Mastering Internships: Time Management

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Fellow Heritage interns pay their respects to the Washingtons at an intern field trip to Mt. Vernon.

Whenever a friend of someone at church would ask me how I was enjoying my summer, most of the time I would let a dreamy smile wash over my face and assure them that the summer was absolutely wonderful, relaxing, and all-around lazy.

Well, not this summer!

This summer has been the busiest I’ve ever had. Mornings start at 7:15 with a Pop-Tart and a ride into Washington via the slug line, and I have successfully mastered the art of the Metro station.

Before applying for the Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders’ Program, a paid summer internship practically on the steps of our nation’s Capitol, I couldn’t really picture what I would be doing. I knew I wanted to apply for something related to graphic design or video editing, but I simply couldn’t see myself working a 9-5:30 weekday office job.

Now the fogginess has cleared and I’m sucking up knowledge and information as fast as I can. Yes, I’m learning valuable skill sets that will help me in my future career, but that’s just the beginning of it.

During the summer, I’ve discovered that time management is everything.

By the end of the day, I’m exhausted and fantasizing about the theories of teleportation so I can beam home, rather than riding a Metro for an hour. And with a busy day comes an in-depth decompression with my parents over supper. By the time I finish rehashing stories, taking a shower, and scrolling aimlessly through Facebook, I realize it’s 11:30 and time for bed.

Then the day starts all over again.

For the first couple weeks,  I felt like I did nothing else but work. I loved my job, but I also loved coming home and getting things done. As a driven person, I always have projects lined up waiting to receive attention — like writing a novel, producing wedding videos, making a semester in review video from last college semester, honing my skills with a Wacom tablet…. The list goes on. Yet I couldn’t seem to find time to work, socialize with friends, and introvert with a personal project all in one week.

Then I realized I really stunk at time management.

I found that I have the best nights when I have two or three things I try to get done every night. Some of them can be fun, mindless vegging, like catching up on CW’s Flash or playing Horizon: Zero Dawn. Some of them can be productive like editing free-lance videos and transferring files for people, and some of them can be personal skill practice, like writing my book and participating in Camp NaNoWriMo with some friends.

But if I just come home and sit on the couch talking about my day and surfing Facebook, I get to the end of the night and feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. Even something as simple as watching one episode of Flash a night can help me feel like I’m doing something I at least enjoy, rather than just sitting on social media.

Combining something fun with something productive also makes the night feel longer, because I do more than just one thing. If I binged Netflix all night, I’d feel completely different than if I watched one or two episodes and then did something productive. Suddenly my nights are twice as long, and I’m feeling much more rested and ready for the next day.

Time management works great for the evenings, but this week I also realized it works great during the day too.

Early this week my boss called me up to his office for my midway intern evaluation. During the evaluation, he praised and complimented me for my enthusiasm and timely work, but what I found helpful was his suggestions on managing the down times in between projects.

“Being a video producer is a constant altering between boredom and panic,” he explained to me with a knowing grin. “Some days you have nothing to do, and then the next day you have everything to do.”

I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the meaning is the same. He suggested spending the time on the clock to learn and practice as much software as I can. He said watching YouTube tutorials  is the best way I can learn. With video editing, sure, I can learn from someone above me, but training videos are a whole different feel of education.

These are just two ways I’ve found out that time management can change my entire outlook on the day. Finding things to do, teaching myself new skills, even writing a blog post on what I’ve learned recently…it’s done a lot to keep me feeling positive and excited to do as much as I can through the week.

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