If you’ve decided to stop doing a task or project, congratulations! But what now?

First off, if you found the exercise helpful, I recommend making it a regular part of your team check-ins. It could be as structured as a quarterly stop doing meeting, or as casual as keeping a shared running doc of potential things to stop doing.

You might also wonder whether something should replace the thing you or someone on your team has decided to stop doing. There are a few angles to consider before making any decisions.

For many newsrooms, the instinct when a workload is reduced is to immediately find other tasks to replace it with — but that’s not the point of this exercise. If there’s one thing you should take away from this, it’s that it’s okay to do less. If your staff is overworked or burnt out and feel like they finally have a chance to stop and take a breath, that is a huge win.

Perhaps your team did this exercise to start adding some bandwidth for looming elections reporting. Below are some suggestions on how to incorporate community engagement with elections coverage — a great use of resources that will last beyond November.

I’d love to hear from you on how this stop doing series helped you, and whether it inspired you to give something up or allowed you to make room for something exciting you’ve been wanting to try. You can find me at emily.ristow@pressinstitute.org.

— Emily Ristow, API Director of Local News Transformation

Make stop doing a habit

Here are some ways to make stop doing a regular practice:

  • Incorporate the question “What are you doing that you don’t think is a good use of your time, and why?” into performance reviews, ask it at every team meeting or even create a Slack channel dedicated to things your team needs to stop doing.
  • Test assumptions on why something is done and/or who cares about it. The questions we shared in Week 2 can help with this.
  • Honor the personal investment and emotions tied to work. A favorite example of this is when The Seattle Times held a memorial service for a newsletter they discontinued.
  • When it’s time to stop something, lift up the lessons. This will help those who worked on feel their contributions are valued — and will help you avoid the same mistakes.

Ideas to reinvest your time

  • Listen to audiences, and let their input guide your reporting or election coverage. Consider hosting listening events, find ways to engage meaningfully with audiences and pursue stories or election coverage priorities based on what you learned.
  • Improve source diversity. A Reynolds Journalism Institute study found that one of the biggest obstacles to highlighting diverse voices is the crush of deadlines that makes finding new people to interview more challenging. Using your time to implement source tracking is one way to build lasting habits that promote source diversity.
  • Plan your local election coverage priorities. Many journalists and editors nationwide are meeting to plan their 2024 elections coverage. The focus will vary depending on many factors, such as the size of the reporting team, the races on local ballots and, frankly, what else demands coverage that week. Make the most of your time by writing an elections mission statement.

What to consider before you start doing something new

Don’t let a new idea make its way onto your stop doing list in six months. Ask the following questions, and test out the concept before going all-in:

  • How does this contribute to our mission and/or business? If it doesn’t contribute to either, it’s probably not worth starting.
  • What does success look like? Set some initial benchmarks and a deadline, and check in and be honest about the progress.
  • What does failure look like? And if this doesn’t succeed, how could we wind this down?
  • Who are all the people or departments this initiative draws from? Be aware of the multiplier effect, where something ends up having a larger investment than you realize because the small contributions of many people add up.

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