Are you ready?
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Before we press pause on things here at Journalism.co.uk for the Christmas break, we have collected together some suggestions for journalists to help them feel extra-organised upon their return in January.

Once the festivities are over, it may well be worth taking a few minutes in order to be fully-prepared for the new year. We know that many of you will be working over the Christmas period but hopefully you will enjoy a moment to yourself at some point and be able to put some of the following into practise.

1. Tidy computer desktop and smartphone dashboard

What with all the files opened and saved on your desktop and the numerous apps you may have downloaded to your smartphone over the last year, it's likely that both your computer and mobile could do with a good clear up.

Organising images and documents into relevant folders and taking a look through the different apps you have accumulated over the year – perhaps deleting those no longer relevant and organising others into folders – will help you return in January to an uncluttered workspace.

It is also a good time to do a health check of the machines you work with, and carry out any software updates which are pending. It might also be worth trying out a tool like Alfred, which you can set up to help speed up the searching process, such as establishing shortcuts to search certain sites, or simply hunt out documents on your computer.

2. Download new mobile reporting apps

For many of us, our mobile phone is a valuable resource for doing journalism on the go, whether that is capturing and editing multimedia, accessing documents via Google Drive or using news reader apps to keep on top of your patch.

In preparation for the coming year, take a look at some of the latest apps available which may help you in your day-to-day work, whether for iPhone, iPad or Android devices. Take a look at our regular app recommendations for inspiration.

3. Set up automation of tasks where possible

There are a number of applications available which automate certain tasks, and can help journalists keep on top of things and find new leads. This might be setting up a simple Google Alert RSS feed for every time a keyword related to your patch appears in a story, or the more advanced alert systems available via platforms such as Ping.it or IFTTT. Journalists can also set up an alert system which scans social media by using a tool like Mention.

Other useful alert tools include ChangeDetection, which will notify you of a change to a web page you may be monitoring. At Journalism.co.uk, for example, we like to monitor the Journalism project page on Kickstarter for any new entries.

There are a lot more suggestions just like these in this Journalism.co.uk list of 16 newsgathering tools.

4. Update RSS reader with latest key feeds

Your RSS reader is another folder which can become out of date by the end of the year. Take a look through and check if there are any dead feeds still in there, or any which need updating to a new url.

Then take stock of the key sites you need to monitor to keep track of your patch, and take a look to see where RSS feeds are available – do you have them all in there? Now is a good opportunity to make sure your RSS reader is as valuable as it can be.

Looking for a reader? When Google Reader closed earlier this year we highlighted some suggestions for other platforms that could be used instead.

5. Back up important content to the cloud

Regular back-ups are always sensible and backing up content to a cloud-based service like Dropbox can be handy when you are on the road.

If you tend to use and share material across a newsroom, it would also be wise to establish specific folders to be shared with colleagues, and make sure what they need is in there.

6. Update online profiles

A lot can change in a year, and for those journalists with online portfolios, if it is not something you regularly keep up-to-date, then you may find you have a fair amount of content to link to your profile from recent months, to ensure those arriving at it get the best idea of your experience and ability. Earlier this year we highlighted '5 ways journalists can make the most of portfolio platforms'.

Check out your other online profiles too, and see if any other updates are necessary. Does your LinkedIn profile have your current role listed correctly, and can you say more about your responsibilities to date. What about your Twitter account? It is well worth making sure you enter 2014 with everything organised and up-to-date not just in the office, but for your online communities as well.

7. Brush up on digital skills

There is always more to learn in the digital world and therefore a key consideration for journalists heading into 2014 is going to be finding ways to hone those digital skills.

When you have a particular skill you are keen to improve on, our advice – as well as reading our site – would be to check out the many tutorials available online. Whether it is on how to use a particular tool or more general techniques there is likely to be a video tutorial on YouTube or a how-to guide offering advice.

Our how-to guides can be found at this link, with recent examples including how to get started in investigative journalism, how to do data journalism on a budget, how to produce video on your mobile phone and how to improve the online comment experience.

Another way to keep on top of the latest digital skillsets and tools is to follow journalism-focused sites and blogs. As well as Journalism.co.uk, other sites worth following include Poynter, Nieman Journalism Lab, the Online Journalism Blog. Earlier this year we produced a list of '50 journalism blogs, by journalists', which is also worth a look.

We would also recommend the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm) blog for the latest in media law.

You might also like – warning, shameless plug alert – to peruse our training courses for 2014, or even book a ticket to our digital journalism conference news:rewired in February.

8. Organise contacts

You will no doubt have made many new contacts in 2013 who you may wish to call on again next year, so make sure you have safe and secure records for them.

Where appropriate, Twitter lists may be a good place to gather collections of colleagues or contacts based on their areas of specialism. This means you will have these networks already organised and easy to follow upon returning in January.

9. Look out for opportunities to network with your peers

There are plenty of chances next year to connect with your colleagues from across the industry, and others with whom you may be able to form valuable collaborations. So take a look at different events taking place and make sure you have them in your diary.

We list journalism-related events online, so that may be a useful place to start. You can also search sites like Lanyrd to find events around a certain subject, or use Meetup to join event communities and find out about the latest arrangements. Journalism.co.uk uses Meetup to organise our journalism socials – the next one is on 11 February.

Also take a look at the schedule for Hacks/Hackers. The event gets together journalists and developers, with local 'chapters' located all over the UK and the world.

10. Find some time to relax!

Last, but not least, we hope you will find plenty of time to relax before the new year. Many of us are likely to watch a film over the festive period, and so we had a brainstorm in the Journalism.co.uk office and came up with a collection of journalism-fuelled movies to enjoy.

The list – based solely on films we have seen ourselves – includes: State of Play, The Help, All the President's Men, The Rum Diary, Kalifornia, Superman, Anchorman, Network and Bruce Almighty.

Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments below. And from everyone here at Journalism.co.uk, have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.
  • The Journalism.co.uk office will be closed from later today until Thursday 2 January.

Update: This article was updated to correct the title of the film The Rum Diary

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