Do you know how to make a Pop Tart?
You probably know that while you can eat them cold, like cavemen did before they invented fire, they’re WAY better if you toast them.
But how do you know? Did you see it in a commercial? Did someone tell you to do it? Did you read the instructions on the box? (Did you even realize there are instructions on the box?)
At some point, you were taught to make a Pop Tart better by warming it up.
And right now, I feel like I’ve given you a big ol’ stack of Pop Tarts without telling you to put them in the toaster.
A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about panic blogging, and how it can singlehandedly ruin your blog. And since then, a lot of you have been telling me on social media about how you’re creating editorial calendars to plan out your blog posts ahead of time and make your lives easier – so mad props to you!
But I can’t shake the feeling that I can do better, and show you how to REALLY make your editorial calendar extra amazing. Because while you can keep things super simple with a no-muss, no-fuss sort of editorial calendar, if you’re a Type-A like me, you’ll want to take things to the next level.
So in the spirit of making a good thing even better, I put together this guide to making the best darn editorial calendar possible.
And yes, you should be blogging even if you HATE writing.
“But what if… what if I totally suck at writing? Nobody wants to read that!”
This is one of the biggest things keeping people from blogging – the fear that they can’t write anything worth posting. You sit down at the keyboard, nothin’ comes out.
That’s okay! A blog post doesn’t have to be text. It can be video. Or an infographic. Or a podcast. Whatever it is, it’s original content that you create and put on your site. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare – it just has to come from you!
With that in mind, then, there are FIVE things you have to do to set up an amazing editorial calendar.
1. Start thinking about potential blog topics
Look at pretty much any blog on the web, and you’ll notice that they generally publish posts that fall into the same few categories. For example, I publish a lot of visual guides, tutorials, and business philosophy posts. A blog post can take your reader behind the scenes, or give the space to sound off with an opinion.
So if you haven’t started blogging yet, start thinking about the topics you may like to blog about, and determine what basic categories they might fall into. If you’ve been blogging already, take a look back at your past posts, and categorize those. You don’t have to set anything in stone right now – just brainstorm.
2. Decide how often you’re comfortable blogging
It’s easy to get carried away – especially when you want to be the best.
“That other guy is blogging three times a week, so I’m gonna blog EVERY DAY!”
Nope. Not gonna happen. Sure, it might for a few days. A few weeks, even! But sooner or later, you’re gonna burn out.
You’re much better off starting slow – really, REALLY slow.
Start with, say, one blog post per week – and do that for a month. See how it feels. Take it for a test drive! If it’s still soooooo easy to manage after some time passes, you can start writing more – but for now, set up a nice and lenient schedule for yourself.
3. Get organized!
If you read my post about panic blogging, you probably remember this image:
And by all means, your editorial calendar CAN be that simple. It’s totally cool! (You can also eat cold Pop Tarts, while you’re at it. No judgement.)
If you really want to be a blogging master, though, a little extra organization goes a LONG way.
As for me, I maintain a handy dandy spreadsheet for managing my own editorial calendar. Here, take a look:
Look familiar? That’s my entry for the post you’re reading RIGHT NOW. (Whoa! Mind blowing!) You can see that I keep myself organized with the following categories:
- Publish date – When is this thing getting thrown up on the ol’ interwebs?
- Due date – Setting a deadline for yourself is hugely important to following through – I like to write my posts at least a week ahead of time.
- Author – I always fill this in so I know whether I’m the one writing an upcoming post, or if it’s coming from a guest author or someone else on the team.
- Topic – So, uh, what’s this blog post actually ABOUT?
- Category – This is why Step 1 was important! Tracking your categories makes it easier to avoid posting too much of the same thing, one after the other.
- Post breakdown doc – I save everything I write in Google Drive and link to it from the editorial calendar. That way, I can always reference drafts of old posts really easily, and other people on my distributed team can access drafts without us having to send them back and forth.
And that’s it! You can make it more or less involved if you want – not everyone needs to worry about things like multiple authors – but this is the formula that’s been keeping the LKR Social Media blog alive and kickin’ for a good, long time!
4. Actually fill out that editorial calendar, please
Back in the day, I knew plenty of kids who had sweet Trapper Keepers, but never actually put anything in them except Pogs and snap bracelets. C’est la vie.
But in the here and now, if you’re going to give yourself a tool for staying organized, you’d darn well better USE the thing! Because if you don’t take the time to fill out your editorial calendar on the reg, it isn’t going to do you much good.
Like I said, I’m the crazy-organized type, so I fill out my calendar about three months at a time. Every quarter, I decide on topics and fill out the calendar for the next 12 weeks or so.
“But what about spur-of-the-moment things? You can’t always predict what will be a good topic MONTHS from now!”
Another astute and conveniently-timed observation, dear reader. That’s why, like so many things, the entries in your editorial calendar are NOT written in stone.
Think of it like a guide – not a strict set of rules. If something comes up later on that you want to write about instead of what you planned, or you just happen to get an AMAZING idea out of the blue, just bump what you had planned to a later date! (The blogging police won’t come for you. Promise.)
Speaking of rules, though, there IS one last thing you absolutely HAVE to do:
5. Know what’s coming!
When you’re driving with a GPS, do you prefer for it to give you fair warning about an upcoming turn, or would you rather it wait to tell you until the very last second? When you know what’s coming in advance, you can better prepare – and that’s why you should keep tabs on your editorial calendar.
I may only fill out mine out once every few months, but I keep an eye on it ALL THE TIME – and you should do the same with yours.
In addition to the aforementioned possibility of making changes to your scheduled programming, you want to know what’s coming up! That way, you can prepare ahead of time, rather than sitting down on the day your post is due and realizing that you need to come up with 30 online tool recommendations on the spot. Do yourself a favor and keep close track of what’s coming up.
There you have it – 5 easy steps to making basically the best editorial calendar ever and using it to supercharge your blogging routine. It’s as easy as making a Pop Tart. (Whether you follow the instructions on the box or not.)
Have you been using an editorial calendar to plan out YOUR blogging schedule? Or are you skeptical about starting? Share your own experiences in the comments below!