I’m the kind of person who needs to write down my goals and to-do lists or I’ll end up watching 5 hours of Netflix while binge eating 2 full tubs of cookie dough. I realize that some people can get stuff done without a written down plan. I would say I’m jealous of those people, but I actually LOVE plannering (Yes, I just made a new word up).
I’m also the kind of person who likes my goals and to-do lists on paper. I’m fine with having other stuff on my computer or phone (like notes, contacts, etc.) but there’s something about being able to physically cross things off my list and have my goals and plans laid out on a sheet of paper that motivates me. My husband, on the other hand, likes to have all of his to-do lists and schedules on his phone, which I totally get. It’s nice to have your phone actually remind you when you need to get something done, instead of having to remember to check the planner or to-do list.
But no matter how logical electronic planning is, I can’t change the fact that having it all on paper is the most motivating for me! If you’re more into electronic planning, you probably didn’t even open this blog post (because of the picture of the cutesy paper planner) or you’ve already stopped reading by now, but if you are into paper planning or want to try something new, than you’re in for a treat!
I’ve come up with a content planner system that actually works. A system that will transform you into a, “I have a hard time accomplishing my goals and my life isn’t going the way I want it to,” type of person to a, “I’m rockin’ my blog and my life right now. I’m accomplishing all the goals I set out to accomplish!” type of person. So if you’re ready for a serious life and/or business transformation, keep on reading! We’ll jump right into talking about how to create this wonderful calendar!
How to Create a Content Calendar You’ll Actually Stick To
1. Gather Your Supplies
What I love about this system is that you don’t need much. As long as you have a printer to print out your calendar (or a bullet journal/notebook), highlighters, and post-it notes, you’re good to go!
You can print off the May Calendar that I made, create your own on Microsoft Word, Pages, or Adobe Illustrator, or simply type, “Free Calendar” on Pinterest or Google. There are a ton of super-cute free calendars on Pinterest!
2. Set Your Goals
The first step, before you do anything with your actual content calendar, is to set your goals. After all, your content calendar’s purpose it to help you achieve your overall blogging/business goals.
After trying out yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals, I’ve realized that monthly goals work the best for me. Yearly and quarterly are too long, so they don’t motivate me enough… and weekly goals seem too short. A month always feels just right. But no matter what time frame works best for you, it’s important to write down your goals before creating your content calendar!
On the first of each month, I look over my stats from the previous month and then create my new goals for the current month. Everything gets put onto the Monthly Blogging Goals Printout, which allows you to keep track of your goal amounts, actual amounts (which you input at the end of the month), and a column for the big fat check marks you’re going to be able to place after each goal now that you’re using this system!
For example, here are a few of my goals for this month:
- Get to 2,200 followers on Instagram
- Post on Instagram 15 times
- Write and publish 12 blog posts
So, what are your goals? What would move your blog/business forward? Create some long-term goals and then create some short-term goals (like monthly goals) that will help you reach those long-term ones. Look at my printable for inspiration or create your own printable or bullet planner page that will help you keep track of them. With your goals written out and ready to go, you’ll be able to create a content calendar that’ll help you actually accomplish them!
3. Create a Planning Color Code
Your planning color code is going to look different depending on what your goals are. Since quite a few of my goals have to do with social media/blog post amounts, follower counts, etc, I use my content calendar to keep track of my appointments, campaign start and end dates, birthdays, Instagram posts, and blog posts. Eventually, I’d like to keep track of other social media posts on there, as well, but I decided to start out simple.
I try to keep my content calendar focused on work, but I have such a difficult time remembering birthdays that I decided to include them to the calendar (since I look at my content calendar more often than I look at my regular one).
I use highlighters to keep track of my appointments, campaign start and end dates, and birthdays. I use bits of post-it notes to keep track of the rest. I use post-it notes to schedule my blog and social media posts because I’m able to move them around if something comes up. While moving around a deadline isn’t ideal, sometimes it happens. Sometimes I even get a post done earlier than expected, so using post-it notes makes it easier to move it to the correct date in order to keep track of what I posted when.
I’ll use a couple of my goals as an example of how I decide what goes on my planning color code:
Post on Instagram 15 times: Because I’d like to post on Instagram 15 times throughout the month, I cut 16 squares out of the top sticky part of a pink post-it note. Then I added one of the squares to my color code, as shown above.
