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How to Streamline the Creation of Yearbook Page Spreads: A Guide for Meeting Deadlines

Student hides behind a large pile of yearbooks stressed by having to prepare for deadlines

Why is it that starting something is often easier than finishing? While deadlines are fast approaching, you realize your students struggle with this issue as well. The main problem is that the longer students take to make a page spread, the more difficult it becomes to complete it! Students start pages, get lost or postpone working on it, and move on to something else. The yearbook pages can become like a museum or garage of unfinished projects. Memories start to fade, quotes are forgotten, people you interviewed will have forgotten the event, and there's a chance files will be misplaced. Don't let this happen to you! It is vital to start and finish pieces as soon as possible, and here are some strategies to complete them quickly: 

5-hour energy bottle that displays the 5-hour page spread technique.

The 5-hour Spread.

Not every spread can be completed within a day. However, once your staff becomes laser-focused, you will be surprised by what they swiftly accomplish in spreads such as: assembly page, Halloween page, Christmas page (holiday pages).

The key to this technique is the staff's participation. Divide the class into 2-3 teams and place 3-4 photographers, 1-2 interviewers, 1 layout person, and 1 manager per team. In this assignment, each team must create a spread. This is a competitive exercise and a way for the teams to experience what it is like to finish a page within 5 hours. Designate the day you will prepare the 5-hour spread, and send the students out to accomplish their tasks. Those assigned to a layout will have already prepared a template. After school, everyone will gather with their completed assignments, photos, and interview notes. Within the next two hours, they accomplish their goal and finish! They feel empowered! There is still the chance that some spreads will take longer, and that is ok! Experiencing the togetherness of working as a tight team is worth the extra effort. For those longer spreads, try the FedEx Friday method.

FedEx Friday

This technique evolved when companies implemented a strategy to encourage employees to produce innovative ideas under the pressure of a quick and hard deadline. Our procedure was to gather on a Friday morning to work. After lunch, the students presented whatever they had completed. Each staff member understood they must deliver a product, and that they would be graded on the page as it was. At times, we had to split the work into two Fed Ex Fridays. The first was the rough draft, and the second was the final draft. As with me, you will be surprised by the quantity and quality of work the students will complete in a shorter deadline and how possible it is to streamline page spreads.

Parkinson’s Law:

How can a shorter deadline be beneficial? Parkinson's Law is an example of how short deadlines produce positive results. The law states: "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." The work you expend on a task will contract or expand depending on the time you have to finish. If you have five weeks, it will take you five weeks, or if you have five hours, it will take five hours. There isn't a guarantee that the five-week deadline, or an extension of the deadline, will give better results. It may lead to losing things or forgetting important information. Contract the time vs elongating the time!

CLOSE THE DEAL! Review the page spreads and ONLY select those spreads that really require a remake! Put your teams in groups, assign their tasks, and get the spread done. DON'T DWELL, MOVE ON!

BE QUICK THINKING! It may be necessary to invent new spreads, even at this late date! Think quickly and sharply! Brainstorm but remember: be consistent with the yearbook theme; keep the new spread ideas focused on getting more and different faces in the book; keep a sense of humor and positive attitude when adjustments must be made. Pivots and adaptations are inevitable and part of real-life experience.

PROVIDE TIME & FOOD! Make it fun by providing food and snacks for those late Friday nights, Saturday workdays, and maybe overnighters. Obtain the appropriate permissions from the administration and parents/guardians with chaperones. Remember that parents are wonderful and supportive sources of food.

BE PREPARED TO PERSONALLY PUT IN THE TIME! Work alongside your staff, and offer your professional support. You will need to put in your personal time to meet these deadlines and undergird their knowledge and efforts with yours. Not every task as a teacher ends at 4 pm. Explain that the responsibility of creating a yearbook includes extra effort from them and the adviser. 

Three students sit together and look at the final yearbook in excitement.

CELEBRATE, CELEBRATE, CELEBRATE!! Celebrate once the final spreads have been sent to the publisher! Have a party and honor their diligent efforts. Cover all the bases - recognize each one's talents and input in sincere appreciation and gratitude. Make every effort to express an understanding of everyone's ability and capacity for work, and their invaluable input in the project.

United Yearbook offers resources, curriculum, and on-site workshops on this and other topics. To learn more, contact us at or visit our website at For more resources, check out our podcast episode on selling out your yearbook!

Copyright © 2024. TSE Worldwide Press. All Rights Reserved.

Former yearbook adviser, Lucy McHugh.

Contributor: Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing from a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former visual art teacher and yearbook adviser. She received a Bachelors of Science in Art from Columbia College in Columbia, SC, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000, and in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy enjoys her family, making art and gardening.

Contributor: Joon Kim is starting his 29th year as a public school teacher. For the first ten years, he taught English at Bellflower High School, and for the past 18 years, he has been teaching Graphic Design, Video Production, Photography, Yearbook and Journalism at Garden Grove High School. He received his B.A. in English from UC Irvine in 1991 and while his formal education ended then, he is always learning, sharing, growing, and mentoring.

Article editor, Donna Ladner.

Editor: Donna Ladner obtained a B.A. in Education and a minor in English from California Baptist University, and a M.S. in ESL from USC, Los Angeles. After she married Daniel, their family moved to Indonesia with a non-profit organization and lived cross-culturally for 15 years before returning to the U.S in 2012. Donna has been working as an editor and proofreader for TSE Worldwide Press and its subsidiary, United Yearbook since 2015.

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