Finding your inner ‘do list’

Journalists in 2019 are totally overburdened by the pressure-cooker of this industry. It’s beyond just being a tough job – the pressures can take a toll. Add to that the increasing pressures of adult life that everyone faces, and it can be too much. 

As a precaution against spiraling and a protection against despair, over the last year I developed something I call my “do list.” It started out as a “Do and Do Not” list, complete with admonishments and warnings to myself about all of the things I should not do.

I have been reading the list, adding to it, editing and refining it – on a near-daily basis since May 2018. It has a place of prominence in my home office as part of my (also always-evolving) vision board.

My goal in reading it is singular: positive reinforcement.

Then a couple of months ago, I realized the horrendous and totally unnecessary psychological pressure of telling myself what not to do all the time. So I changed the title to my “Do List,” and now it’s a psychological joy to read. I highly recommend making your own Do List. Here’s mine for a bit of inspiration:

Genevieve’s “Do List”

  • A daily act that’s for me
  • Allow space
  • Laugh
  • Speak truth
  • Be you
  • One thing at a time
  • Dance
  • Step steady
  • Dream huge
  • Work small
  • Sing 
  • Save your “sorries”
  • Love what you’re doing
  • Choose life
  • Let yourself be happy
  • Lead by example
  • Respect boundaries
  • Communicate
  • Cultivate silence
  • Let things pass
  • Value every moment
  • Keep the faith in yourself, and in others
  • Give the benefit of the doubt
  • Listen
  • Hear people
  • Ride fear
  • Be there, wherever you wake up
  • Your thing
  • Right
  • Say “no”
  • Give yourself credit
  • Strive for balance
  • Contribute
  • Advocate
  • Help others
  • Believe
  • Recognize magic
  • Practice chivalry


The liberating power of saying “no”

Reporters ask me all the time for advice on how to get assignments and pitch. There is typical advice that gets doled out: keep it short and sweet and don’t be a jerk to your editors, and you’ll go far.

That’s all fine and well, but what about saying no?

It is rare that I hear the word “no” from a reporter. Interestingly, the ones who do say it are often on a more high-powered track in their careers. It’s not that they have an easier time with the challenges of being a reporter. It’s that they regularly exercise control over decisions that will impact their finite supply of time and energy. They know that saying “no” is a key ingredient in success, no matter what your rubric for measuring that happens to be.

Observing a reporter say “no” to a crap assignment, a prison-level pay rate, or anything couched in coded language as “a great opportunity” is inspiring. Saying no to those things demonstrates a self-awareness and a recognition on the part of the journalist of their intrinsic value.

Journalists who know their value as a professional and a human being, and who ware unafraid to assert themselves with the word “no” will always get the better assignments, higher pay, more significant opportunities, and greater accolades for their work. That’s because they leave space for success. What’s more, there’s a greater chance they will make it to the end of that 45-year career with their mental and physical health intact and a significant legacy of published work.