Were you up late last night trying to finish today’s blog post? Do you have a book you’d like to write but can’t seem to find the time to get started? Did you launch a blog with a few posts, but haven’t published a post for months?
I’ve struggled with all of these and more! To be honest, it took me more than a year to figure out how to write consistently. (Some days I’m reminded that there’s still work to do.)
If you are going to publish regularly – and if you are going to continue to grow your writing – you will need a tool to keep you on track.
Here’s why a simple editorial calendar has become my #1 writing tool…
I was introduced to the concept of an editorial calendar a couple of years ago by my friend, Jon Milligan of BloggingYourPassion.com. In his post, Publish More with a Whiteboard Editorial Calendar, Jon includes some useful details for improving work flow using the editorial calendar. Take a few seconds to review his post – it’s a good one.
There are many ways to set up an editorial calendar – here are a few ideas…
- Jon uses a whiteboard system for calendaring blogs and web projects. Jon’s system works for visual people who like to keep their goals in front of them. Because you can see them all the time, there is a higher level of accountability.
- WordPress has developed a cool Editorial Calendar plugin which combines several propriety features with the WordPress interface. Take a couple of minutes to review the demo video here. If I can figure out how to get my book projects into it, I’d like to transition to the plugin to streamline my scheduling process.
- One online article listed 10 Questions to Consider as You Create Your Editorial Calendar.
- I recently Googled “blog editorial calendar” and found many more examples and templates. Try it!
If you are going to reach your writing goals, here’s what’s important…
Choose a system
Don’t procrastinate any longer. Pick one. Try it for a set period of time. I recommend 4-6 weeks.
Resist the urge to tweak it too early. Give it a chance to work.
Then, after you are comfortable enough with it, customize it to work better for you. This week, I am updating my editorial calendar to add new projects for the summer and fall.
Because I travel and often write outside my home office, Jon’s whiteboard scheduler didn’t work for me. So I developed a simple calendar in Microsoft Word and placed in a DropBox folder. This gives me access to it anywhere in the world.
Don’t miss this – “what” you use doesn’t matter nearly as much as that you use something.
Keep it Simple
If it becomes too complex, it won’t work. I have worked hard to keep my editorial calendar very simple. Here are a few specifics about my calendar:
- I primarily schedule blog posts on my editorial calendar. But I’ve recently set some new writing goals which has required me to add book projects and deadlines.
- I schedule blog post topics or working titles for the day they are scheduled to go live. This helps me plan ahead for each deadline, and schedule my writing accordingly. If you use the WordPress plugin, posts are automatically added to the calendar. You can also easily drag and drop post to other dates.
- In my calendar, I use one color for blog posts and another for book projects and deadlines. This gives me an easier visual reference.
- When I complete a scheduled item, I use the strikethrough feature to draw a line through the item so I’m not distracted by it in the future.
- My goal is to stay 2-3 weeks ahead with my writing. This allows ample margin for me to take time off occasionally.
I’m writing more today than I have ever written before. And I’m writing more consistently. My editorial calendar helped me to…
1. Clarify my top priority writing goals. In the past, I published 3 blog posts each week. But at this pace, I was struggling to find time to work on book projects. Using the calendar helped me to revise my post schedule to 2 days a week and plan time for book projects.
2. Simplify my thinking. I remember many writing days that began with me staring at a blank screen for what seemed like hours. Or sifting through scores of post ideas to find something – anything – that resonated with me at that moment. I struggled with starting.
Now, I open the calendar, get the post topic, find my notes on the topic and start writing.
3. Save a ton of time. Friday is my writing day. I write posts for the next week. Prior to having the calendar, I struggled with writing blog posts the night before they were scheduled. Because I am focused on writing on my writing day, I write faster and I am able to format and schedule posts and social media all at one time for the next week or two. This one discipline is saving me 3-6 hours a week.
4. Be more accountable. I’ve been writing long enough that I understand the value of publishing content consistently. If you’re not posting quality content consistently, no one will listen anymore. And eventually you’ll no longer have a platform for your message. My calendar has helped with accountability by providing periodic benchmarks for me to meet.
Again, don’t give in to the temptation to create an elaborate or complex scheduling system. Start with a sheet of paper. Or a whiteboard. And start with scheduling one blog post a week. Then follow the schedule this week – and again next week.
When you succeed in this one small step, you’ll generate momentum and energy to take another. Give yourself time to work into the habit of writing one post a week for 4 to 6 weeks. Then schedule more goals when you’re ready.
Question: How do you think a writing calendar can help you? If you’re already using one, how has it helped you? Share your ideas in the comments.