You don’t have to spend much time on this site to figure out that I’m a total nerd for editorial planning, writing, and blog post inspiration. In one of my weekly emails, I talked about a small change I made to my blog planning process that made a huge difference: Moving my planning time from the end of the month to the middle. (The short version: At the end of the month I’m more concerned about getting posts ready for the next week. In the middle of the month I already have the rest of the month planned out.)
When I sent that email, a reader reached out, curious for a more behind-the-scenes look at my planning process. She told me her idea of planning is to maybe write a few ideas on a notepad, but otherwise just fly by the seat of her pants. A lot of you who participated in Blog Out Knock Out told me something similar.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share my blog planning process — from ideas, to editorial calendars, to actually writing the posts.
(Full disclosure: Some days I fly by the seat of my pants too.)
Step 1: Ideas go in Evernote
Anytime I have an idea for a blog post, it goes in a special Evernote note. If I’m feeling particularly organized, I’ll file it under the appropriate blog category heading. If I’m really, really on top of it, I’ll start a draft for it in the same notebook and jot down some of my thoughts.
A lot of my inspiration comes from my email list, where I ask people to tell me what they want to do for their website and ask them other questions from week to week. Sometimes they’ll ask a question, and I’ll copy their question and my response as a draft in Evernote so I know where the idea came from. Sometimes they simply share what’s going on with them, and that will spark a response that I’ll jot down.
Twitter chats? I’m jotting down notes. Blog post comments? More notes. Sitting at the doctor’s office? More notes. Let me tell you: The key to never running out of inspiration is taking lots of notes. (Sometimes I’m not on top of my note game, and that’s when I’m flying by the seat of my pants.)The key to never running out of inspiration? Take notes — lots of them.Click To Tweet
Step 2: Brainstorm!
On that mid-month Monday when I’m ready to plan, I start with brainstorming. Just in case I don’t have enough notes saved up — ha! Brainstorming allows me to see what’s been on my mind lately and compare to previous notes to see what I’m most excited to write about.
I also picked a verb for each month as a loose guide for ideas — create, organize, share, etc. That doesn’t mean that every post I write that month has to do with that theme. I just use it more as a guide to help me think about the things I write from different perspectives.Sometimes I pick a verb for each month to set the tone for blog content.Click To Tweet
Step 3: Map it out
Once I have plenty of ideas to choose from, I put the ones I’m most excited about on my Trello board, in calendar view. I use colored labels for each card to show the category so I can try to mix up my topics throughout the month and hit each category.
Once I have some ideas mapped out, I start moving things around and filling in the holes. I either look at my idea list for ideas that fit, or seeing how everything flows together will spark a new idea.
Step 4: Do the work!
That’s really where my planning process ends, but I’ll be honest: I don’t stick to my calendar 100% of the time. I try to write posts the week before they’re posted, but sometimes life happens, and that’s OK. I may look at my calendar and feel totally uninspired by everything that’s on there. Or I may get so fired up about something that I have to find a place for it. I just move any ideas I don’t use to the next month and use them then, or save them for later.
Sometimes, it’s the day before and I still haven’t written anything. That’s when I pull out my favorite trick in the book: Reworking old content. This is where it’s handy to write exclusive content for your email list. I have two years worth of email content I can rework, or simply republish if it fits. (I do this in reverse for my email list sometimes — I’ll write some additional commentary from a blog post I published the week before.)
When it comes to planning content, the most important thing is that you’re not starting with a blank page every time you sit down to write. If nothing else, get in the habit of taking notes! And remember that nothing you plan has to be written in stone — it’s just a safety net. It’s much easier to focus on what you’re going to write now if you’re not worried about what you’re going to write next.In planning blog content, remember that nothing has to be set in stone — just create a safety net.Click To Tweet
Do you plan ahead, or do you fly by the seat of your pants? Tell me about your planning process in the comments!