounds like this will make you less productive, but getting moving has the opposite effect. Plus all of those phone calls you’re waiting for will come as soon as you leave your desk.
11. Go to lunch. It’s ok to take a break for lunch. Even if it’s just 30 minutes, leave the newsroom and head outside or to another location for lunch. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to focus.
12. Be friendly. Making friends in the newsroom (or any work environment) helps you enjoy it more. Plus, again, journalists tend to find other journalists more relatable than those outside of the industry. Some of your best friends will be other journalists you work with. Embrace that comradery.
13. Learn and develop. Make learning and professional development a priority. Take advantage of formal professional development programs your newsroom offers, like conferences or writing coaches. At the same time, be responsible for making sure you learn something new every day, whether it is researching a topic for a story or reading about changes in our industry.
We spend half of every day at work. We need to make this time the best it can be. I hope this list has given you some ideas of little things you can do to be happier in the newsroom.