When I was a magazine publisher, I had lots of small teams working ferociously hard to produce fabulous magazines every month. They’d give their all, working long hours and trying to make everything perfect.
But every time I went into a new magazine, the first things I’d look for were things we could stop doing.
Yes, I wanted my staff to do less.
Instead of working longer, I wanted them to get home earlier, to see their families, to have some fun, to get a good night’s sleep, whatever they wanted. Because burnt out people aren’t creative, or efficient, no matter how committed they are.
But that meant we had to take a long hard look at what they were doing, and how to do less of it. We had to find things that took more time than they were worth.
It wasn’t always easy. No one wants to admit that they’re doing something that isn’t valuable.
One team was spending a week on just 4 pages, looking at new products. They were important pages, sure, but all our reader survey information said that they weren’t that important. We had to work out exactly what needed to happen in those 4 pages, and find systems to do it in much less time. That meant producing a checklist of what the writer producing it had to look for: what things were important to cover, and what wasn’t. We created a template for how we presented it, which also meant that readers could get the information they wanted much faster.
We saved 3 days a month by changing the way we did it. That’s a lot more opportunity to go home on time.
What’s more, those pages scored even better in the next reader survey. They were easier to read and had exactly the right information in them, because the team knew exactly what they needed to do, and how to just focus on the most worthwhile things.
Another editor lost hours every month replying to people sending in articles.
It was a specialist magazine, and we agreed that she didn’t want to alienate writers who were also loyal readers. But it was a huge amount of work, and when they didn’t hear from her, they’d contact her again, creating more work. So we set up an email box just for that, with an automatic reply from the editor. It told everyone when they could expect a reply from us, and that if they hadn’t heard within a certain time, we weren’t able to use it. It cut down hours of her work, which she used for developing new sections of the magazine. Shortly after, we reached our best ever sales.
So here’s a challenge. What one thing can you stop doing this week, by creating an effective system around it, to make you more successful?