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TV Time

I’ve recently coined the phrase “TV time” because I needed something to explain why I always move into action quickly and decisively.

Apparently not everyone does this.

And it seems I do this so consistently, even one of my recent coaches remarked that he uses me as inspiration for when he’s stuck on something. If he finds himself confronted with a challenge he asks “how would Tara approach this?”

To fully grasp why people admire this trait, we need to talk about procrastination, urgency, and gripping. When it comes to the human mind and our general efficiency, we are constantly negotiating with our subconscious on how we move into action.

When we procrastinate it’s usually out of fear or self-sabotage. 

On the other end of the spectrum is desperation and gripping. We have a goal in mind and we’re emotionally connected to it. And we want it to happen NOW. And if it doesn’t happen now, it’s because we’re failures and the whole universe is against us.

The mid-point is what I now call TV time. It’s deciding what you want, seeing an action you need to take, and then doing the thing. No second-guessing. No weighing all options. No pro-con list. Just knowing you want to do something and you do it.

The reason I call it “TV time” is because this is the state of being you have to be in if you work in live television, which I did for 15 years.

In live TV you’re always weighing the time it takes to complete a task with when you need it to go to air. The clock ticks whether you’re ready or not. You have set commercial breaks to hit. If your show is on a network, you have a set block of time to fill. Same if you work on a 24-hour news channel. There are different shifts with their own teams and hosts.

I’ll use the 24-hour news station as the best example of TV time because it is an environment where quick, decisive action is really the main skill you need.

The objective of a 24-hour news station is to deliver the most relevant, up-to-date news to the audience. This means breaking news, it means updating information, it means new pictures. You are constantly feeding the beast.

Each shift meets before a newscast to get on the same page. They decide on the key news stories we’re focusing on and the elements to expect while we’re on air. 

This is the last time we meet by committee. The rest of the shift is spent acquiring, assigning, and getting the most relevant and recent information to air.

There is no time to circle back, reconvene, or get your ducks in a row. 

It is constant action. You have a game plan to follow. And from there it’s constant decisions measured against the plan of the day and the overall objective.

Here is the other beautiful skill I learned: you can always course correct.

If a script has incorrect (even libelous) information, you can float it so it doesn’t go into the teleprompter. If there’s a typo in a banner, you can drop the banner, fix the typo, then bring the banner back up. If a mistake goes to air, you can always apologize, correct, and move on.

It never has to be perfect. It just has to be correct and complete.

After decades working in TV time, I honestly don’t know any other way to live.

Indecision makes me physically uncomfortable. If I’m unsure about something, I will lay awake at night thinking about it. I’ll have difficulty concentrating. I’ll be frustrated and angry all the time.

Instead I fill this space with information gathering. Just like in the newsroom, I have my objective. I even have my game plan. What pieces do I need to bring into place to tell the story? 

If you ask me what I want for dinner, I have an answer. Sometimes I’ll be deciding between a few things, but by the time the server comes to take my order I’ll have something that works.

If I ask you for your opinion, it’s out of curiosity. I’ll take it into consideration and it may or may not influence my decision. Just know, the decision is about 90% made.

There’s a difference between researching out of fear and procrastination, and researching out of a need to be thorough. What TV time has taught me is you can learn and add new things to a story that’s live on air. It doesn’t even have to be complete to be ready for broadcast.

TV time is ongoing. It moves whether you’re ready or not. Find a way to be part of the broadcast and keep building from there. Otherwise you fade to black.


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