I think that’s probably the right phrase. An anxiety over not being productive at work, or at least the fear of seeming that way to others.
This frustratingly common thought struck me as I was being driven back to the office in London from a work event a couple of hours away. I can only speak vaguely about the event due to an embargo but it involved leaving the house at 8 (an hour later than normal), driving for two hours, spending roughly an hour looking at something and chatting to the company behind it, then arriving back at the office by 2pm.
For someone who is at his desk for 8am and on a good day has two news stories written and published by 10:30am, today felt like an unproductive one. I feel this way whenever I travel for work, whether it’s 30 minutes across town for a meeting or 11 hours to Los Angeles, the weight of dead time bares down on me and makes me feel like I haven’t been working. It’s silly, I know, but it is also persistent.
In truth, it is events like these which turn into the pieces of work I am most proud of. Today, for example, I saw something which won’t be seen by the public for over a month. This gives me plenty of time to write exactly the right feature, pick the perfect photographs, and maybe conduct an interview for a second article - all ahead of the embargo lifting. Instead of bashing out a news story as quickly as possible, I have weeks to make every word perfect.
In online journalism I think this luxury is on the way out, kicked out of town by the never-ending 24-7 news cycle we all like to blame television for.
But the truth is, this kind of approach benefits everyone. Companies prefer to deliver a controlled message on their own terms and in their own time, journalists prefer having time to digest what they have seen and heard before committing fingers to keyboard, and readers get a higher quality article as a result. Everyone wins.
This is a luxury I fear few outside the magazine industry get to benefit from, and I try to make the most of every opportunity I have to experience it.
But the anxiety is still there. I know the end result will be of far higher quality than if I’d rushed out a re-written press release, but then I’d be in the office all day, which someone seems more productive to my simple mind. Instead of sitting in a car and trying to keep on top of email with poor 4G coverage, I’d look and feel like I was working harder, even if the results were of lower quality.
I really want to drag myself out of this mindset. So to go alongside the changes I made to limit distractions in my last blog post, I’ll now be making a conscious effort to remind myself that work does not always mean hammering away at a keyboard for nine hours a day.
I must remind myself how journalists have to go and get the story, and that takes time. I will return today with key quotes from industry leaders shared with just myself and the three other reporters in attendance. When all is said and done, that is more valuable than writing the story quickly and appearing busy in front of my bosses.
PS, I will eventually stop using photos I took in Utah recently. Eventually.