An Editorial Calendar Will Keep You Sane

I currently write three daily blogs and contribute a monthly column to one more. For a long while I simply wrote on my whims about whatever came to mind at that moment. Rarely did I think about what was coming up or where I needed to be in a week. Needless to say, that wasn’t working consistently for me. I missed deadlines, wrote uninteresting posts, and wasn’t meeting the goals I had set for myself.

I was determined to turn my work habits around and be more positively productive. To that end, I began using an editorial calendar and I cannot recommend it enough. An editorial calendar is simply a schedule of where you are writing, what topics you plan to cover, and when you plan to cover them. Whether you write one blog or many, an editorial calendar can keep you sane.

I am not your average blogger, I know. Having three distinct blogs is more than most people care to tackle. I think of blogging as my career, though, and as such, I dedicate a lot of time working on each blog. Each one demands a different strength, but they all demand my time.

Part of my calendar reminds me of what I need to accomplish each week for each blog. For example, Bloggy Giveaways requires that I contact vendors each week to remind them their giveaway is coming up. I must also keep an eye on who is reading Bloggy Giveaways, which giveaways receive the most traffic, how many click-throughs I’m generating for the vendors, etc. Finally, I must know what vendor options I have so if I’m low on giveaways, I can contact new ones to fill my empty calendar.

Blogging Basics 101 requires that I keep tabs on what is happening in technology and can distill that information for my audience. I also have to research multiple platforms in order to answer questions and respond to comments. I spend a few hours each day following tech blogs so I can be up-to-date on how blogging is changing and moving ahead. This research also helps me write my monthly column at 5 Minutes for Mom and provides many of the links you see on Fridays in Helpful Blogging Links.

Organizing all those tasks without a calendar is a nightmare, I assure you. I forgot ideas or simply ignored them. I became overwhelmed and ended up sitting at my computer playing Sudoku online or fiddling with iTunes–anything to avoid starting because I didn’t know where to start.

Once I determined my editorial calendar and stuck to it, writing became a pleasure again. I felt as though my posts were better, I was more organized, and I actually liked my job.

In coordination with my editorial calendar I use a notebook. I write all of my blog post ideas down in this notebook. I carry it with me everywhere. That way, if I see something or think of something, I can keep track of it without worrying that I’ll forget it later. This process serves two purposes:

  1. It allows me to have a working list of ideas in case I am suffering from writer’s block.
  2. It allows me to organize my posts in a way that makes sense to me and make notes as necessary.

For my editorial calendar I use a large desk calendar (which is actually hung on my wall) to keep track of what tasks I need to accomplish for which blogs and when. I include recurring tasks as well as unique ones. For each blog I write at, I write down what topic I am going to cover on each day and when that post will be published.

Keep in mind that I usually have posts written several days, if not a full week, in advance. I find that gives me a little more ease if I have a day where I just can’t write due to family duties or anything else that may come up.

Writing posts in advance also allows me to focus on what is coming up and not be pressured to finish my post immediately. I can write, walk away, come back, edit, re-write, etc. I can take my time and ensure that my posts are interesting and well-written.

Having a calendar telling me which topics I’m going to be covering keeps me thinking about them in the back of my mind. As I consider new ideas and angles for each topic, I write them down in my journal or on the calendar itself.

One thing to note about an editorial calendar: include wiggle room. There are topics that will pop up and demand your attention or a post immediately. Or, you just may not feel like writing about that topic at that moment. A writer’s muse is a fickle thing. It’s OK to switch things up; sometime our writing flow just goes a different way than we expected and we’re ready to write about a memory instead of coding. Just make sure each item finds a place on your calendar.

You’ll be happy to know that once you start using an editorial calendar, you will be in good company. Here are a few other posts to help you start:

13 Responses

  1. nanotube June 23, 2008 / 12:55 am

    Just wondered if you had considered using PC-based or online notebooks or calendars for blog planning. I can see the advantages of a physical notebook which you can carry around but have you tried the others?

  2. Melanie Nelson June 23, 2008 / 7:44 am

    Actually, there are some really great online tools out there. I have used Gmail’s calendar for many things, including blog planning. One particular pro to using an online calendar like Gmail’s is that you could access it from anywhere as long as you have your computer and an internet connection. You obviously can’t do that with the paper calendar at home.

    For me, I find that I really like to have the pen and paper experience. I’m old enough that I grew up without computers and still took notes and wrote papers by hand. 🙂 There are times when I feel like I have a bit more control b/c I have the pencil in my hand (yes, the control is completely imagined!).

    I think it’s definitely a personal preference issue.

  3. Kelly @ Pass the Torch June 23, 2008 / 8:56 am

    This is a great post, Melanie – and you are so right that this method can keep you sane. I have tried Google calendar, but always end up back with my paper and pencil. I have a big desk-calendar that’s all marked up. Sometimes I have posts scheduled a month in advance. This allows me to fill in with more current or inspired posts at my leisure. Of course, I’m rarely real-time, but I am sane.

  4. Karen {simply a musing blog} June 23, 2008 / 8:57 am

    Great suggestion, Melanie. I’ve finally started to make an attempt at some sort of schedule, but since I now have two blogs, (one is SORELY neglected), that might be just the trick I need to keep me on track!

  5. phyllis June 23, 2008 / 9:24 pm

    this is a great post – very helpful. i have 2 blogs, one of which i tend to neglect…and i’m considering adding one more (to ignore?) in a different niche. so this is helpful to figure out how i would actually make it all work….

  6. Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba) June 28, 2008 / 7:00 am

    This has been a REALLY good week for blogging tips. And this may be the best idea EVER! I have an editorial calendar, of sorts, in my brain. But it hadn’t occurred to write it down. That fact is odd, especially considering the fact that I practically live and die by an editorial calendar at work. (Sometimes I truly don’t see the forest for the trees.)

    Rebecca

  7. Jo-Lynne (Musings of a Housewife) June 28, 2008 / 9:52 am

    I have recently started doing this. I am still very spontaneous in many of my posts, but I have to keep a calendar for reviews and giveaways and ads and when when the ads end. And also guest posts. And I also carry the notebook with me.

    I’ve also started taking notes as I read books I’m going to review. Which probably sounds obvious, but I wasn’t doing that. It’s so much easier to write my reviews now.

    Thanks for the informative post!

    Excellent post!

  8. Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates June 28, 2008 / 11:22 pm

    I now have 2 blogs and started doing this a little while back. Makes life much easier. I just use a notebook, but I think I would like a small planner instead. If I don’t feel like writing about what I scheduled, I change it.

    Thanks for all of your great tips here!

    (Um, you have no idea how many exclamation points I deleted while writing this comment.) 🙂

  9. genny June 29, 2008 / 4:11 pm

    Found you through Rocks in My Dryer. Thanks for the great tips! I also do a lot of other writing and have half-started this process, but you have motivated me to take it to the next step and get more organized. Thank you!

  10. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) June 29, 2008 / 6:49 pm

    You have a got a great system going on! I need to get more organized – but I am by nature totally disorganized, so every part of me rebels against getting it together!

  11. Traveler July 2, 2008 / 9:38 am

    GREAT IDEA! I’m kind of new to this and am still using the shotgun approach but I’m hoping that soon I will level out and get a schedule in place. I plan on checking out the rest of your ideas but wanted to let you know that the calendar one is a great one.

  12. mod*mom July 3, 2008 / 11:32 pm

    i just make it up as i go along

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *