If there is anything I learned from my days as Editor-in-Chief of an online fashion magazine, it’s that using a content calendar is the way to go. Back then, we planned our bi-monthly issues 2-3 months in advance, and bigger stories even earlier than that. We did this because features had many moving parts, and we needed to allow room for time and delays. However, I found this work-ahead method works just as well with my personal blog, too.
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been using a content calendar to map out blog posts. Content calendars help you plan, schedule, and view all your content in one place.
Whether you are writing a blog or creating videos, now’s a great time to start planning content for next month. I’ll take you through my personal process now, but you can always adjust to your needs!
First, pick your favorite medium.
I used to have my content calendar split across three locations: my iCloud calendar for a monthly view, an Excel document for a weekly view, and a Trello board for a kanban view. Since moving to Notion, I now keep my content calendar in one place and switch between the different views seamlessly.
There are plenty of different mediums you can use to keep a content calendar. Even a paper planner will do! If using paper, I’d definitely suggest sticking to pencil or sticky notes. Sometimes, things tend to change over the course of production.
Start by planning at least one month in advance.
At the beginning of every month, I sit at my desk and brainstorm post ideas for the following month. So, for example, this month, I’ll sit down on Saturday, September 4 and start planning content for October.
I keep a running list of ideas at all times and jot down new ideas whenever they come to me. If I like an idea, I give it a star, then put it aside for a moment. But there are other things I like to consider when planning editorial content.
Look at holidays for inspiration.
First, I like to look at both national and international holidays during that month as a starting point. For example, one month I wrote a post about journaling for National Writing Day. Another time, I put together a list of my favorite love poetry books around Valentine’s Day.
You don’t have to get super explicit about your content regarding holidays. Try using them as inspiration for blog posts for that month instead.
Think evergreen whenever possible.
Another thing that is incredibly important when writing blog content is to think evergreen—or content that can be shared year-round. Yes, it’s great to have timely blog posts, but those tend to have shorter lifespans and can’t be re-shared too often. To monetize your hard work, it’s best to create content that works almost any time of year.
For example, instead of creating a post called Best Valentine’s Day Gifts for Your Lover, which can only be shared for a couple of weeks, I wrote a blog post about poetry, which can be shared year-round. It was just a nod to Valentine’s Day at the time it was published.
Think about how you can shape your content to be shared almost any time of year, and your hard work will have a longer shelf life.
Next, map out your ideas on the calendar.
Once you have narrowed down your blog post ideas, it’s time to place them on the calendar. Consistency is key in any content field, so it’s important to pick days that are best for you and your audience.
For example, I publish a new blog post every Thursday, then one newsletter every other Sunday. That’s at least six pieces of new, thoughtful content each month. Now, my readers can expect new work from me on Thursdays and Sundays.
Figure out your creation process.
Once you have these on your calendar, it’s time to divide up your creation process. There are main stages in my process, one for each week of the month: 1) Writing, 2) Editing, 3) Photos, and 4) Scheduling.
With that in mind, I switch to the Board (or kanban) view in Notion. Then I set up the following columns with each specific phase:
- The Current Month — Here is where I list all the ideas I have for that month, so I can see them all at a glance.
- Writing Draft — Once I start working on a draft, I move the title of the post from Column 1 to this column, so I know I’m currently writing it.
- Editing — Once I’m done writing a rough draft, I move it to this column, so I know it needs to be edited.
- Taking Photos — Once I’ve polished up a draft, I move it to this column, so I know it’s time to take photos.
- Copy & SEO — Once I’ve taken finished taking photos, I move the post to this column, so I know to schedule it on WordPress, fill out SEO, and write promotional copy for socials.
- Scheduled — Once all the above is complete, I move it to this column, so I know it’s ready to be published.
- Published — Once the blog post is live, I move it to this column, where it is eventually archived.
I save each blog post and all promotional copy (yes, including captions and hashtags!) in Notion before the month it’s supposed to go live, so when it’s time to post it, it’s all ready to go.
Now: get to work!
Once you locked in your content stages and creation process, it’s time to get to work. Since there are four weeks in a month, I allot one week for each of the four main stages, giving myself plenty of time to do each without rushing.
Week 1: Writing
I spend the first week of the month writing blog posts. Typically, I like to pick out a light workday, morning, or weekend to knock out blog posts—but do whatever is best for you.
Week 2: Editing
The second week, I go back and edit the rough drafts. This involves rewriting, rephrasing, and reshaping them—and giving everything one last good proofread.
Week 3: Photos
I spend the third week taking photographs for each post. These are often done in my apartment or on-the-go. Either way, I need a whole week to do this because of my work schedule, weather, and other conditions. Then, once I’m done taking the photos, I spend an hour or two editing them in a photo editing app.
Week 4: Scheduling
I dedicate the last week of the month to scheduling all the content I’ve created over the last few weeks. That usually involves:
- Scheduling each post on WordPress and filling in SEO
- Pre-writing captions for Instagram and Tweets, with appropriate hashtags
- Pre-creating Instagram Story slides in advance
This way, once it’s time for each blog post to go up, it’s all ready to go with a quick copy-paste! I also use Buffer to help schedule tweets to auto-post when needed.
Don’t forget filler and social media content.
In addition to creating new weekly blog posts and newsletters, I also like to schedule additional “filler” content, like Instagram-focused content and archived blog posts. When I’m not publishing a new blog post on Thursdays, I like to share older posts again in case people missed them the first time. And since a lot of the content I create is evergreen, I can re-share older posts year-round.
Putting all of these moving parts on your content calendar will give you a better idea of what content is up next, while working in advance gives you plenty of time to create quality content you can be proud of.
Do you keep a content calendar? What’s your creation process, whether you are blogging, making videos, or creating art? I’d love to know!
What's Your Reaction?
Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.