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Five Tips for Pacing Your Breaking News Consumption at Work

Are you getting much done today, or do you feel distracted by breaking news?


It's okay to admit that your eyes are glued to your online news subscriptions today, waiting for the next shoe to drop here in Washington DC. Maybe you're wishing you had gone to law school to be like Jill Wine-Banks, even though law is no longer a growth industry outside of Washington DC. You're loving the smell of indictments in the morning. If only you didn't have to work in between the breaking news alerts, right?

Welcome to the club. We're all busy trying to look busy as we sneak another peek at the news during the boring, early afternoon meeting. Everyone thinks we're looking up documents when we're checking for the red, breaking news banner atop of online edition of The Washington Post.

The red banner is back, something new has happened!

The next few months could be a breathless whirlwind of news cycles that threaten to distract us at every turn during the work day. This might prove to be worse than March Madness!

The Politics of Surfing
The current political environment is hurting our productivity at work, according to a recent survey of 500 full-time U.S. employees commissioned by software company BetterWorks. An amazing 87% surveyed are reading political social media posts during the work day, and almost half have witnessed a political argument at work.

Meanwhile, more than one-quarter (29%) admit they have been "less productive" since January 20.

So how can we stay focused as indictments fly and suspense builds? How can we do our work while simultaneously reading the comments sections of our favorite newspapers and refreshing our Twitter feed? It's a lot on our plate, and it requires good time management skills to pay attention as our democracy hangs in the balance. Here are five tips for getting our national news fix during work hours:

1. Set limits. Be very strategic in your news consumption at work during peak breaking news cycles. Can you give yourself five minutes per hour (okay, ten minutes) to catch up on the news? Stick to the time limit as much as possible, even when it feels impossible.

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2. Triage, triage, triage. What absolutely, positively has to get done today? Push these tasks to the top of your to-do list and do them first. This frees up a bit more time for news surfing.

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3. Be professional about it. You feel compelled to drift off into your phone to read the latest Jennifer Rubin or Frank Bruni column, but please try to pay attention to your co-workers. Please? Three words: eyeballs on colleague. You can do it!

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4. Don't become a human news crawl. It's hard to hold it in, isn't it? You have some breaking national news, and you desperately want to share it with someone. "Have you heard the latest?" you excitedly say (or type) to a colleague who...doesn't care. At all. Or gets annoyed that you're talking politics at work. How can this co-worker not care!? We don't have time to get into that here, just tread carefully, okay?

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5. Be especially careful around customers. Unless you know your customers very, very well, it's best to practice copious amounts of self editing. Don't let customers bait you into talking about breaking political news more than you might feel comfortable doing in your work role. You might say something like, "It sure is interesting, isn't it?" which is a way of saying something without saying anything. Use common sense.

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The news cycle could be quite incredible in the months ahead, so let's all brace ourselves, and pace ourselves, for a roller coaster ride. Just know that you're not alone if you're binge eating news nuggets on the down low and bursting at the seams to be your work team's human news crawl.

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