Ten years ago, while newspaper budgets and staffs were being slowly but steadily trimmed, some companies adopted the mantra "work smarter" -- implying that with the right approach, even better newspapers could be published with even fewer employees. In this post-recession era of publishing on both print and online platforms with yet-smaller staffs, some advise to "decide what to quit doing" -- an acknowledgement that setting priorities can keep you from being overwhelmed.
Both prescriptions are healthy exercises. However, both have their limits.
"Work smarter" begins to sound like "work off the clock" to those ordered, not taught, to economize. And deciding what tasks and projects to abandon can actually bring more anxiety than relief, particularly if the flotsam was once strongly advocated by those now giving you permission to chuck it overboard.
I'm fortunate to work for people who have made both of these prescriptions and more fortunate, still, to work for people who understand their limitations. Whatever anxiety I've felt about work, I've largely brought upon myself.
I've slowly come to discover that I must be able to let go of my own pet projects.
Take this blog for example.
I created Inside Pages about five years ago of my own volition, on the notion readers would appreciate a peek inside our editorial decision-making and a discussing of industry trends and topics.
Once this blog became part of my routine, it lodged there. Just as no one demanded I start it, no one but me has demanded I continue, either.
So I've been plugging along. Even after I thought topics were beginning to repeat too often. Even after I first suspected readers need a better newspaper more than they need to hear what I think goes into making a better newspaper.
Don't get me wrong. I've enjoyed thinking about the topics I've written about and benefitted greatly from the reader feedback. But some weeks, I more or less wrote because, well, I told myself at launch I would post at least once a week, no matter what.
I have just enough readers to justify continuing Inside Pages if I really want to, but I don't have so many that deciding to quit is off the table. So I'm going to tend to other things. There's the Untamed Lowcountry blog I launched earlier this summer. There is work to help test and develop new tablet apps. There is important training to help my staff learn more about to prepare multimedia presentations and web video.
I'll still maintain my Inside Pages Twitter account, twitter.com/insidepages, but in a few weeks, we'll remove Inside Pages from menu of blogs on our website. Only a handful of readers will notice. No one will complain. I hope that the new tasks make the newspaper and its website an even more enjoyable experience for readers.
One more thing before I quit doing this: Thank you to all who have taken the time to read and, especially, to those who have taken time to share their thoughts.