Time Hacks

Why You Need a Monthly Planning Session (+ what to do in it)

I’m a huge advocate of planning. It’s one of the things that attributes to keeping me sane in this world of blogging. Without a plan, a lot of wasted time happens (something that I’m not interested in - hence my love for automation). I love planning things out as best as I can and though I know that things don’t always go as expected, at least having a plan will provide a good sense of direction.

When it comes to serious blogging...like if you want to start making money from blogging...you have to be organized and strategic.  Finding the time to plan out your blog content can be challenging especially if you are already spread thin in your personal life. This is one reason why I’ve implemented a monthly planning session where I plan out all of my blog content for the following month in just a 2-3 hour time frame one Saturday a month.  Today I will be discussing the benefits of this and what I do to get one month of content planned in just a few hours.

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I first started monthly planning a little over a year ago after I got tired of getting behind with blogging due to not making time to plan out my content. Well, let me rephrase...I used to plan out content on a weekly basis.  I had no idea what topics I wanted to post about for the week, so I would decide randomly on Sunday or Monday, add the post to my content calendar and immediately find myself in struggle mode. Struggle mode meant I was trying to pull ideas and content together for a post that would be publishing in a few days.  This often lead to not posting at all or a quickly thrown together post (not a good look!). This was all due to a lack of proper planning. Planning is one thing...proper planning is another.

Around this time, my daughter was 1 year old and I rarely had me time (this is still true today actually, ha!).  My Mom offered to watch her one Saturday a month to give me a set time to have me time (my husband often works weekends so there’s little opportunity for Lauren time!).  It was then that I decided to dedicate a few hours of the day to begin planning my content out for the following month. This way, I could have a better hold on what was going on, felt more at ease about being consistent posting and it was just good overall for sanity sake!  I posted up at a Starbucks for a few hours and got all of my content planned out!

Now that you know a little background info on how this all came to be, it’s time for you to start implementing your own monthly planning session into your life! Here’s how-

The Tools:

1 / A blogging editorial calendar

I use Trello for my editorial calendar, but you can use whatever works for you.  I used to use Asana before Trello, Google Docs before Asana and good old pen and sketchbook before Docs. Editorial Calendars are so important to have when running a blog is mainly because they keep your affairs in order.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Blog Needs an Editorial Calendar

2 / A running list of content ideas

I keep my ideas for new blog posts in Trello.  Before that I used Evernote and before that...a very unorganized notebook, lol! Where can you get ideas for new content?

a. Market Research- I have an automated task set up that searches for a specific hashtag on twitter and saves it to a Google Sheet.  I find lots of content ideas from this spreadsheet. If there is a niche specific hashtag or other keywords that your audience uses on Twitter when asking for help, you should definitely set up the automated task that I created to do the searching for you!

Related: 3 Smart Reasons Why You Need to Automate Market Research

b. Your random ideas- I get blog post ideas randomly sometimes.  They tend to also be at the most inopportune times (in line in the grocery store, while doing laundry, in the middle of the night, etc.).  To remedy the possibility of forgetting these ideas, I created a widget on my phone to type the idea into and it is instantly saved to my Trello board.  Minimal effort on my end, maximum asset in my blogging process. If you want to set a similar widget up on your phone, here’s a post about how to do it.

c. Your audience- the Instagram Stories Questions sticker was a game changer for the blogging community because it gave you the opportunity to ask your audience a question and get a response in an easy format.  Easy is the key. Surveys are awesome and have such great benefits, but the longer a survey is, the less likely it is going to be completed. If you just have a series of 1-3 questions to ask, put it on a Story and see what you audience says!  Even better than that, if you want to increase your chances of getting a response, use the Poll sticker because all the follower has to do is tap one answer. These two tools can easily give you content ideas.

d. Your Inbox - Does your audience tend to ask you the same questions all the time?  These are the types of things to keep track of so you can create content surrounding it.  The questions that people are always asking are questions that people who haven’t come across your blog are also wondering!  This applies to blog comments, social media comments, etc. also. Find out what your audience already wants to know!

3 / A place to work away from home

Your planning session needs to be away from home so you can eliminate distractions and focus 100% of your time on planning your content.  I know this is not always possible, but if you know that you have one day a month to plan, you should get babysitters, etc. scheduled out in advance as well. Also, being in a different surrounding always helps the creative juices flow better!


The Process:

  1. Pack up all of your electronics to take with you - Laptop, iPad, chargers (major key!), notebooks, etc.  Get all of your things together in advance so you don’t forget anything. You could even create a packing list if you want to ensure you don’t forget anything.  Also, make sure your electronics are fully charged.

  2. Pick a place to work from - I generally go to a coffee shop because caffeine equals productivity on 1000 for me, ha! You can also go to a library, a park, a cafe, etc. Bonus points if the location has free WiFi!  If the place you go doesn’t have WiFi and you don’t want to use your mobile data, there are things you can still do with no connection if you use apps that offer an offline mode.

  3. Find a place to sit that’s next to a plug - this is also a major key! These are the spots that are most popular, so you may have to get there early to get a good seat.  If you know the place you want to go to is busy between 12-4, you may want to get there at 11 or 5. If you still find yourself with no plug availability, if your electronics are 100% charged you can begin working and make a move as soon as someone next to a plug leaves.

  4. Review the previous months content on your calendar - is there anything that you wanted to post that you didn’t get around to posting for some reason?  Do you really want to post it? Move it to the next month.

  5. Begin focusing on the content for next month- this is where I start to really get into it. You will be planning out things based on the focus for your blog.  Maybe you do video content. You will be planning out video topics.  Perhaps you have a podcast. You will be planning out show topics.

    There are three things that I plan out in my session:

    • My main goal for the month - This is something that everyone should have.  You want to have goals to hit, so you should consciously include them on your editorial calendar so they can stay in the forefront of your mind.

    • My blog posts for the month - I search through my post ideas that I have sourced from the various locations mentioned above then add them to the list for the month. Sometimes I will have a theme for the month, so my posts will all be related to a specific topic.  For example, in January I focused on blogging organization as it was a new year and that’s what people do in the new year. If you decide on a theme for a month, it can make it easier to choose post ideas as well.

    • My email marketing contents for the month - If I plan out the emails that I want to send to my list, it’s easier to keep up with it and not neglect them!  Often times we tend to get all of these email list subscribers but end up forgetting about them and rarely email them. What’s the point of having a list if you never communicate with them? I look at my list as a place to provide exclusive content, so I tend to send them information that isn’t shared with my social following or even on my blog because I like to make them feel special :)

6. Schedule the content on your calendar - Once you know what you want to post you just need to decide when to post it.  The awesome thing about Trello is you can plan and schedule all in one card. I add a due date to the card for each piece of content and since I have the Calendar power-up activated on my board, I can switch to a calendar view to see when all of my content is due.  Again, you can do this in whatever editorial calendar you choose, I just like to keep mine digital because it’s portable and easier to organize.

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There it is!  This is what I do for my monthly planning session.  Sometimes it may take less than 2-3 hours, but I still keep the timeframe dedicated to blogging.  If I finish planning early, I start writing blog posts or working on other tasks for that month. I encourage you to do the same.  Maybe you don’t have the option to have 2-3 dedicated hours, but even if you can find one hour a month, it’s better than nothing!

If you like to plan on paper, I have created a free pdf download to use when having your monthly planning session. Click here to get it!

So tell me, do you plan out your content in advance?  If so, what is your process and how far in advance do you plan?  I’d love to know! Let me know in the comment. Happy planning!

Top 3 Reasons to Sell Digital Products on Your Website

Top 3 Reasons to Sell Digital Products on Your Website

I have officially been a Squarespace user for over two years, and switching over to them still feels like one of the best business decisions I’ve made.  There are many reasons why I love Squarespace (here is a post all about it), but one is that you can sell not only physical products, but digital products and services, too!  This is a great feature for those selling things such as workbooks, e-books, email courses, coaching packages, etc. The beauty of Squarespace is that you pay one fee for your site and can also incorporate e-commerce, so you don’t have to subscribe to another service for digital sales (Sam Cart, DPD Cart or Gumroad)!  There are various benefits to selling digital products on your website, and I will be sharing my top three.

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