5 Ways To Plan Ahead For Your Blog + Biz In 2017
This time last year I didn’t have a plan. I had an idea, a list of goals and an unknown path that I’d just set foot on. Over the last 12 months, I’ve learned a thing or two about planning. Planning in small increments, planning for the bigger picture and relieving some of the stress by knowing what the purpose of your work is.
I remember in school, we’d always have to write the “aim of the lesson” after the date in our workbooks. Looking back now, it’s a habit I want to take forward into the new year in some respect. Whether you’re planning for your blog, a side project, job or your own business, here are 5 ways you can lay the groundwork for the next year.
START A BULLET JOURNAL
This won’t be for everyone. Heck, I only started mine 3 months ago. However, I’ve kept it simple and found it to be an incredibly effective way to increase productivity and efficiency in completing tasks. I plan out weekly spreads allocating tasks to days and prioritise time sensitive and dependent tasks. It has kept me focused and allows me the freedom to plan outside of the box. I can create spreads to jot down content ideas or visually draw the stage I’m at in my business and create checklists for what’s next.
A simple notebook and a pen will serve you well for creating a bullet journal. Pinterest is a hive for bullet journal inspiration. I’ve curated my favourites into this board, as you do.
OUTLINE PROJECTS & CONTENT CALENDARS
I began doing this on paper. I’d gather A3 sheets and map everything out. It’s time-consuming and not easy to edit without ending in a scribbly mess. I’ve found two web applications that will serve me well to plan out my next year, or at least 90 days ahead.
Asana has been amazing for setting up a calendar of deadlines, creating and assigning tasks to team members and establishing effective workflows. I love using this for business purposes as it’s easy to edit and I can clearly see where I’m at and what’s outstanding. This works well for simple to-do lists, jotting down ideas and structured planning.
I used to use Asana for my blog content calendar too but recently started using CoSchedule instead. For blogging purposes, I find this so much better. It’s so easy to create a content calendar with workflows inside to keep track of what needs to be done for a blog post (e.g photos, Pinterest graphic etc.). On top of this, you can attach social media campaigns to each blog post and plot out Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media posts for the future in a few clicks.
Once I’ve been using this for a couple months, I’ll write up an in depth blog post. For now, if you’re curious, you can get a 14 day free trial here. (referral link)
NOTEPADS, PRINTABLES & TRACKING DAILY TASKS
Despite my love of planning using technology, I also appreciate the need to write things down. Notebooks are great for jotting down ideas. Sometimes our ideas flow quickly or creep up on us at random times. Thoughts and ideas can begin forming into tasks and plans once established on paper.
Week view printables or those large desk notepads are great for sussing out the flow of your week. It can provide clarity and help remove some of that overwhelming feeling. I’ve combined all of this into my bullet journal but separately, they are great to track blogging tasks, cleaning routines, exercise and errands.
THE STAGES OF GOAL KEEPING
Weekly, monthly and quarterly goals have garnered the most use for me. In hindsight, I love having general resolutions that exist in the way of habits, lifestyle choices and travels but I don’t like considering them as goals.
Instead, I’ve saved that for particular instances such as fitness, blogging and work. Weekly goals keep you on track and are small, manageable tasks that are broken down from monthly goals. Monthly goals will keep in mind a 3 month time frame so that they fit within quarters. For me, this is generally for work purposes only but I’d like to extend that to blogging in this next year.
Why plan in 90 day chunks?
- It creates an agile work environment. It’s unrealistic to sit down in December and plan the next 12 months. You need a level of flexibility and a chance to reassess your situation and whatever life throws at you.
- 3 months of planning gives you the balance of focusing on completing buildable tasks and looking at how they fit into the bigger picture (your end goal).
- Your purpose and goals will still be fresh in your mind which allows you to adapt to change and not spend time over thinking your choices and how they will affect what was planned another 4 months down the line.
- It's actually a possible task to sit down and do over a number of days and can always be revised.
LISTS, MIND MAPS AND FLOWS
I love writing lists. I’ve already written a post on the art of writing a good to do list. There’s a stack of post-it notes on my desk and they are a daily help. At the end of the day I can collate them and see what’s important or still outstanding and transfer them to my bullet journal to become a fully fledged task. Or, it might just be an idea which turns into a general research task that I’ll add to Asana.
Mind maps are an amazing visual tool that I haven’t used since my A-Level days. They’ve help me come up with blog content by linking ideas together. I’ve found them useful for developing clarity on an idea or piece of copy that needs writing for my business. I can jot down keywords and link them to phrases and come up with the most succinct way of saying something. If you’re a visual person, mind maps can help you gain clarity on an idea or task or organise your thoughts.
I hadn’t realised it until recently but during software development I’m constantly creating flows. Flows for what functions and scripts need to be run in what order, flows for which modules need to run and be tested. The idea behind a flow is that it’s like a template set of tasks that you will complete for something.
For example, in CoSchedule, I’ve created a flow for writing a blog post. It starts with an outline/headers, then drafting content, then photos, social media graphics and proofing and formatting. Flows create good habits for repeating tasks.
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