Write and publish 12 blog posts: Because I’d like to write and publish 12 blog posts throughout the month, I cut 13 larger squares out of the sticky top part of an orange post-it note. I add one of the squares to the color code and leave the rest for the next step. I use larger orange squares for campaign blog posts because those are jobs I’m doing for other people, so I consider them even more important to remember to do (although everything on your content calendar should be considered important!)
4. Start Planning Like Crazy
Here’s the exciting part where you get to schedule out your month exactly how you want it! While you’re scheduling, take into consideration how much time you need in between each blog post/social media post and when you’ll need, “Break Days,” to put everything away and just relax.
Your content calendar gives you the ability to stay on track with your long and short-term goals and stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off, with no clear direction. You’ll know when blog posts need to be published, so you can start planning and writing them in advance in order to meet your deadlines.
Content calendars also allow you to be more consistent with your content, which I’m about to go over in more detail!
5. Schedule Blog Posts
This little tip is especially helpful for lifestyle bloggers who cover a wide variety of topics, but I’m sure it could be used for one-niche based bloggers as well. As a lifestyle blogger, I have several main topics that I write about, including: Self-care, Beauty/Fashion, Blogging/Business, Introversion, Personality Types, and “My Life”.
Keeping your blog balanced is important if you write about a variety of topics. Your audience most likely consists of people who are interested in one or two of your topics, but not all of them (because we’re not ALL interested in the exact same things!) If you write several posts in a row about “Blogging/Business” and neglect your other topics, your audience who prefers your posts about “Beauty/Fashion” or “Self-care” might start losing interest in your blog.
When planning out your month, make sure you alternate between topics and maybe even commit to writing about each topic at least once per month. A lot of people say that you should stick to one niche, but I don’t agree. I think you can write about all of the things you’re passionate about, as long as you do it in the right way, by keeping your topics balanced!
6. Stick to It
This is the tricky part. It’s easy to set goals, but it’s a lot harder to keep. So here are a few tips for sticking to your goals!
- Keep your content calendar on your desk or in any place where you can see it at all times while you’re working (maybe even on the wall, right in front of you!) Trust me, you’ll stick to your plan a lot better if you can actually see it (crazy, right!?)
- If you don’t follow through with publishing a blog post/social media post on the day you said you were going to, move it to another day (even if it’s on the same day as another post.) That’s the great thing about these goals being on sticky notes. You can move them. So while you should try to stick to the day you set out to get it done, don’t feel bad about moving things around. Things come up. Life happens. But try to move things around instead of taking a sticky note completely off the calendar. Your overall goal should be to meet your monthly goals, even if that means being more flexible about the “when” of posting. There’s a great quote that says, “Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.”
- Plan ahead. If you have trouble knowing what to post on your social media accounts, devote a full day each month or a couple hours each week to taking pictures and writing captions. Having at least a few planned out will make it easier for you to post when you’ve planned to post. Also, knowing what you’re going to post about on your blog is helpful, so try to come up with the exact topic (or even title) of each post. It’s easier to start writing when you already planned what you’re going to write about. Be intentional.
- Reward yourself. There’s no shame in placing a cute little smiley sticker on the days you get all of your goals for the day done or in rewarding yourself with a “spa day” (or whatever makes you extra happy) when you accomplish all of your goals for the month! Be proud of yourself and celebrate your accomplishments! That’s the best way to stay motivated and keep going (even if no one else congratulates you or supports you in your dream). Be your own #1 support system! Plan, tackle, accomplish, and celebrate. Then repeat!
- Get to the root of the issue. If you’re still having a hard time sticking to your goals, remember that 1. Practice makes progress. The longer you keep trying (even after failing time and time again), the better you’ll get at sticking to your goals. 2. If you’re really not seeing any progress at all (like after months and months of trying), than there may be a deeper issue here. There are a few things it could be. It could be mental illness getting in the way (especially if left untreated) or it could have to do with a little something called “tendencies”. Fortunately, Gretchen Rubin created a quiz that, “distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).” You can take the quiz here. It’s a great quiz to take even if you don’t feel like you’re struggling with sticking to your goals (but really, who doesn’t struggle with that!?) It’ll really open your eyes to how you respond to expectations (especially your own expectations… aka: goals) and what you can do about it!
The last thing I want to say is that you’re so very capable of taking your life into your own hands! You just have to start. Quit limiting yourself by thinking you can achieve your dreams without a plan. Having a plan and sticking to it is the best way to make your dreams happen. It’s the best way to get your business, blog, and life to where you want them to be and to have fun while you’re doing it! So what are you waiting for? Go make those dreams happen!