Two Minute Tips

Keep updating your working process

April 6, 2021

Share this article:

Becoming a better business journalist means doing the right research, asking the right questions and having the right contacts. ("Write" image by StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay)
Becoming a better business journalist means doing the right research, asking the right questions and having the right contacts. ("Write" image by StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay)

In any undertaking, once you’ve done it long enough, you’ll have developed working habits. That is important, because if must consciously think through every action and decision to the smallest detail, you get paralyzed. “Should I file this account alphabetically by last name, or by some abstract account number?”

You get a way that works and keep doing it. Doubtless as a business journalist, your list of habits is long and often, in the face of deadlines, barely conscious. That lack of thought can be vital. Try consciously regulating your balance, stride, posture, and body movements to maintain the controlled forward falling that walking inherently is.

Unfortunately, the strength of positive ingrained habits—predictable repetition—is also the weakness. You do the same thing because it works. Unless you examine it, you probably won’t change.

Even small changes can provide a great benefit. Here’s an example from my methods. I use Microsoft Outlook for email through my own domain (with a backup email address for emergencies). For years I’ve kept a strict regimen of how to handle emails to get information, set up appointments, and manage correspondence with editors.

Each publication has a subfolder in the Inbox. Further down from the Inbox is folder I call Work in Progress. The publications also have a folder there. In the past, I’d put emails about contracts, pay, and general issues in appropriate Inbox subfolder and details about assignments, including correspondence and communications with sources, in the WIP subfolder.

But for some clients, for whom I did a lot of assignments, things got confusing. There were too many emails on multiple stories, making it hard go back and forth. After years, I did something about it. Specific assignment correspondence with the publisher, as well as email discussion about possible story topics, all go into the Inbox subfolder.

I think create a next-layer-down sub-subfolder for the specific story in the WIP publication subfolder. This holds correspondence with sources, emails of press releases (including from analysts and government data), and so on.

When I’m done with a story, I move all the contents of that story sub-subfolder into the WIP publication subfolder. Next, I delete the story sub-subfolder so I don’t have an expanding long list of folders to look at. All the material is still available when I want it.

Occasionally, I’ll archive months of material from the folders to reduce the amount of material at immediate hand, but all is still available. Using a hard drive indexing program (an addition I made years into my career) means I can do a full-text search and get what I need.

This year, I also created my own Zoom account. It may sound silly, but there were people who preferred it. By using my account, it’s also possible to record the conversation if I wish.

The potential for smart improvements is almost limitless. New types of voice recording devices. Learning shorthand (for the diehard). Dual screens on a desktop so you can move reference material to one and your current draft to another and still copy across. Chairs and desks with better ergonomics, and information about how to set them for optimum use. An Adobe Acrobat Reader add-on that will let you convert PDFs to Word, Excel, and other formats. (Absolute savior if you’re doing a lot of data work and the information is in PDF form.)

Come up with your own list. Pay attention to how you’re doing things and, most importantly, what seems to be an annoyance or drag on your work. That will give you clues to where you can and should improve things.

More Like This...

Five takeaways from recent business investigations

For business beat reporters looking for story ideas or inspiration, here are five watchdog stories to spark creativity. The stories, all published in the first seven months of 2022, touch

Think like a business owner. Not a freelancer.

Not all journalism grads will work as full-time staff for a news organization. Maybe after searching on JournalismJobs.com and following up with journalism school contacts, you’ll choose to become a

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!