Donnie and I recently made the decision to stop posting monthly income reports and instead do some sort of experiment with the blog each month, sharing our findings with you.
We really wanted to hone in on the areas where we were weakest and see if we could create some sort of plan or system to improve in those areas and improve our blog in the process. I think it's kind of ironic, then, that as a blogger that talks so much about organization and productivity, one of my weakest areas was content planning. And that's what I decided to tackle this month.
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How to Be More Intentional About Your Blog Content (& Save Your Sanity!)
Confession time: I have never been a work-ahead blogger. For almost the entire 4+ years that I have been blogging, I have blogged in "real time," often finishing my posts the night before they were set to go live (or in the wee hours of that morning ?). There have been several times where I have tried to get ahead, only to have something take longer than I expected or for life to get busy or for something else to need my attention. No matter how hard I tried, I would always slip back into finishing everything at the last minute.
But finishing everything at the final hour was often stressful. I would stay up later than I wanted to, which would throw off my routine for the next day. Sometimes my content would suffer because I just needed to get it finished rather than take the time to turn out the quality that I really wanted. I also hated the feeling that I was constantly behind and always felt like I had a deadline looming over me at all times.
For years, I didn't do much to solve this problem because I just thought it was the way it had to be. The first two years I was blogging, I felt like I was hustling to gain some momentum and grow the blog. At the beginning of year 3, Donnie joined me full time, so I felt like we spent years 3 and 4 trying to make sure this thing could support our family.
photo by elle and arre photography
But when the beginning of year 5 hit this January, I knew we had to make some changes. We couldn't live in "hustle mode" forever, so I decided that this year was the year that we needed to work on some systems that would help us bring a little more sanity into our lives. And that started with getting ahead with our blog content.
So as I usually do when I recognize a problem that needs a solution, I sat down and made a plan. It was fairly simple, but if I could pull it off, I was pretty sure that it would significantly decrease my stress level, and that was the goal! So here's what I decided to do:
1. Take 10 days to get 10 blog posts ahead.
I knew if I was going to get several posts ahead in my editorial calendar, I had to do it fast. When I had tried to get ahead in the past using a longer timeline, I always failed because as I was taking the time to create the content, posts were publishing and I was losing that backlog that I had built up. If I committed to do it in a shorter timespan, though, I knew I could make myself do one big push to get it done, and then it would be finished.
To execute this part of the plan, I began by making a list of the 10 blog posts that I wanted to write. Some of them were projects that were completed that I just hadn't blogged about yet, like the plantation shutters in our dining room.
Some of them were posts that I was able to write without doing a separate project, simply writing out some strategies I've implemented and using photos that I already had to illustrate my points (like my How to Get Organized When You Don't Have a Lot of Time post).
Others shared a new angle of a space I had already "revealed," like my post about organizing my boys' room. I may not have been able to write 10 project posts in 10 days, but by taking photos that I already had and using them to illustrate different concepts, I could churn out a post per day without too much trouble.
I chose 10 posts because I post twice per week, so for me, that was about a month of content. If 10 posts seems too daunting, you could get 5 posts ahead or even 3. Or if you post more often than I do and like the idea of being a month ahead, shoot for 15 posts in 15 days or something similar.
2. Continue to create two new posts per week.
Once I had built up my backlog of 10 posts, I simply had to write two new posts per week to keep 10 posts in the "hopper." This is the same number of weekly posts I was churning out when I was writing posts in "real time," but the difference was, I now had a buffer. If something went wrong with a project or I needed some more photos or I wanted to improve some aspect of the post, I had a breathing space to get it done. I no longer felt like I had to publish posts that weren't as good as I wanted them to be because I could take the extra time to make the improvements, and that felt like a weight lifted.
To keep myself on track, I started by brainstorming a big list of posts. I created a Google Sheet that had tabs for my 3 main content areas-- decor, organization, and blogging-- and wrote out every post idea I could think of that fell under those three categories.
I highlight a post in yellow once I've written it and scheduled it out.
Then in that same Sheet, I made a tab for each month of the year. I thought about the different holidays and events that fell during each month and wrote down content ideas for different seasonal posts. Seasonal posts can be a great traffic booster, but I've always been terrible at doing them because I never planned far enough ahead! That is changing this year!
Once I had my big list of content, I planned out my content for the next 3-ish months so I knew what was coming up. I even put it in a Google Sheet that Donnie, Brittany (my sister/assistant), and I share so that our whole team is on the same page. I highlighted any posts that involved Donnie's help (usually with building something) in blue, so he knew when he needed to have projects completed. (And also because I'm bossy. So there's that. 🙂 )
Then, I always have a running list on my phone (in the Notes app) of the next 10 posts I need to write so I know what I should be working on next. I was committed! I was dedicated! I was a post-writing machine! Well, sort of.
Now I would like to say that I executed this very simple plan perfectly, but I am human and things rarely go according to plan! I discovered a few "sticking points" along the way, and I thought I'd share them as a forewarning so that you don't get caught in the same traps I did.
1. Watch out for the "safe zone."
Once I was 10 posts ahead, I felt on top of the world! For the first time in 4 years, I wasn't scrambling to put my post together at the last minute. I felt "safe." Since I knew I was ahead, I had the brilliant idea to hold a Free Printable Valentine's Week where I posted one new printable each day for 5 days. I loved the idea, but it meant that I had to write three extra posts that weren't even going to get me further ahead in my schedule. The posts also ended up taking longer than I had planned.
In the end, I got everything finished and actually loved posting Valentine ideas for a week, but I will think twice before I get overly ambitious again. The point of getting ahead was creating less stress and less work for myself, not to create more work for myself once I had gotten ahead. That defeats the purpose!
2. Life happens.
As I'm sure is the case with everyone, life happens. I ended up having an outside project that I thought would take me a weekend take me almost 10 days, and that really threw a wrench into my plans. My kiddos have been home sick from school. I felt under the weather for a few days. Life happens! As I type this, I am currently about 7 posts ahead instead of my preferred 10, so I got behind on my plan. But that's okay! Now when life happens, it just means that I'm a few less posts ahead instead of missing a post or two altogether (which would not be the end of the world either).
Along with things that didn't go exactly according to plan, there are some awesome upsides to my little experiment:
- I feel like I'm being much more intentional about my content rather than just posting whatever happens to be easiest at the moment.
- I have posts stored up that could fit pretty much anywhere, so if I'm invited to be part of a hop or sponsored post, I can simply push those posts back a bit on my editorial calendar to make room for the new opportunity.
- Since I know what I'll be posting when, I can be better about planning collaborations of my own and inviting others to be part of series or hop with me.
- It is much easier to batch my schedule since I know which projects are coming up. I can do all of my shopping at the same time, do a lot of my project creation and photography at the same time, do all of my photo editing at the same time, etc.
- Finally, I just have more peace of mind knowing that I have a plan, goals for how many posts I need to finish, and some extra padding in case life happens and I can't get it all done. And that has been huge for me.
Whether you do it the same way I did or come up with a whole different plan of your own, I encourage you to take some time to be intentional about your blog content! It certainly has felt like a weight lifted for me, and I'm excited to tweak my plan and get even more organized with my content as the year goes on.
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Do you have any specific strategies you use for planning on getting ahead with your blog content? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
Have a wonderful day!