Last time we discussed a writing pipeline, representing the phases or stages a project moves through, from the initial idea to completion—including when it’s been published and you save it in a portfolio.
Now let’s talk editorial calendars.
Life Without an Editorial Calendar
For years I got by writing on the fly. I’d have a few minutes free, think up an idea, whip out a draft, and with just a little more time that night or the next morning, I could edit the piece into a solid article to send out to a magazine or publish on my website.
My approach worked in the early days, when my publishing aspirations and expectations were as small as my kids. As my kids grew, however, the possibilities seemed grander and I realized this random, last-minute approach was not the way to live a creative, sustainable, productive writing life over the long haul.
If I wanted to produce a body of work, I’d need to be a bit more intentional and organized. A tool to support all that and remind me what to do next was an editorial calendar.
Life With an Editorial Calendar
Whether I’m planning the timing of short pieces like blog posts or long-form projects broken into smaller tasks, I’ve come to rely on an editorial calendar of some kind, even if it’s rudimentary. Over the years, I’ve tried everything from printed calendars to online apps. No matter what I use, it boils down to deciding when I want to publish or submit something. Then I simply write that down somewhere—preferably somewhere I’ll actually look.
Integrating the project due dates on a calendar I’m already using for other appointments helped me value the work as highly as other obligations. It showed up as a priority in my life and helped me view myself as a working writer.
I hope life with an editorial calendar improves your own work habits and productivity so that you’ll prioritize your writing. And when you’re picking out the editorial calendar to use, start with what’s most normal and natural for you to avoid overcomplicating things or introducing a big learning curve.
My first editorial calendars were simply monthly calendars I printed off. I’d think about the frequency I wanted to write and publish for my own website along with content I created for other organizations and magazines, then I’d pencil in projects with the deadlines. It helped me learn my capacity and pace by experimenting with work load and frequency. Without a calendar, I’d just be winging it; with a calendar, I could begin to see the weeks I’d scheduled too much.
If bullet journals existed at the time I was printing off calendar pages, I would have dedicated a page to an editorial calendar. As with a printed calendar, I’d mark articles scheduled on certain days for my blog posts or podcasts as well as articles promised to magazines and online organizations. I currently use a bullet journal to plan out ideas, but I’m loving technology options these days for my editorial calendar.
I first transitioned from printed calendars to a simple Google Calendar. You can name each calendar, so I gave mine the unforgettable name: Editorial Calendar. I already used a Google calendar to manage the rest of my life, so this was simply adding another layer and I liked that integration.
In Google Calendars, you can click calendars on and off to look at one at a time or have all of them layer on top of each other so you can see schedule conflicts. This was perfect, because it layered my entire life and I could see busy weeks when writing wouldn’t be possible. I could move around project goals to accommodate other obligations in life.
Another nice feature: scheduling alerts to remind me to to write, edit, and send off my projects for a hours or days ahead of time. When a notification popped up on my phone or desktop, I almost felt like I had an assistant nudging me to do that thing I’d committed to doing.
And the best thing of all: Google Calendar is free.
Some friends use spreadsheets, whether in Excel or Google Sheets. If you’re a spreadsheet person, this could be the most natural place to track the dates you want to finish a draft and finalize a project, moving it through your pipeline on pace to meet deadlines.
I’ve experimented with Asana and haven’t committed to it for project management, but I know a lot of people us it, so if that’s you, explore the sample editorial calendar Asana has created.
I use Trello for a lot of things—mostly for storing information—but it’s not where my editorial calendar lives. I did find someone explaining how they used it to house an editorial calendar, however, and I think it’s a clever solution. If you’re a Trello user, this could be a fun thing to set up and manage.
I used to be anti-Evernote. I tried using it at least four times, maybe five, and I’d give up after every experiment, frustrated. Then one day, it clicked. I saw how it could streamline some of my processes and store certain information. While I use something else these days for my editorial calendar, if I were as active in Evernote a year or so ago as I am now, I’d create an editorial calendar in a folder right in that app.
This video shows step-by-step how a vlogger organizes her content in Evernote. It’s a bit involved to set up at first, but once it’s in place, you’ll be able to move in and out of it easily to plan and stay on track.
Remember: the key with all of this is not to suddenly start using Evernote or Trello or Asana in order to create an editorial calendar—the key is to use the system you’re already in. So if you’re in Evernote, you might want to watch these instructions and set up a table the way she shows you.
If you’re not in Evernote, it wouldn’t make sense to open it only for this one activity. Go where the action is; build your plan in the spaces you frequent.
Speaking of which, if you use WordPress anyway and you’re primarily a blogger producing content for your own website, you might want to check out some WordPress plugins. You can explore some of the free ones like the aptly named Editorial Calendar and another called Drafts Scheduler, but I haven’t used them and can’t speak to their effectiveness personally. This approach makes sense for writers who are in their dashboard a lot anyway and would look at the calendar frequently, opening it up to do their planning.
