Questions? Just Ask

Even though this work week was a four-day week instead of a five-day week in Ireland, it definitely felt like a full week. I’m enjoying my internship so far, but as with any change, it takes some time to adjust to a new schedule. It has also been interesting to notice how much happens during just one week and even during just one day. I’ve been impressed and surprised by how much I can get done in just one workday; however, the inverse side of this is that I’ve also been surprised at how tired I am after the workday. One of the things I’ve especially realized during this first work week is how important rest and staying healthy is. Another thing that I’ve realized during this first week is that there is always something that needs to be done at my internship site. The publishing business is pretty fast moving, and there’s never really a stopping point in our work. Instead, you move from one task to the next until it gets late in the day, and you decide to find a temporary stopping point.

The constant nature of the work in the publishing world and the continuous deadlines makes time management skills all the more important. One of the things I’ve been doing in order to manage my time at my internship is categorizing tasks. By this, I mean thinking through everything that I need to do on a certain day and sorting out which tasks need to be done now and which tasks are meant to be projects that are spread out over longer periods of time. When one of my co-workers approaches me with a job that they need help with or a task that they would like me to complete, I know that the request is somewhat urgent – I know that I should take a break from whatever I was doing and switch gears to assist them with their work. After an immediate or urgent task is completed, I know that I can then turn my attention back to the tasks that don’t really have a strict deadline. One of my ongoing jobs at my internship is to update my publisher’s website. Even though this work is important, it’s not necessarily as urgent as printing posters for a book’s marketing campaign or creating social media posts for quickly approaching book events. My supervisors have also directly told me that working on the website is meant to be my go-to job whenever I finish a quicker, day-to-day task. Working on the website (and working on other long-term projects) are what I do during the in-between times when I am finished with a more pressing job and am waiting for something else that needs to be done then and there.

Another thing that helps me prioritize the tasks at my internship is paying attention to my email and to Microsoft Teams. My publishing house uses email and Teams to communicate with co-workers who are out of the office. Whenever my supervisor is not physically in the office, they will send me tasks and requests via email and Teams. If I don’t pay attention to these incoming virtual communications and I subsequently miss an important notification or message, I delay other people’s work and the general workflow. Because of the importance of these online communications, I’ve been training myself to really watch these communication channels that we use in the office. Especially considering that email and Teams messages are used to notify me of the priority of my assigned tasks, my ability to manage my time at the office also depends on my ability to read and respond to these virtual updates in a timely way.

Although I’ve worked on ways to figure out how time sensitive certain tasks and jobs at my internship are, I’ve also learned that explicitly asking my supervisors and co-workers is also an effective way to know how to prioritize tasks. If I am unclear about the order in which I should complete things, I’ve found that asking for clarification saves a lot of time and stress. So far, there haven’t been that many situations where I am completely confused about the order that my jobs should be done. But if I am ever at the point where I’m feeling lost, I’ve reached out to my co-workers to double check what needs to be prioritized. Notably, I’ve gotten positive affirmation from my supervisor about this. The people that I work with at my internship have made it clear that they welcome and encourage clarifying questions. An important takeaway from this first work week has definitely been that it’s better to ask questions than to just guess at an answer and that asking questions increases both the efficiency and the quality of my work.