Words on a Page Writings about writing

How to effectively plan your blog posts

Writing out a plan

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve been informally coaching a few writers over the last year or so. Two of those writers are just starting out, but they’re serious about improving. One way they’re doing that is by blogging. Well, they’re trying to blog.

Both of them have told me the same thing: while they have ideas, they have trouble finding the time to write posts based on those ideas.

I’ve heard bloggers (and other writers) voice the same complaint. But if you’re serious about blogging and want to be taken seriously as a blogger, you need to write and publish regularly. That’s especially true if you’re trying to position yourself as an authority or an expert in an area.

You need to be able to set aside time to write and know (more or less) what you’re going to write about. to do that, you need to plan and schedule your posts.

Start with a plan

When you work to a plan, you’ll have blog posts ready to publish — especially during those times when you’re running short of ideas or are just too busy (or lazy) to write.

Start by thinking about how often you post to your blog. It might be once or twice a week. It might be three times a week. It might even be daily. If you don’t have a publishing schedule, no matter how loose, for your blog it might be time to create one. Consider not only how often you want to post, but the days on which you want to publish those posts. That schedule will help you focus on how far ahead you need to plan.

I’ll assume that you have ideas for blog post. They might be in your head, in a notebook, or in a tool like Evernote. Just remember that until you those ideas into blog posts, those ideas are worthless. Take, for example, this tweet that passed through my stream in 2015:

A tweet about using Evernote

I wonder how many of those 365 ideas that person has actually tackled. Not many, I’d bet.

I like to try to have enough ideas for at least three months worth of blog posts. That sounds like a lot, and it can be. I post three times a week on my this blog — two new posts and a list of five useful links.

With that in mind, I can move forward to scheduling my posts. Not just when they’re published, but when I need to write them.

Thinking ahead

Try to think at least a month ahead, if you can. If you can’t, then think a week or two ahead instead. No matter how far ahead you are thinking, develop topics and, if you want, one or more themes for the month. If you decide to use themes, group your topics around those themes.

Group your posts based on their publication dates. For example, like me you publish posts three times a week: on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On those days, enter something like Publish xyz post into whatever tool you’re using schedule your posts (more on tools in a moment).

Let’s say it’s August and you’ve scheduled your topics for September. It’s time to start writing your posts. To do that, block out days in August to do your writing. Also, block out specific times on those days to write. By blocking out those dates and times, you’re committing to writing. That’s the first, and most difficult, part of building the habit and discipline of writing regularly.

Don’t feel obliged to write a post every day. If a post will be long or more involved, then write it over two days. When I schedule writing posts, I enter Start writing xyz post in one slot and Finish writing xyz post in the slot for the next day.

Indulging in a little tool fetishism

It doesn’t matter which tool you use to schedule your blog posts. Many people use an online calendar. Here are a few popular ones:

Here’s an example of an editorial calendar in Google Calendar:

An editorial calendar in Google Calendar

It doesn’t have to be a calendar

You don’t need to think literally of a calendar. You can use anything you want. Like:

  • A text file
  • A word processor document
  • An Evernote notebook
  • Google Keep
  • A paper notebook and a pen

It’s whatever works best for you. There’s no use trying to shoehorn the way you work into a tool that’s not right for you.

I use a tool called WorkFlowy to plan and schedule all my writing. WorkFlowy is, essentially, a giant set of lists. I like WorkFlowy because it works in the way I think. Plus, it’s easy to manipulate the items in WorkFlowy lists.

In WorkFlowy, I have a list for my blog posts. That list covers my two main blogs and is broken down by blog and by quarter.

A list of posts in WorkFlowy

For each quarter, I have lists for each month. Under those lists are the titles of the blog posts and the dates on which I plan to publish those posts.

Details of a posts list in WorkFlowy

So how do I know when to write those posts? Even though I’m constantly in WorkFlowy, I do need a reminder. That comes from my task list. Lately, I’ve been toying with a task management tool called Remember the Milk. At the beginning of the week, I set up my tasks (along with a reminder). Remember the Milk sends me a reminder on the day I need to write a post. rtm-tasks.png

List of tasks in Remember the Milk

Final thoughts

The tool you use isn’t important. What’s important is that you use a plan and schedule your posts. It keeps you accountable and helps you build the discipline and habit of writing regularly.

You’ll find that once you get used to working to a schedule, writing posts (and finding the time to write them) will become easier.

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