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Andrew Donohue has developed a special kinship with his daughter, Maya, on father-daughter visits to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo: Andrew Donohue

So do we, like, have a desk or anywhere we have to show up during the day?

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This was my last burning question for my Knight Fellowships adviser, Pam Maples, as I prepared to pack up and head to Stanford at the end of last summer.

“Nope,” was her response. “As we say, you’re the architect of your year.”

And boy, was she right. Here in the Knight Fellowship, I don’t necessarily work less than I did at my job. I work different. I work how I want and when I want, normally responsive to my own needs. I’m not waiting on someone else for something or getting latched on to someone else’s project. And I’m not tied to any desk or office. Or even any semblance of a normal schedule.

Heeding my own rhythm

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Andrew Donohue and his daughter, Maya. Photo: Andrew Donohue

That became so clear to me the other day, as I stood among the gigantic tree trunks in Big Basin Redwoods State Park at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday with my 8-month old daughter, Maya. I wasn’t playing hookie, I swear.

But every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I get some great alone time with Maya when our nanny heads home and my wife goes to an immigration law class. I don’t work any less — I just work at my own rhythm, early in the morning or late at night.

And I got those four amazing, calm hours during the weekday afternoon to bond with my daughter. Sometimes we just go grocery shopping or play music. And sometimes we have a big adventure like heading off into the Santa Cruz mountains for a big hike.

Each time I’m reminded how great it is to be the Architect of My Year. And now I’ve got to figure out how to be the Architect of the Rest of My Life.

Andrew Donohue is a Knight Fellow at Stanford University. He was inspired by Thornton Wilder, the American playwright and novelist. Although he was only in high school, he was sure he wanted to be a writer. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and started his career writing for the San Diego Business Journal. He broke stories questioning the city’s handling of pension funds; the FBI and SEC investigated and criminal charges were filed. He later spent a year as director of communication at ILISA Instituto de Idiomas in Costa Rica. He was still looking for challenges. He got more than he expected when he started reporting for voiceofsandiego.org in 2005. After the departure of several editors, the organization was near collapse. Donohue and a friend offered a plan to take over – and the board accepted. In the years since, voiceofsandiego.org has won national reporting awards, forged a partnership with the local NBC station and become a model nonprofit news organization. And Donohue’s still looking for challenges.

This post originally appeared on the blog for the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford.

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The John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford University fosters journalistic innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership. Each year, 20 individuals from around the world get the resources to pursue their ideas for improving journalism.