More Free Planners: The Blog Post Planner and Calendar

Edit: I keep the updated copies of these planners on the Free Planners page. You’ll want to grab them there if you’d like to use them.]

One of the great things about blogs is that some of the best posts come from the spur of the moment. An intense idea hits you and you crank it out, hit “Publish,” and sit back and watch your page views skyrocket while you enjoy a frothy, calorie-laden beverage.

There are a lot of times, though, where having a general plan for what you’re going to write can help your blog immensely. This is especially true if you’re pressed for time and can only write a few posts a week. Planning, writing, and preposting allows you to maintain quality in your writing without you pulling your hair out trying to manage your blog and your life at the same time. It also ensures that your blog has continuity in voice and content.

In other words, planning, writing, and preposting prevents you from having a CrackerJack box of a blog like my own. You never know what you’re going to get here until you open the box, and sometimes the surprise is really lame. I blame the frothy beverages.

I started creating these planners based on my own struggles to keep my posts going at an acceptable level of quality while I was adjusting to my new job. The basic ideas worked pretty well – the execution of the plan is a completely different matter…

How to Use These Planners

You’ll find three download links below. The first is for the Blog Post Planner (the brainstorming planner), the Blog Post Calendar (the date-based planner), and a combo download that has them sandwiched together. Pick up whichever you’d like. They’re free and you don’t have to sign up for anything.

Blog Post Planner-September (3467)
Blog Post Calendar-September (2625)
Blog Post Planner-Calendar Combo Pack-September (3589)

A set? Why two? Because they appeal to different sides of the brain. Either one could be used independent of the other, but they’re stronger together.

The Blog Post Planner: Figuring Out What You’re Going to Write

The Blog Post Planner helps when you have a general idea of what you’re going to write but don’t know when you’re going to write it. The meat of the this particular aid looks like this:

In the upper right hand corner of the block, you’ll see “Category/Type.” This could be anything from a category of a post, like Productivity or Flourishing, or it could be a type of post, like a link-bait, how-to, or review. You choose, based on how you think about the posts you write – but Problogger gives some good ideas for blogging themes.

The lines have “Topic/Title” and “Scheduled.” Some folks write posts by coming up with titles first, others write it by topic and figure out a title later (I’m in the latter camp). Either way works fine, and this block should have enough information to separate one post from another.

“Scheduled” could be either for the date it’s scheduled (the mini-calendar at the top should help with this) or it could be a simple yes/no if you want to leave things open. Pick the technique that works best for you and run with it.

The little oval check block is there solely for motivation and satisfaction. When you write the post, check it off, and you’re good to go. Satisfaction without stickiness or weight gain – what a steal!

I’ve tried to leave enough variability on this aid to appeal to different ways of generating blog posts. Let me know if this is too confusing and I’ll fix it up in later versions.

The Blog Post Calendar: Figuring Out When You’re Going to Write That Killer Post

The Blog Post Calendar is for the more left-brained of us. I use it after I’ve done the post planner, since it helps me fill in the “what” with the “when.”

It also has the advantage of being much easier to describe, since all of the terms mean the same things as above.

The most subtle advantage of the calendar is that it gives you the ability to see how posts are linking together. You may notice that one post would make more sense if it were posted after another one, so you’ll be able to make the switch before you write about it. Another added advantage of the calendar is that it allows you to unroll monetization efforts in a steady, non-“in-your-face-buy-my-stuff-now” way.

A rare few of you will be upset that I only have one line for one day. If you’re writing multiple posts per day, you’re probably writing news blogs where you really can’t plan for the news that’s going to break. Simply put, you’ll probably need a different kind of aid. (Send me a comment, though, and we’ll talk about a solution that works for you.)

The Method to the Madness

The Blog Post Planner has six blocks with seven lines. Were you to fill every line in every block, you’d have 42 posts. What gives?

The goal is not to max out the posts, but rather to bring a little order to your writing. If you want to write once per week on a particular category, then all you need to do is fill up four lines in that block. The rest are extra just in case your muse won’t stop tormenting you giving you ideas.

Both aids in conjunction give you the one-two punch you need for a great blog. The Blog Post Planner helps you come up with great post ideas, and the Blog Post Calendar helps you spread those great ideas out evenly and regularly. The end result: your blog provides relevant, organized, and well-thought out content on a regular, somewhat predictable schedule.

No more lame CrackerJack surprises!

Aren’t There Already Planning Tools for Bloggers Out There Already?

At the time I started designing these planners, the link to Andy Wibbel’s editorial calendar was down. He’s created an Excel-spreadsheet based editorial calendar that those of you who like working in spreadsheets may like. The particular version I downloaded hasn’t been updated in a while – but run over and check out Andy Wibbel’s editorial calendar to see if it fits your needs.

I’ve made no secret, though, of how I think paper-based tools for brainstorming are better than digital ones, so I designed these to fill that void between the creative mind and the capturing technique needed to channel that creativity.

Send a Little Value Back My Way, Please

I hope you find these helpful. I have. The aids are in their just-past-beta stage, so please be gentle with them. They still have their alpha weight!

In all seriousness, though, I’d really appreciate constructive feedback on these. Let me know about usability concerns, aesthetic preferences, print problems, etc.

If you love ‘em the way they are, then let me know that, too, so I don’t go and mess them up. A designer in a vacuum can fix a lot of problems no one actually has.

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Comments

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  1. says

    OMG, Charlie, you RULE! If Mark’s ebook wasn’t enough to get me to get off my ass and buy a printer, this is. You sold me.

    OK, wait a minute. If I tell all my friends how wicked this is, then they’re going to expect me to, you know, use it. And then there would have to be method to the madness, instead of just madness.

    Never mind. This isn’t awesome AT ALL. I hate it.

    Naomi Dunfords last blog post..The One Where I Quit, or “How To Work From Home When You Have No Fucking Talent”*

    • says

      You need to talk to the zoning board in your town/city. If it is zone ccmmeroial, then you can not usually live there. However, zoning can be changed. Go to the town/city hall to get the info and talk to them about what is legal in your area.Chris

  2. says

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  3. says

    I usually wind up planning posts by scribbling on a sheet of paper, which I then misplace, so as long as I can keep these in a handy spot, it will be lovely. Thanks!

  4. Charlie says

    @Naomi: Are you kidding me? We read your blog because of the insight that comes from the madness! I’d have to say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    @Sharon: I know exactly how that is. By the time I got to finishing the design for these planners, it was mid-August. Had I done them on schedule I could have launched them at the right time of the month. Of course, it now occurs to me that the Blog Post Planner could have been produced without the calorie. I guess that’s what happens when you tie two ideas together…

    Thanks for the feedback!

    @Evelyn: I’d have to put you in the Naomi camp – without the drama and foul language, that is. If you’ve got a system that works, don’t worry about it too much. However, you may find that your thoughts connect better by planning them out.

    @Alex: Design away, m’friend. It’s the idea that counts. Thanks for the feedback and for subscribing!

    @Gurjeet: Thanks for spamming us and adding nothing but self-promotion to the conversation. I’m leaving your comment up as an example of what not to do.

    You could have easily said something like “This is a great idea – I’ve struggled with similar pressures while I design websites.” Then we would have ran and checked you out.

    Now we’re just going to let the gaping silence say the words we’d rather not have in print.

    @Leandra: Hold on for a solution to the lost sheet. I do that, too – but I’ve got a follow-up coming, trust me. Thanks for the feedback.

    @Mary: You’re welcome!(x3). I’ve got another solution in the pipeline that may be even better for your situation. Hang out with us for a few weeks and you’ll see it. I really appreciate you taking the time to give feedback!

