A well-planned blog content calendar ROCKS!
The problem is, they are often complicated and difficult to use. When they are, you stop using them and everything quickly goes careening sideways off the road.
What if there were a simplified blog content calendar that could keep you organized and well stocked with post ideas?
Here’s how I discovered it.
I took numerous classes, bought umpteen calendars, and tried a variety of “proven” methods in an effort to find my content groove. It never worked.
I figured everybody else had some magic key and I was the only one flailing around like a fish out of water, trying to find my mojo. After more attempts than I care to number, I was decided my mojo was definitely broken and I was destined to struggle with inconsistent writing and spotty posting.
I do not recommend this approach if you want to expand your reach and build a blog you love.
Enter the simplified content calendar.
I stumbled on it quite by accident. After purchasing an e-course on content creation I knew immediately it would be too complicated for my feeble overworked brain.
See, the problem for me has always been the calendar part. In my mind a calendar is where you put things that must happen.
If it’s on the calendar it’s happening. Only hell, high-water, or strep throat constitute emergencies once something is on the sacred keeper-of-the-days.
As a mom I’ve also found elementary-age kids don’t do maybe very well. Maybe we’ll go to the park. Maybe we’ll have a play date. Maybe we have to go to a doctor’s appointment.
They want to know for sure. Yes. No. It’s not that tough mom.
When you live in a world like this, putting a post idea in a date slot takes on a whole new meaning.
Oh, where is the grace people? Where is the grace?
It left the building the moment I brought my first car seat home – along with long leisurely bubble baths, afternoon naps, and spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways to Palm Springs.
2 kids + 1 dog = not gonna happen.
Are you feelin’ me here?
If you make me commit to a certain idea on a certain date I freeze like a squirrel who can’t decide which side of the road it wants to be on. I do a mental dance, back and forth, back and forth until SMACK! I get pancaked by a delivery truck (aka a kid who got into the paint set and decided his sister looked better with blue skin.)
So, getting back to my discovery, a calendar with set dates was never gonna work for me.
Enter the rainbow pack of highlighters from Staples. (Cue angelic voices.)
I have an entire dresser stocked with art supplies for my budding Picassos but the rainbow pack of highlighters from Staples is mine. All mine!
One day I realized I could color code my ideas for blog posts. Colors are pretty and fun but they hold no sway over me. Pink is no more important than green or blue. Yellow can’t boss purple around. Yes, I know I’m a goof. This was my big “ah-ha” moment.
Hey, when you’ve been tired for 5 years, have laundry piles the size of Mt. Everest, and just found a lunch box in the back of someone’s closet that still has food in it from last summer, any “ah-ha” moment is a breakthrough.
I mean, I didn’t even know I was still capable of “ah-ha” moments. I thought they had all turned into “uh-hmms.” As in “uh-hmm honey, sure you can do an art project with colored glue in the living room. Glitter? I think it’s in the art dresser. Uh-hmm.”
I make no apologies for my current brain activity, or lack there of. This is my life. I’ll take what I can get.
Here are my instructions for the simplified content calendar.
1. Color code your categories
If you’ve been around here for more than 5 minutes you know I preach a set amount of blog categories. You should have no more than 8 categories. Period. It’s the rule.
If you have more than 8 categories you don’t need a content calendar, you need an intervention. Go fix your categories then come back.
If you are working within the boundaries of 8 categories or less start color coding. You choose. I don’t care whether you pick sky blue or tiffany blue, lavender or royal purple, honey yellow or sunshine. Just pick a color. Capisce?
One note here – I add an extra column of ideas I like to PUSH on a regular basis. My email list, affiliates, products, services, all fall onto this list. Once or twice a month I write a post to keep them fresh in my reader’s minds. Got an ebook or an Etsy store? Add that here.
2. Create a spreadsheet with colored columns
I like to use Google Docs. You might like Excel or Open Office. Heck, you might like a piece of paper.
Color your columns to match your categories. Since you don’t have more than 8 this should be pretty easy.
The beauty of using the pretty colors is to see where you are heavy or light in a particular category. It allows you to spread out your content so you don’t post 7 things in one category back-to-back. A yellow, a couple blues, a green, and an orange and you’ve covered all your bases.
It’s like when they say eating the colors of the rainbow is good for you. I don’t have experience with this mind you, but I suppose if you eat a candy bar in a different color wrapper everyday you’re covered. Right?
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3. Start adding your post ideas
Here’s where the rubber hits the road. As you think of something to write about add it to the list. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Get the basic idea down and move on.
Aim for 10 ideas in each category. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting, but try to get 10 ideas down. This will make you feel like you’ve got game.
Remember, at this point nothing is set in stone. This is a fluid plan and it can be changed. As you brainstorm one idea might lead to another, or in my case a glass of wine. I’m just sayin’.
4. Create a draft pool
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Think of this like a party for the lucky ones who made the cut. Woot!
I try to keep 2 posts for each category in the draft pool at all times.
This is where I nail down the title too. I take my lame idea, optimize it for keywords and SEO and run it through the CoSchedule headline analyzer until I get a high-scoring A+ then I place it in the draft pool.
Now I have a list of ideas to pull from with strong titles I won’t have to mess with later. I can hit the ground running when it comes time to start writing. I love that.
Obviously, I can still make changes if I don’t like an idea or a direction an idea is taking but this step makes the concept more permanent and takes me closer to an actual post.
5. Migrate ideas to your calendar
This is the hardest part for me, but also the most important. When I’ve filled up my spreadsheet with ideas and sent some winners to the draft pool, I look at my calendar and plug a few in.
For whatever reason, in my mind this makes me the boss of my posts instead of the other way around.
If you use CoSchedule or WP Editorial Calendar you can then drag and drop each post around to fit your schedule. Once I drop a post in it feels pretty final to me, like gymnastics class or moms night out, it’s happening so, I run with it.
6. Track posts in your blog content calendar
The final step is to keep track of my ideas in my content calendar. I like to prove to myself I am making progress.
When I add an idea to the draft pool I change the color of the idea to gray on my content calendar. When I publish it I change it to white. Once a month I clean out the white posts and add my new ideas.
You might like to delete the ideas when you publish them. I like to see how I am progressing. It makes me feel accomplished.
I give you permission to do what you want. Well, that was nice of me wasn’t it? Glass of wine?
Listen, content creation and management shouldn’t be something only rocket scientists can do. With this simplified system even I can think up, plan, and create useful content. If I can do it, so can you.
Here’s the startling results: it works.
Keep it simple. Make it work. Use the pretty colors (up to 8).