December Deadline Dynamics: Ways to Cope

Jason Kaiser

Associate Marketing Manager, Jostens
Jason works with various print, digital and social initiatives bringing content to life through Yearbook Love, the Digital Classroom and more. A former yearbook adviser, Jason has worked with scholastic journalism for more than eight years.

Depending on your district’s holiday schedule, there are roughly 15 school days in the month of December before winter holiday. If you’re in a class situation, and have an average class length of 45-minutes, that means you have 675-minutes (or 11.25 hours) of in-class yearbook time left (not discounting holiday parties, snow days, early dismissals, shortened class periods, etc.).

Panicked yet?

December can be a difficult month because many deadlines tend to land in either this month in January. There are a few things you can do today that will help your staff cope with deadline dynamics:

Create a December checklist

Getting a grasp on what’s been accomplished and what still needs to be done is an important step in coping with an upcoming deadline.

Be realistic: there is only so much time in the day (or December … remember 11.25 hours). While some tasks are achievable (like finishing portrait pages), some are not. Be real with what you and your students can do and don’t be afraid to go to Plan B.

Have a plan B: When deadline disaster strikes, do you have a plan to fill the empty spaces? Consider embellishing a story, adding infographics or making the spread into a specialty spread.

Pro-tip: At Jostens, we provide advisers and staff access to story starters, templates, click-and-go creation tools and more to help with deadline disaster strikes. Check out the Digital Classroom for more information to help fill in the gaps of your design. For example, there are story starters for each season and every occasion to give you a hand in the brainstorming process.

Be visual with your checklist: it’s important to be transparent with the list of to-dos. Create a large poster or dedicate a spot on the board for these imperative tasks. Celebrate each time a task has been crossed off.

Check in, then check in again: having a list is one thing, but be sure to communicate one-on-one with the staff to see where they are, identify obstacles and find solutions. They are likely sensing your stress. By working together, many hands make light work.

Pro-tip: Speaking of transparency, having an open dialogue with your students about deadlines is important. Take a look at our Let’s talk deadline PowerPoint and use it to address deadlines and tasks.

Team Building

While it’s important to be focused on completing the 10+ items on your list, it’s important to remember that these students are not only concerned with yearbook; they likely have other assignments and commitments looming over them. Taking even just a few minutes out of the week might help, inspire or energize your staff to do the impossible and to stick to plan A.

Treats: Food does amazing things for morale. If they are able to meet deadlines, or you just want to thank them for their work, bring in some snacks while they work.

Make a “Woo-Hoo Poster:” after you’ve completed a deadline, create a large poster with a winding road (something like the yellow brick road). Pass out two slips of paper to each staffer. Type or write “I was so frustrated about …” on one sheet and “I’m so proud of …” on another. Have staffers complete both. Wad up the “I was so frustrated by” sheet and shoot paper basketball as a staff. Then read each “I’m so proud of …” thought out loud and glue or tape to the road. Say a big “WOO HOO” after each proud thought. Hang the poster in the room.

Pro-tip: Make the staff run the team building exercise, but participate. They aren’t the only ones who could use the stress relief.

However you find ways to defeat the December deadline dynamics in your classroom, know that you have a team of dedicated professionals ready and willing to help. Stay strong, reflect on your failures and celebrate your victories … December is almost over (that’s a victory in and of itself).