The calendar I currently use is a paid option with many features. It’s called CoSchedule. I’d heard about CoSchedule for years but ignored it because it cost money. I figured I could continue using a Google Calendar indefinitely, as it was working fine.
But I discovered CoSchedule included some magic that sold me. I can open either the Android app on my phone or the website on my computer and plan out my content on the calendar as I would in any other calendar. That part’s pretty normal.
The magic is that as soon as I write a blog post and get it prepped and scheduled, I scroll down in my WordPress dashboard a little bit and the integrated CoSchedule plugin lets me schedule Facebook updates and tweets in advance. When the post goes live, the system will automatically kick out those social media updates.
This is one of only a select few affiliate plans I signed up for. The ease of how CoSchedule could streamline my workflow sold me on their solo plan, and now I’m more efficient, productive, and accountable.
I don’t know if CoSchedule will be a good fit for you or not, but if you decide to use it, I do have an affiliate link. I’d love it if you’d use it to click through to sign up for your free trial. If you continue using them, they’ll send me an affiliate compensation at no cost to you.
The Best Editorial Calendar Is the One You Use
The best editorial calendar isn’t the bullet journal or Google Calendar or even CoSchedule. The best editorial calendar in the one you use—the one that helps you produce regular content on schedule.
Obviously I am loving CoSchedule. It’s an investment I made to support my social media activity, but that might not be what you need or where you’re at. Start with whatever calendar makes sense given what you use to schedule other things or to organize your other work.
I encourage you to experiment for three months with an editorial calendar of some kind. Start plugging into a calendar the articles you want to write and submit or publish. Use the one that seems the fastest, simplest, most accessible, and most natural for your personality.
If you’re a pencil and paper person and already carry around a bullet journal or a printed calendar, use that. If you’re a technology person, try a Google calendar or a project management system, especially if you’re already using it for other purposes.
Whatever you use, let the calendar remind you that the day is approaching when you want to turn in that essay, poem, article, or chapter. I hope the looming deadlines inspire you, reminding you of the goals you set for yourself.
I’d love to know that the simple decision to use an editorial calendar affirms to you that you’re taking control of your writing life, thinking like a publisher, opening your files, and pulling up that draft to complete those final edits on time to ship off your work.
- Article describing/comparing some WordPress editorial calendar plugins
- My CoSchedule affiliate link – if you click through to sign up, they will compensate me as a thank-you for sending you their way
- Using Trello for an Editorial Calendar
- Asana’s sample editorial calendar
- YouTube video showing how to use Evernote to create an editorial calendar (embedded in the article above)
- Ep 114: Make the Most of Your Time with a Writing Pipeline
- Ep 112: My Best Writing Tools to Get More Done (at Home and on the Go)
- Ep 50: Stop Waiting for Last-Minute Inspiration (challenge to write 50 headlines, or ideas)
- Ep 51: Make the Most of Your 50 Headlines
- Ep 113: An Easy Solution for the Writer with Big Goals and Little Time (write with your voice)
- Ep 93: Why I’m Committing to the Work-Ahead Advantage
- All podcast episodes
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You can subscribe with iTunes, where I’d love to have you subscribe, rate, and leave a review.
The podcast is also available Stitcher, and you should be able to search for and find “Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach” in any podcast player.
Alice William says
Rightly said. I recently started using the Editorial Calendar on WordPress and I’ve already outlined my weekly posts for the rest of the year. I know, I can’t believe myself. It is such a motivation. It definitely increases the productivity. This way I don’t have to keep my drafts all over the place. I directly write a draft and pull it into the calendar when needed. Thank you for listing other options.
Ann Kroeker says
I’m so glad to hear it’s a good fit for you and you’ve seen such good results! Perfect for WordPress bloggers. Thanks for sharing your experience with it. I’m going to install it so I can understand it better, even though I have the CoSchedule plugin.
I’m always comforted that I’m not the only one who needs direction and guidance on how to use a calendar or a list-making system. There are little details that can make a big difference and I appreciate you patiently walking us through it all! I especially love your emphasis on not trying to integrate something that doesn’t feel natural. I’m guilty of spending time on a new system and then not having it work for me. It’s frustrating and sometimes has been me forcing something unnecessarily. Thanks for the practical posts!
Ann Kroeker says
It’s my pleasure–I hope you find an easy-peasy one that fits your personality, Angie!
Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros says
I love my bullet journal! You hit the nail on the head with, “The best editorial calendar is the one you use.” Yes, yes, yes. I find your blog and podcast inspirational and packed with helpful information. Thank you!
Ann Kroeker says
I’ve experimented with all kinds of systems so I can understand how they work and recommend the best fit to clients. As a result, I’ve ended up using a little of this and a little of that, which isn’t always a smart thing. I mention this, though, because I do love using a bullet journal for a lot of things. It’s open next to me even as I type! I’m glad you found what works for you!
Ann Kroeker says
Hi! Please contact me to describe your use case: annkroeker.com/contact