A toothsome challenge facing university magazine editors is how to keep it all moving forward. Lurching forward. Trundling along toward print-it-bind-it-box-it-mail-it. We don’t have populous staffs, we work with subjects who have no sense of urgency because their idea of a tight book deadline is six years down the road, we have to coordinate production of class notes and design and photography and illustration and proofing and, oh yeah, those damned stories from overcommitted writers.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep everyone on track to meet our print date without becoming a nag. My only progress on that project has been to become not a nag, just naggish. Not a great solution.
What feels like a semblance of a method is to concentrate on moving at least one part of the issue forward at least one step every day. That alone will not get you to the finish on time, but it will cut down on those days when you make no progress at all. Moving one thing forward one step might be a matter of making a single decision about a photo or assignment, conferring with one colleague about how a story is progressing or the layout on a feature spread, making a couple of calls to check on the status of an interview. Or it could be clearing six hours in the day and getting that feature edit done. At your university, the magazine will be the top priority of only one person—you. For everyone else, your magazine is way down their list of urgent concerns. So one step every day becomes important.
Recently there was a subreddit—I actually know what that means now—on productivity in creative work. Someone signed on as “Ryan” offered this awkwardly phrased but pungent bit of counsel:
Rule numero uno—there are no more zero days. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single fucking thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros. I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out every day, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non-zero. You feel me? When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed your pattern of behavior is keeping the vortex going, that’s what you’re used to. Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON-ZEROS. That’s rule number one. Do not forget.
Have a non-zero day.