Yearbook Committee Planning: Use a Timeline Tool for Better Project Management

In order for your yearbook committee to create a great publication, you have to start with the right tools. While there are different pieces of technology that you’ve already invested in to make your design shine, like awesome cameras and photo editing software, there’s one area of yearbook creation that you may have overlooked: how to easily stay on top of your project as a whole, while also keeping your yearbook committee on track with deadlines and details. If this is something you’ve struggled with, then you’re in luck: project management is one of my favorite parts of the yearbook process. Today, I’m going to show you how to use a timeline within Google Docs to manage your yearbook project from start to finish! And what’s better, we’ve even made you a template you can use to make your own! To make things super simple, I’ve listed out the 3 steps you need to take, to make planning a breeze.

Tips for Great Project Timelines

To be an awesome project manager, you have to create really detailed and accurate timelines. This helps your team understand when things are due, and what projects they should get a head start on, and it allows adequate time to ask questions about assignments. Over the years, I’ve learned a few great tricks to ensure my timelines are easy to create and follow, include everything I need, and that get things turned around when I need them.

  • Work Backward: When you create your timeline, it can help to start at your final due date and work backward through all of the steps in your project. This helps you to better think through how much time each task will take, instead of trying to cram everything in within a last-minute timespan.
  • Get Detailed: The point of your deadlines is to help your yearbook committee not only recognize when they need to accomplish each step in the process, but make sure that none of the pieces of your project slip through the cracks. Think through your project on a very detailed level, as if you have no yearbook experience at all. For example, if you want to complete your photo feature on the golf team, detail everything: brainstorming the concept, contacting the coach, scheduling the photo shoot, when the edited photos are due to your design team, and then when the final spread is due. When you break things down to each simple step required, you make it easier for your team to stay on track.
  • Build a Buffer: Even the most detailed deadlines can be missed–which means you need to allow a little room for error within your timeline. Build a small buffer into each week of your process. You don’t need to share this buffer with your team, it’s more of a safety net that allows you to get back on track in the event that a deadline is missed. And if you stay on track, you just get that piece of your project done a little sooner than expected!

Google Docs

A free web-based tool that lets you create text documents, spreadsheets and more, Google Docs is an amazing way to stay on top of all the projects you create. Not only can you easily manage a project from one online source (your Google Drive), but you can also share and edit content in real time with the members of your team, even if you’re in different locations. This makes it easy to collaborate among writers, editors, and designers, to minimize the number of documents you have to send back and forth–and it makes managing your timeline a breeze.

Start with a Spreadsheet

To kick your project off with a bang, start with a basic spreadsheet as your timeline tool. This is what you’ll use to dictate deadlines for your yearbook committee. On the first tab, timeline out your project as a whole. This is your 10,000 foot view of every feature and section your team will work to create. To make the content easier to quickly scan and understand, separate out each deadline with monthly headers.

Add a Tab Per Project

For each of the smaller projects you assign out to your team, add a tab to your spreadsheet. This keeps all of your assignments and deadlines in one centralized location. Depending on how many tabs you create, you can even make it easier to navigate, by hyperlinking the specific project tab to the project name on your large-scale timeline (I’ve explained how to do this on the template). Then, within each project tab, build out a specific timeline that offers deadlines for each individual task you expect your team to accomplish. As tasks are completed, highlight them with your school colors to show your progress!

Share With Your Yearbook Committee

Once your document is created, share it with the rest of your team by clicking the blue “share” button in the top right corner of your document. You can offer editing rights when appropriate, or just the ability to view the document, depending on your needs. Because your document can be edited in real time by your whole yearbook committee, you no longer have to worry about whether everyone has the most up-to-date details on your project–and that’s pretty awesome!

By using a tool such as a Google Spreadsheet, you can ensure that everyone on your yearbook committee is on the same page–and that the pages of your yearbook are completed in as stress-free a way as possible. A little bit of planning up front can make for a relaxed project, where you know that all the content your yearbook needs is under control, and ready to be delivered on time to all your eager students!

To get you started, we’ve made this template, that you can use and change for your own project.  Clicking on this link will take you to the GoogleSheet, and there you will want to go to “File,” “Make a copy” This will enable you to save our template to your own GoogleDrive, to customize for your own project, and share with your own committee!  Have fun, and happy planning!