Editorial calendars are a great way to plan your content ahead of time. Although it takes a fair amount of time to plan out your content in advance, knowing where you’re going helps reduce the writer’s block that often comes as a result of having no clue what to write about.
Editorial calendars can also help ensure that you have a good amount of variety on your blog and often result in publishing blog posts more consistently.
This post will show you how I use Google calendar to plan out blog posts, but you can apply the same principles to plan out your Facebook Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media posts.
I’ve tried a lot of different tools for my editorial calendar, and after a lot of experimentation, I landed on Google calendars for the following reasons:
- I can access the calendar from any computer that has an Internet connection
- I can access the calendar from my phone.
- I can easily share the calendar with team members.
- I can merge, show, or hide different calendars at any time.
- I can have multiple calendars for different purposes inside of one account
- I can color code each entry on the calendar
- I can put a ton of information in the description area
- I can attach images and other items to the each entry
- I can easily move any blog post to a different date if something comes up that alters my schedule
- I can incorporate tasks into my calendar
- Google calendars are free!
If I’ve convinced you that Google calendars are a great way to set up an editorial calendar, follow the steps below, and you’ll have an editorial calendar in place in no time.
#1: Create a separate Google calendar for your editorial calendar.
The first thing you need to do is to create a Google calendar. Too keep things neat and tidy, I like having multiple calendars, for various reasons. For example, I have a separate Google calendar for my blog, Professional Content Creation. If you have more than one blog, or if you write content for other people, you’ll likely want multiple calendars, one for each site.
Whether you have one calendar or many is totally up to you, but you’ll want at least one editorial calendar, in addition to your personal calendar.
#2: Determine your posting frequency.
There are a lot of different opinions on how frequently you should post on your blog. The bottom line is that you need to figure out what will work for you, specifically what you can do consistently. This may be 1 blog post a week, 3 per week, or a daily post.
Though not required, you may also want to post certain types of content different days of the week. For example, a written blog post on Monday, a video on Wednesday, and a podcast on Fridays. Deciding this ahead of time will keep you on track when you actually plug the information into your calendar.
#3: Brainstorm a list of blog post ideas.
There’s nothing worse than sitting down at your computer, opening your calendar, and having your mind blank out. For this reason, it’s best to do some brainstorming and come up with a good solid list of blog post ideas, before you ever open your calendar.
Choose one or two of the following ways to come up with ideas:
- Select 5 – 10 blog categories, and make a list of 5-10 ideas for blog posts under each category.
- Make a list of questions that your clients or customers ask
- Open a Word document and set a timer for 30 minutes. Write any idea that comes to your mind, as fast as you can. Don’t worry about whether or not they are good ideas; you can later delete any that aren’t any good.
- If you’ve set up Google Alerts for your niche, you can skim through the alerts to find ideas.
- If you’ve jotted down ideas as they’ve come to you on your phone or in a notebook, pull out those lists to see if there are any blog post ideas that you’d like to add to your calendar.
The number of ideas that you come up with at a time is up to you. Some people plan a year’s worth of content at a time, others only a month. For me, quarterly is a happy medium.
I generally try to come up with about 40 – 50 blog post ideas at a time, which is plenty of titles to be able to post 3 times per week for the next quarter.
#4: Plug in your information from your blog post idea list to Google Calendar.
Now that you have your list of your blog posts created, know your posting frequency, and have a list of blog post ideas, you’re ready to start plugging information into your calendar.
- Start with broad categories. For instance, if you plan to publish a podcast episode once a week, make that a recurring item on your calendar.
- Go from broad to specific. For instance, using the podcast example, replace the generic, “podcast” calendar entry with, “Podcast Interview: Joe Schmoe” or whatever title you’re giving to the specific post.
- Keep in mind that these are ideas, not the final post, so don’t get hung up on the specific title. For instance, you may write, “Google Calendar as an Editorial Calendar” just to remind yourself of what the post is supposed to be about.
#5: Take full advantage of the description box.
One of the things I love best about using a Google calendar as an editorial calendar is that I can put everything I need for the blog posts into the calendar entry. Here are some of the things that I put in the description box:
- A basic idea of what I want the post to be about. I use the description box to capture any general thoughts I have about the post so that when I look at it perhaps weeks later, I’ll remember what I want to include. Sometimes the title alone is not enough to jar my memory.
- Links to resources – these may be articles that have facts I want to use in the post, or posts (even of my own) that I want to be sure to link to within the blog post.
- Phone numbers, email addresses, or other types of contact information. This is super helpful for things such as interviews, that involve other people.
- An outline of the post.
The image below shows part of what I put in the description box for this post:
#6: Use the attachment option to upload images and other items right to the calendar.
In same way the description box helps me keep track of ideas, the attachment option in Google calendar helps me to keep track of things that I want to add to the blog post such as photos.
A task list is a great way to break into smaller chunks any blog posts that require multiple steps.
Tasks list are especially helpful if you need to do any prep work before writing the post or if you are dependent on anyone else in any way.
For example, if you’re planning on interviewing someone for your post, you’ll need to make arrangements for the interview ahead of time. In that case, you’d likely want to put the post idea on your calendar, and a task to arrange for the interview on your calendar at least one month earlier than the scheduled post.
You can also use tasks to assign various duties to other team members.
#8: Block out time to write.
Organizing everything on your editorial calendar does no good if you don’t actually sit down and write. Regardless of whether you block out time to write on your editorial calendar, your personal calendar, or your business calendar, schedule time to write. Treat your time to write the same way you’d treat any other important business appointment and only reschedule it when absolutely necessary.