It’s no secret that a yearbook deadline can reduce even the calmest, most experienced Yerd into a nervous, panic-driven crazy person. But that doesn’t have to be the norm. By dissecting the whole into smaller pieces, you can build a production cycle that leads to success rather than stress.
A PRODUCTION SCHEDULE
Facing at a blank spread and thinking about all the elements need to fill that spread can be overwhelming. To help your staff members begin the daunting task, lay out a structured production schedule instead of just a beginning and ending date. Consider a simple, structured three or four-week cycle that guides them smoothly toward the deadline. Each week has a specific focus with mini-deadlines of the various required elements (we’ll look at these in Part Two). Here’s an overview of both cycles:
FOUR WEEK CYCLE DETAILS
• Advisers have an entire week devoted to editing and submitting pages. This will be “focused” time since new pages are not being started.
• Advisers have students at their beck-and-call during submission week to address issues on pages.
• During submission week, the staff can work on tasks not necessarily related to creating pages—putting up posters, making sales announcements, selling ads, writing thank you notes, editing directory proofs, etc., or they can work ahead to prepare for upcoming deadlines.
• Submission week gives wiggle room for delays (missing photos and info, sick student, snow days, etc.).
• Since there are fewer production cycles, there are more pages to submit per cycle.
• Staff members may be creating more than one spread at a time. This depends on the number of pages in your book and the number of students on your staff.
• During submission week, students might get sluggish or lose focus.
THREE WEEK CYCLE DETAILS
• Since there are more production cycles, there are fewer pages to submit at a time.
• Students are busy working on pages every week. There isn’t down-time—unless you intentionally build in an occasional non-production week.
• The adviser can have a hard time focusing on completed pages while helping the staff start new ones. (For example, while the staff is focused on starting pages in Cycle 3, the adviser is focused on submitting the pages from Cycle 2.)
• Students are not focused on revisions during submission week. Since they are working on new pages, they are not at the adviser’s beck-and-call during submission to address issues on pages.
• Since Submission Week happens concurrently with Plan Week, there are no days between cycles to accommodate delays due to missing photos, missing info, a sick student, snow days, etc.
PLANNING THE CYCLES
It’s a very simple process to plan out your choice of a 3 or 4-week cycle. You’ll need a calendar and four different colored pens.
1. Circle important days—first day of school, final deadline, ship date, distribution.
2. X-out days to skip—holidays and dates you would like to skip.
3. Identify the last Submit Week—the week before your final deadline.
4. Number the weeks—count backward from your final deadline. Skip as needed.
5. Stop at Week 1 about a month before the first day of school to allow prep time (or from current week to explain the new process).
6. If a cycle doesn’t start or end where you want, try another plan.
Your calendar should look something like this:
ASSIGNING PAGES TO EACH CYCLE
The next step requires determining which pages will be due during each cycle. This is no different than determining which pages you will submit to your plant on each deadline. You will just break things down into smaller chunks, making sure you will have submitted enough pages to complete each established plant deadline on time. This requires careful scrutiny of your ladder and your school events and sports calendars. Supplement each cycle as needed with your academics pages, class portrait pages or ad pages.
SETTING DEADLINES AND SUBMITTING PAGES
There are two keys to a successful production schedule. The first key is setting hard and fast due dates for staff members. The date completed pages are due to you for proofing should be the Friday of your Finalize week. That gives you a week to review, edit and or return the pages to staffers for immediate corrections before submitting them to your printing plant on the Friday of your Submit week.
The second key to a successful production schedule is to always submit pages to your printing plant each Friday of your Submit week, regardless of your scheduled deadlines from your printing plant. By getting the pages into the plant on a regular basis, you will have more time to focus on the pages due during each cycle and smaller batches of plant proofs (if you receive them).
Of course, nothing in Yearbook Land is 100% perfect, and glitches will still happen. But you will be able to handle them with less panic and more creativity because there is a structure in place.
And that’s Part One of de-stressing deadlines.
In Part Two of this post, we will dissect the Plan and Create weeks (think mini-deadlines). Stay tuned!