"Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye." -Dorothy Parker
Last week, we talked all about the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of content and content marketing.
(Missed it? You can catch it here.)
This week, I’m talking about the ‘how’ and sharing a behind-the-scenes look at my content planning and scheduling.
I think you’ll be surprised at how simple it is!
That's one of the "secrets" to business; keep it simple, sweetie and don't make things more complicated than they need to be.
It's easy to think as people's businesses grow that things MUST get harder and more confusing, but I've found most things get easier and more streamlined.
Find what works, rinse, and repeat.
Alright, so content planning.
As you might already know, I send out a weekly blog on Friday mornings at 8 am EST.
Inevitably, Thursday used to roll around, and my anxiety level would rise as I’d scramble trying to figure out what to share (anyone else been there?). I’d be up until all hours of the night finishing my blog and editing it.
Clearly, this is NOT what I recommend, but it was very much my reality at the start especially while I was still juggling a full 9-5 job.
This last minute crunch-time creation wasn’t sustainable. It also sucked the joy of out creating content.
What works for me now:
At the beginning of every month, I spend some time mapping out the next 4-8 weeks ahead (I just did this at the beginning of December). This means I'm often reviewing and adjusting a few pre-planned weeks from the prior month and adding to them.
Some people swear by planning six months to a year ahead of time, which is brilliant. If you can or are doing that, by all means, keep it up.
For me, with where I'm at and how my mind works, I find when I try to plan content that far ahead, the creative in me just wants to muss it all up as time moves along.
Planning 4-8 weeks ahead gives structure but still allows for my creative-side to feel like it’s playing and in "flow".
I get specific with the topic I want to share each week and link it to a date. I go as far as listing a temporary title and any notes about the topic. This takes the guesswork out when I sit down to write.
Where am I pulling these topics from?
I have several brainstorming sessions throughout the year where I word vomit topics and ideas for content and courses into a good, old-fashioned notebook. I'm definitely a pen and paper kinda girl.
I think about what my audience wants to hear, what they’re struggling with, and what questions and concerns I’m hearing. I also think about what I have to offer, my strengths, the tools I can teach, and my personal life lessons.
These brainstorm sessions ensure that when I sit down to plan my content schedule, I’ve already got an arsenal of possibilities to pull from.
I find I’m always getting random ideas and inspiration, so I continue to add to this notebook and keep running notes in my phone. This is an ever-growing list over 800 notes at this point. I also have post-it notes all over my desk with thoughts that I clean up and transfer into that notebook.
All these notes aren't just a bank of content ideas, but they also keep me focused on what I'm currently working on. By having my ideas and "shiny objects" housed somewhere; I feel confident I won't forget them. I know I can come back to them when the timing is right (and after I've finished what's already scheduled).
This allows me to be intentional about what I'm sharing.
How do I map this all out?
I like to map out everything with pen and paper or on my whiteboard. I’m visual and this lets me move things around easily. (Told you this was crazy simple.)
In general, I like to mix up my topics so I’m addressing a different pillar of my business each week. This way it isn’t all mindset for six weeks or all personal life experiences for two months.
There's an exception to every rule. In my case, I "break the rules" when I have a series of content (like this) or when I’m launching or promoting something that's coming up in the future. This is where those future business goals come in handy.
I take a look at the previous few weeks of content and play around with the order of the following few weeks to create this flow. Then, there’s my schedule. Stupid simple.
Content Creation: Putting this into Action
A schedule is one thing, sticking to it and getting the content created is another.
I schedule one to two blocks of time out of every week for content creation.
Currently, I schedule two blocks of time. One to focus on my blog and email sequences. The other is specific to social media content creation.
Doesn't this take more time and kill creativity?
This sounds labor intensive. At least, I know it did to me before I started working with a content schedule.
I knew all about planning out content. This isn’t some new, revelatory method. I resisted doing this for so long because I didn’t want to spend more time planning before sitting down to do the actual work.
It seemed counterproductive to me, and I thought it would kill my spontaneity and creativity.
In case you're feeling that resistance as well, I’ll share that planning ahead this way saves me time. Lots of it.
Planning has an added bonus I didn’t expect. It gives my brain an incubation period with my ideas.
I’ve talked about this before, but our brain hates open loops and will continue to work on problems even when we actively aren’t. By creating this plan of content open loops, I find my brain works on the content ahead of time for me.
So many times the blogs seem to write themselves while I’m doing other tasks, like running, hopping on the subway, going for a walk, etc. I’ll notice pertinent studies, quotes, or even life events and stories that I can file away for my blogs that I might have missed if I didn't know what was coming up next.
All of this makes sitting down to create so much easier!
Rules are meant to be broken.
Rules are meant to be broken (after we understand them). I give myself full permission to change my mind at any time. This is all meant as a framework or guideline, not a structure set in stone.
Sometimes I get bitten with inspiration or hear something I just HAVE to address now, so I do. That’s the benefit of being the boss ;).
For example, the hashtag deep-dive I posted a few weeks ago was not pre-planned content. This was a topic that was coming up with multiple coaching clients, and I wanted to to be able to give them something tangible to take action on. So, I switched up my content plan.
Since my content was mapped out, it was easy to look ahead, make sure it worked with what I had coming up, and move a few things around. Easy. No biggie.
That's my relatively simple content-planning strategy. Nothing too crazy outside of the fact that it works (for me). There is a method to the madness and an intention behind what I do, but there are no fancy bells, whistles, or scheduling software involved.
It’s planning and scheduling time to sit my behind down and do the work. That’s the real secret because no one else can do it for us.
If you aren’t already, I hope this will inspire you to try planning your content ahead of time and batching your work. I promise it won't mess with your creativity and spontaneity!
Wishing you your version of success!
P.S. Do you schedule and plan your content? Let me know in the comments below!