Applying Google Apps

Written by Kristina Bui

One yearbook staff took advantage of free, online management tools to clear the clutter and stay organized.

After playing my share of motivational games, I decided that awesome staff chemistry is worthless to me as an editor-in-chief if my staff lacks organization.

From experience I learned that even the biggest control freak of an editor-in-chief cannot afford to micromanage, regardless of how friendly the whole staff is. There is not time to hover over every shoulder, and no one appreciates a baby-sitter while they are trying to work. When I took over as editor of the Tucsonian at Tucson High Magnet School in Tucson, Ariz., my adviser suggested we try something new.

We began by having each staff member create an email address at gmail.com, a free Google service. Then, we showed them how to use Google Documents (docs.google.com), a free, online version of Microsoft Office. You can create presentations, spreadsheets and Word documents. We used to work on paper; every new draft was another sheet printed, which added up if a staffer did four or five drafts. With Google Documents, the amount of paper, and therefore clutter, in the classroom, and the number of times we lost a draft, were reduced because staff members saved their body copy online and shared it with an editor. If a document is shared, the document’s creator and other staff members, such as multiple editors, can both view and edit it.

Another perk was that a staff member could not pretend to have an excuse for not meeting a deadline because all their work was online and therefore accessible by an editor from anywhere.

Google also has services such as Google Calendar and Google Notebook, which can be used like one massive planner. In past years, staff members have been encouraged to purchase traditional planners, but people now are more apt to just save notes and dates on their cell phones, border the computer monitor with Post-It notes or write on their palms. I do all three. In Calendar, a staff member can store the dates of events, sports games, and share this calendar so that other people can see it. It is also possible to set up Calendar events to send a reminder to your phone via text message.

Notebook is no longer available to new users, but there are plenty of software replacements such as Microsoft OneNote or EverNote. This software is designed to keep all your notes in one place. You can also take “clippings” from the Web and save images, video and audio with your notes so that you don’t forget a spiffy design trick or lose an interview.

Birthday cake will not finish your yearbook. I think team-building workshops tend to suggest the way to success is a friendly atmosphere where no one is stressed and everyone loves each other. It’s not that your staff doesn’t deserve a little fun — motivation is necessary to keep the staff interested. But it is sharp methods of organization that will keep stress levels down and create a professional work environment.

Staff chemistry doesn’t have to be forced through movie nights and sing-alongs — it will happen naturally if everyone works efficiently.

Kristina Bui