Author: John Hoffmann, Alumni, Online MS in Communications, 2016
In 1961, FCC Chairman Newton Minow reminded television industry executives attending the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention they needed to do more to serve the public interest and deal with what he called the “vast wasteland” on the publicly owned airwaves (Minow, 2011). I am sorry to report it appears those broadcasters have made no improvements on Wednesday night.
I reached that dismal conclusion recently while watching television on a Wednesday evening for the first time in more than 20 months. From August 2014 to May 2016, I spent nearly every Wednesday night working on my master’s degree at Purdue. For all 10 courses over that period, I had work due on that day. So except for the break from mid-December to mid-January and a few other rare occasions, I made no other plans for the period from 7:00 p.m. to midnight each and every Wednesday. I didn’t watch television or do much of anything else besides finish my weekly reading, write a 300-500 word essay about the material, and post it online.
Doing homework on Wednesday night was the centerpiece of my time management plan and an aspect that I suspect was shared by 99% of all students in the online program.
Other than that, though, I think each student’s weekly plan varied somewhat based on their individual work and family situations. The key was to establish a firm plan and stick to it religiously. Based on that plan, I knew when I was supposed to be doing homework -- and my family knew, too. They didn’t ask me to go to the movies on Wednesday night, for example, and they also encouraged me to get busy if they saw me avoiding my homework after dinner!
When I started the program, I was told it would take an average of 15 to 20 hours weekly to be successful, and I found that to be true.
As a more senior PR practitioner than most of my fellow students, I think I may have been a faster writer than some others, which helped me shave off a little time here and there. But there’s no good way to expedite reading the textbooks and scholarly articles each week or doing the research for the term papers and projects. Investing time in those activities is the key to success, so there’s no sense looking for short-cuts.
Some of my colleagues got into a Monday-Wednesday-Friday night homework routine and said that worked well for them. I did school work Monday through Wednesday nights, and because I was able to do some of the weekly homework during my lunch hour at work, I was usually able to take every Thursday night and about half of the Friday nights off. Weekends, though, were a different story altogether.
In addition to the weekly reading and writing assignments, every class had a couple of smaller papers and projects due, as well as a big end-of-term paper, too. So once I had a sense of what each term’s assignments required, I could plan my weekends for the eight-week period accordingly. Usually I could find a way to take one or two weekends off during every course. However, on the majority of weekends, I spent anywhere from six to 10 hours each Saturday and Sunday doing homework. Again, I could plan that work in advance and make time around my studying to watch a football game or go out to dinner. But the key was to make a reasonable plan and stick to it.
One final thought. I always tried to schedule my time so that I could stay ahead of my deadlines and submit my big assignments early. The big benefit to that approach was that if something came up unexpectedly and I lost the ability to study on a Saturday or Sunday, I’d slip to being on-time instead of late. That approach served me well for 20 months, and I was proud never to miss a deadline. Now if the television programmers would just use that same determined approach to finding something good to show on Wednesday night.
Minow, N. (2011, April). A vaster wasteland: fifty years after his landmark speech declaring television programming a "vast wasteland," the author surveys the reshaped media landscape and lays out a plan to keep television and the Internet vibrant, democratic forces for the next half century. The Atlantic. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/04/a-vaster-wasteland/3...
John Hoffmann is an alumni of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
About the Author
John Hoffmann is Vice President of Corporate Communication for Think Finance, a fintech company in Dallas. He has been in the public relations field for 25 years after working nine years in broadcast journalism. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communication from the University of Michigan in 1982 and a master’s degree in Communication from Purdue University in 2016.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.