We decided to make this project a test-case for all the journalists confronted by the choice between meeting deadlines for their day job and slaving away on something else they’re passionate about. Because we decided speed was key, we decided to complete this collaboration before our conversation ended.

Here’s what we came up with:

  1. Find someone to hold you accountable. Get in touch with someone who will keep track of your progress as you work on your project — someone who you respect on a personal and professional level. If they’re better than you, all the better. We got lucky when Melody’s Random Person Generator matched us and we were a good connection. But friends, family members and anyone in your network who you might mesh with works just as well as a newly befriended rando.
  2. Self-impose deadlines. Establish a scheduled set of deadlines early and adhere to them. Tell everyone you know when your journalistic endeavor is gonna drop so you’ll feel bad if you don’t make it. For example, we decided to finish this listicle before our conversation ended because we have other stuff to do.
  3. Learn from other media. During the course of our conversation, Alex told a story about getting his podcast off the ground. He felt an obligation to release installments regularly in line with his audience’s expectations. A commensurate idea for online journalism, which Ben does, might be to publish regular standing features or to break out a longer, ambitious story into several segments to create a regular rhythm.
  4. Value your time. Ben described giving up on multiple longer stories even after he conducted several in-depth interviews. If he’d been thinking about each conversation as a professional work product, he would probably have finished each story, or at least made more progress toward a finished project.
  5. Be flexible. Although we originally planned to write each of these items together, our self-imposed deadline forced us to work on the items separately. Even though we ended up blowing our deadline, we finished this project way quicker than we would have otherwise.
  6. Done is better than perfect. Left to his own devices, Alex would keep working forever on a project until it was perfect. But even a flawed, published listicle dashed off in half an hour is better than a unfinished, unpublished listicle we spent a couple hours on before abandoning it.

Benjamin Mullin writes, edits, reports and produces media for Poynter.org. Before that, he was the editor-in-chief of his college newspaper, The Orion, a freelancer for USA Today and an intern at a variety of publications throughout Northern California. He loves to talk media and journalism! Tweet him @benmullin or email at bmullin@poynter.org.

Alex Kapelman is a podcast producer and consultant based in New York City. He has produced content for and with some of the biggest and most respected public radio and podcasting organizations in the country, including WNYC, KCRW, and Gimlet Media. His audio work has been featured in publications like BuzzFeed, Entertainment Weekly, and USA Today, and he has been featured as an industry thought leader by WIRED, Mashable, and Apple. Alex co-founded and co-produces Pitch, a critically acclaimed podcast series that has been lauded by NPR, Slate, Los Angeles Magazine, and more. You can hear his selected audio work here, email him at alex@hearpitch.org, or tweet him @alexkapelman.

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Managing Editor @Poynter. 530-961-3223 | bmullin@poynter.org | Priors: Google Journalism Fellowship, @usatoday, @sacbee_news

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