by Andy Frame

Schedules will wreak havoc on making sure you get a good meal, so we'll (not always willingly) dive in to a drive through, or hit the fast food once too many times.

Here's a thirty minute recipe good for summer and winter. Saute a couple of pieces of boneless chicken breast in a 12" no-stick pan. When mostly done, take the chicken out, and prepare a box of chicken Rice-A-Roni, according to the directions on the box, in the same pan. After you reduce the Rice-A-Roni to a simmer (from the boil) put the chicken right on top of the whole, wet mess. Put a lid on the pan, and let it alone for twenty minutes or so. Nuke some broccoli (or other fave green food), pour a glass of wine, and you've got supper (and breakfast the next morning...). This recipe works the same way with beef strips and beef Rice-A-Roni. Haven't done pork, yet.

Now, I know someone is flipping over seeing a recipe in this illustrious journal, but ask yourself: is the consolidation virus causing you to seem to have less personal time? Stress levels go up, quality of product goes down, and your time seems to be one treadmill of work, sleep, work, eat, work, sleep....

Meals get skipped. Kids act up 'cause mom and dad are too tired to pay attention to them. And the days blur into weeks into months into realization you're heading south on Burnout Boulevard.

Your salespeople are going through this too. Admittedly, they have the advantage that the world always makes a place for another salesperson. Cars, camcorders, and culinary attachments all need someone to show the wares and sign the deal. Radio stations, too.

But when the consolidation ax hits, the talent gets nailed. I escaped the ax this time. Half of the staff evaporated when we flipped format on one of our two FM's to all satellite. The other station is half-bird, half-local.

Every Friday brings fifty network dubs (no exaggeration). The Owner told the salespeople they have to turn in a spec a day. And, he told me all specs have to be turned around in 24 hours. A minimum of six spots a day, written and produced, from nothing, with minimal voice talent support, and he wasn't kidding.

At first, everyone was getting rip and read :30's ad-libbed right off the notes. Our Regional Sales manager, accustomed to people coming to him, now had to go scrape and fight in the streets with the local salespeople for business. When he turned in four specs, we banged out four rip n'reads and sent them back. He went atomic, and wouldn't speak to me for two weeks.

Finally, he shows up in my office informing me of "his minimum standards" for his spots. They must be :60. The copy must be printed with an inkjet printer on station letterhead. He must have each spec on a separate cassette with a customized full-face label, and on, and on.

Ordinarily, I would have laughed his audacity out the door, but this was definitely a time for diplomacy. (This is where having kids comes in handy...lots of practice.) The pressure that he wasn't used to was crushing him like an aluminum beer can.

I informed him that The Owner had set 24-hour turnarounds, one cassette for all specs, etc., not me. I did my job within the parameters of The Man. Amazingly, I had to explain this no less than three times in ten minutes before the salesperson (kind of) got the picture. (Nobody's a bad guy here, and this isn't a gripe session.)

Weeks later, even though The Owner holds to his 24-hour rule, no one has decided to hold him to his word. The sales staff quickly realized that in order to meet this edict, they would have to settle for junk. Now, they're submitting stuff far enough in advance, the twenty four hour clock doesn't start ticking until I've already had the order for three days.

They know that effective specs take time and the twenty four hour rule was counterproductive to their success. Creativity doesn't eye a clock, but we're being told to produce more in the same time frame, that is, the time we can spend per unit is shrinking. And a consolidation situation can shrink it really fast overnight.

This isn't exclusively our problem, however. It's everybody's problem. Make more cars, more toasters, more more more. Millions of manufacturers and designers are in the same boat.

So we hit our RAB copybooks, listen to our RAP Cassettes. I ask the salesperson if they may have an idea--even one line as a starter, a seed to get the ball rolling quicker--and they do come up with some pretty good stuff. This is in addition to everything that needs to be done that isn't a spec!

Time management becomes a code-blue. You may or may not have competent jocks to do voiceovers, or produce spots. Keep an ear to your crystal ball, and, using your experience, try to guess which specs stand the best chance of hitting the air. It's difficult to maintain "voice balance" when you've got one or two jocks doing most of the spec work with you, and the less experienced voices doing "routine" work. Sooner or later, the specs will sell, and you'll have too many of one voice on the air.

Don't let your "I'm the Writer" ego get in the way of pillaging the Copybook or The Cassette for good, adaptable spots. Radio Ink has a page called "CopyClips," too. See if your Sales Manager has a subscription and photocopy the page.

Whether you're an air talent doing double duty as your station's production wizard, or you have a full time staff, the demands are more than ever. Time management requires a lot of effort, and maybe teaching yourself a new way of thinking to be able to use what time you have most efficiently.

And remember, if you have a family, they come first! Jobs come and go, but your family is the most important thing, period. Make the time, as you manage your time, and tell the person(s) closest to you that you love them, daily.

But that's another topic...and another recipe.