Congratulations on your new editorship! I know your mind is swimming with all you need to do and everything you don’t know.
I hope my New Editor’s Guide to Newsroom Management helped inform your brainstorming about how you want to tackle your big role. Now it’s time to get more specific about your plans.
The student editors I advise meet once a semester to discuss their goals for that semester. In the fall, they also tend to discuss their more long-term goals for the academic year. Here’s a simple way to understand why this type of goal setting is important:
Simply, you are far less likely to accomplish what you want for your audience and leave a lasting legacy on your staff if you don’t document goals and create plans to reach those goals. People who document their goals are significantly more likely to accomplish what they desire than those who don’t.
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Since you understand why goal setting is important, the question then becomes how exactly to do it. This is where I can help! Here are my six easy steps for setting realistic goals:
Step 1: Brainstorm
The first step in setting goals is to have your editorial team brainstorm everything they would like to accomplish for your publication during a given time period (a semester or the academic year, perhaps).
These ideas will be based on your publication’s overall mission (Here’s how to write a mission statement, if you don’t already have one.), areas your staff has identified for improvement and those others have identified for them.
Write down every idea. I suggest having someone make a detailed master list while another staffer documents a keyword list that everyone can see on a whiteboard, large notepad, etc.
Step 2: Be realistic
Now that you have a master list of ideas, be realistic about what you can actually do in any given time period. Most workplace and productivity experts claim you can’t accomplish more than 10 goals in a year. I would say that three to five goals in a semester is plenty, keeping in mind the size of the tasks associated with those goals.
Making a plan is critical to accomplishing your goals, as referenced in the quote above. I recommend that you make accomplishing your goals realistic by measuring them through objectives, strategies and tactics.
Objectives are specific things you must do to achieve your goals. Objectives should:
- Be written in “to verb” form,
- Be specific (What exactly do you want to accomplish?),
- Be measurable (have quantifiable results),
- Be realistic (make them challenging, but feasible), and
- Be time bound (provide a date by which you must accomplish the goal; best not to have all objectives due simultaneously).
For example, an objective for your staff might be: To increase advertising revenue by 20 percent during the 2015-16 academic year.
The No. 1 reason people are more productive, accomplished and happy is that they have clear goals and objectives and they don’t deviate from them, according to Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.
Strategies are general ways you plan to achieve your goals.
For example, a strategy to accomplish the objective above might be: To increase advertising revenue by 20 percent by publishing two special editions of the newspaper during the 2015-16 academic year.
Tactics are the details of how exactly you will accomplish this strategy. In sticking with the example above, your tactics would detail as specifically as possible what those two special issues would entail, when they would publish, how you would approach selling advertising to them, etc.
While you likely wouldn’t set the exact editorial content or calendar at this time, you could identify the issues’ topics and agree to do one each semester, focusing on specific types of content and advertisers. Just having this all in writing at the beginning of a semester or before it even begins would give you a great start. Then you can set your specific content deadlines, etc. after your goal setting session, but you must set a time to return to your tactics and create a detailed plan to implement them.
Step 4: Document
You need to write down your final list of goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. Researchers have found that those who write down their goals are about 40 percent more likely to accomplish them. I’ve had staffs do this in different ways. Some editors give each ed board member a handy dandy handout of the goals, hang them on the wall like a poster or simply remind the editors of them regularly. I say the more visual, the better.
Step 5: Review
Make your goals visual and share them with all of the editors because you all need to review them regularly. Regular review helps keep you on track and focused on the bigger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. How often “regular review” is depends on your staff. You can review your goals daily, weekly (One of my favorite productivity gurus, Leo Babauta, recommends weekly goal review.) or monthly. Perhaps you even could list your goals on your editorial board agenda as a way to review them regularly.
Step 6: Revise (if necessary)
It’s ok to stumble. In fact, I almost guarantee that life will result in you getting off track on your goal list. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, revisit your goals, updating your timeline if necessary to get you back on track.
Setting realistic goals and outlining specific ways to accomplish them is one of the first steps you should complete to set your staff up for success. I hope these six steps help you with that process.