Thursday, July 15, 2010

How To Make The Most of Your Downtime

Initially, this post was going to be about how I hate having nothing to do at work. Then, since I’m now the only intern, I was given 400 things to do at the beginning of the week that have kept me busy every day. However, I’m still going to write about doing nothing because that’s how I’ve spent a lot of this internship.

While I can’t speak for everyone, I would say that the majority of interns are occasionally faced with periods of time when they have nothing to do. I’ve experienced more than enough lag time, especially in the mornings. I’d like to think I’m a pretty fast and efficient worker, so I usually get my tasks done quickly. While I like getting things out of the way, that just means I have to sit and think up ways to kill more time.

I don’t sit near any of the editors, so when I don’t have any work to do I can pretty much do what I want. Since I can’t leave the office because I never know when I’m going to get assigned a new task, this usually manifests in me going on Facebook or Twitter, reading the book I’ve brought, or watching a TV show on my computer. These are all terrible, terrible things to do — do not follow my lead.

I’ve been reading Ed’s other interns’ posts of course, and some of the interns have addressed what to do when you have downtime. Her Campus, a very cool online magazine for college women, also covered this topic. Their suggestions have included checking in with the editors and asking if they have anything for you to do or coming up with article ideas and trying to work on them yourself. I think these are really good tips for many people, but in my experience they haven’t worked.

When I’ve asked editors if they have anything they want my help with, they’ve politely said they’ll call or email me when they need me. My situation may be unique since I’m the sole intern in a small office, so the editors always remember that I’m there, but it’s not always a great idea to keep going to the editors and asking for tasks. Even if you’re just trying to show that you’re willing to help with anything, constantly approaching editors could wind up annoying the whole office.

Pitching articles could also go the same way in terms of irritating the editors — I think it depends if you’re a web intern or a print intern. Since web content has more flexible deadlines, it’s easier to pitch online stories more often. I’m a print intern, and print deadlines and content are set months in advance. We have an ideas meeting every month or so for a future issue, so I always have a bunch of ideas that I pitch then. Instead of using down time to send a stream of consciousness list of ideas to an editor, I’d suggest creating a word document and saving ideas there to pitch at the appropriate time.

Another suggestion someone made was to do research and learn more about the magazine industry. I think this is a great suggestion- problem is, I don’t know where to start! Does anyone know of a good website or resource about the current happenings in the magazine world that would be appropriate to go on during work?

I would highly suggest following the other interns’ advice instead of mine in regards to down time, but I hope all you Edsters realize that you don’t have to always be thinking of story ideas and catering to an editor’s beck and call to do a good job.

What do you usually do when you have down time? I’d love to hear other Edsters’ experiences with this!

Honestly yours,
Lifestyle Intern


  1. I know what you mean, there is a lot of down time. I like to make an effort to get off Facebook and Twitter and try to update my blog (the professional one, not the personal one) and online portfolio, along with my Linkedin account. It also doesn't hurt to go back through all those old pictures on Facebook from freshman year that you forgot to delete or de-tag. Those could come back and haunt you some day!

  2. Lifestyle Intern,

    I currently work as a temp in a corporate environment. I have a journalism degree and am actively (and desperately) looking/applying for magazine jobs. When I have downtime at my job, I try to research as much a possible about the industry so that I am up to speed with everything going on. If you go on mediabistro, they have a ton of current articles on the magazine world. I have learned so much from reading their articles and highly suggest it as one of the sites to do your research!

    Good luck with the rest of your internship :)