Yearbook Planning Guide: Creating Editorial Calendars.

If you remember your Ancient History (or if you teach it), you’re probably familiar with this Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

(If you don’t remember its origin, here’s a quick refresher: It was written by Laozi, the author of the Tao Te Ching, in the sixth century B.C. If you did remember, bonus points for you!)

Though relatable to many of the tasks we undertake in life, Laozi’s words have a certain level of relevance to producing a yearbook. You probably log that many steps walking from your seat to the printer for proofing pages, for instance. And you probably break the yearbook into several different processes – editorial, marketing and sales, to name a few – to make the tasks less daunting.

But one of the other things you should be doing is creating an editorial calendar to serve as a yearbook planning guide. Having an editorial calendar at your disposal will not only help you further break down your editorial tasks, it’ll map out for you where you’re going, when you’ll get there and how much you can rest along the way.

There is an up-front time investment, but using an editorial calendar as a yearbook planning guide will provide clarity to advisors and editors on what brilliant yearbook ideas are due when. Best of all, you can use it every year with little updating needed.

To maximize accessibility, build your calendar in a collaborative environment. You can use services like Google Drive, where you use the spreadsheet feature, or create a shared calendar. You’ll also want to post the week’s assignments on a wall and keep an updated printed version on file for quick reference.

Knowing Where You Are Going

To start your editorial calendar, you’ll want to begin at the end. So, your first step is this: Mark down the date you owe your final files to your yearbook company. Next, count off the number of days you need to conduct a final proof of your yearbook. Mark that date as your deadline for having a final proof in hand.

If you’ve already made it here, congratulations; you’re already two steps into your journey. It doesn’t get much more difficult from here.

Knowing When You Will Get There

With a destination (a completed yearbook) and arrival time (deadline for delivering final files) in place, you’ll want to map your route.

Plan which sections you’ll complete first, and, within them, what content you’ll be using to populate those sections. (If you missed our post on using a yearbook content plan, be sure to check it out.)

To make this task less daunting for any one individual, advisors can put together the framework to the calendar, focusing on the priority of the sections, while section and page editors can prioritize their work and fill in the appropriate dates on the calendar.

A completed calendar will clearly identify your staff’s day-to-day responsibilities while making it easy to look into the future.

Knowing How Much You Can Rest

To make your editorial calendar even more powerful, you’ll want to label each section of your yearbook a different color on the calendar.

If all work assigned to your class pages is labeled blue, for instance, that section editor will be able to focus on what responsibilities she has for the next three weeks. The advisor, meanwhile, will be able to keep a high-level view of what everyone on the yearbook staff is doing.

For an advisor, that’s a resource that should prompt three questions:

1) Do we have enough computers to be working on all these sections at once?

2) Is one of my staff members overburdened with having multiple pages or sections due on the same deadline?

3) Are we getting an opportunity to rest?

Ryan Novak, at San Francisco’s George Washington High School, recently told us how he creates yearbook assignments for his class. His suggestions for staffing help eliminate these types of issues, but having a calendar in place will let you take an even clearer picture of the yearlong process.

That’s important, of course, if you’re hoping to take your staff on a field trip, celebrate certain deadlines along the way or hold general stress-relieving activities.

So go ahead, put a calendar into place.

It might not save you any steps on the way to picking up a proof from the printer, but at least you’ll know when you’re supposed to be doing it and when you’ll be done.