  5. amsn says

    Wow, this is just what i need! I’m going to be printing these out just as soon as i finish pounding out the article i meant to post yesterday
    ————————
    amsn

  6. says

    I’m so glad I found these planners!! (You are right, they work best together). I was just about to hit a wall with planning my blog posts. I kept writing titles into my calendar and scribbling them out, rearranging, rethinking when I should be posting what. I was getting confused and unfocused.

    The Blog Post Planner helps me focus on my categories of posts. I’ve realized that categorization was the important step I’ve been missing. Crucially, it helps me balance the categories so I don’t have all one type of post all month.

    Then, the glory of the Blog Post Calendar helps me see that I don’t want to have a week straight of one type of post. Mixing it up is good. It also helps me notice the sequence of posts and when a particular post would work better before or after another one.

    Whew! What a relief, I finally got this all sorted out! Thank you!!

    PS: I’ll also be hanging out to see what solution you have for Mary. I have 3 blogs (get paid for one), am a SAHM with two preschool-age kids (who I’m trying to “homeschool,” term used very loosely), keeping up on the household, and preparing for (another) overseas move in a couple of months. I have a lot of different types of projects on my plate each day and am always looking for inspiration on how to manage it all effectively. My biggest problem is I tend to focus on one (blogs) at the expense of another (household. Who needs clean clothes anyway??)

    Sorry to get off topic, just wanted to share! I’m going to be trying out your Freelancer Workweek to see if it can help me get a handle on all my different roles.

    Thanks again for making these awesome planners!

  7. says

    Me again.

    Is there any way we can buy the Blog Post calendar in Quarterly sets or somehow get the months earlier? I’m already planning into mid March with my blog posts.

    Being able to buy them for the whole year would be good for scheduling holiday posts (or planning to schedule them for auto-post as the case may be).

    See, this is the problem when you make a fantastic product: people get addicted to them and need a constant supply!
    .-= Laurie´s last blog ..Daycraft Strawberry notebook giveaway! =-.

    • says

      Yep, I sure can. I didn’t know who would be keen on them, so I didn’t want to put them in the first round of releases. I should have them out by the end of the month – these won’t take as long.

  8. says

    I’m with you on paper making the best tools for brainstorming and you have me HOOKED I tell ya! I LOVE your blog post calendars!

    Thanks for all you do!

  9. says

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful productivity tool! I set up a very basic blog planner for myself but it didn’t really work for a number of reasons. I’m going to print yours out & start using them straight away.
    I’ve tweeted this as I network with a lot of bloggers in the handmade community & I’m sure many will find this planner useful.

  10. says

    Charlie,
    I am so glad that I found your planners and blog through The Lady Bloggers Society. I’m doing a series on organising for success and will be trying out your organisers for review.
    It would be great if you could add in some planning sheets covering monetisation, guest bloggers etc.
    I’m really looking forward to seeing what other new products you come up with.

    BTW I absolutely loved your response to the spam comment.

  11. DailySaving says

    Thanks!! I’m just getting started, these are very helpful. Fail to plan, plan to fail. That’s how it works for me. Thanks again!

  12. says

    I LOVE the blog post planners. This is especially helpful to me because we feature real weddings shot by wedding photographers and it helps me keep track of what posts I am creating and what day they will be featured so I can inform the photographer when they can expect the post.

    However, I also work ahead of schedule at least 3 weeks in advance. I would love to receive the next month’s blog planner at least by mid-month. Otherwise, I am playing catch up.

    Great tool! Keep them coming!

  13. says

    Thanks Charlie! I didn’t think about planning my posts and I’m anal about planning and organizing. Go figure. One of my friends on FB posted a link to your site and I’m so glad I took the time to check it out. I’ll let you know if it works for me. Thanks for sharing!!

    Stumbled it & Bookmarked!!

  14. says

    I would love an Excel version! Andy Wibbel’s link doesn’t work for the planner. Do you have an Excel version?
     
    Excellent advice for novice and professional bloggers.