Creating A Content Calendar For Staying Sane In 2021

It feels exhausting to create content? Running out of ideas for future content? Do you feel like you’ve covered them all, with nothing further to add in your chosen niche?

I feel like that all the time and yet keep on producing content after content every week. Let me tell you how creating a content calendar can help to preserve your sanity, even in the most turbulent of times.

Creating a Content Calendar : Why?

A content calendar is a planned schedule for publishing content across different platforms on specific time-frames. For example, I publish each of my blog posts every Sunday at 23:16. No, that exact time doesn’t have any significance other than being a very interesting set of numbers. It just so happened that I posted my first blog post at 23:16 on a particular Sunday after first creating a content calendar myself and I decided to stick to that routine.

If you’re a content creator on the side, having a full-time job with full-fledged roles and responsibilities like myself, you’re bound to feel being always burnt out. More so if you’re doing it alone – hunting for content ideas, planning the content creation process, actually creating the content and then vigorously promoting your content. It’s not an easy job to do all of them on a regular basis. Believe me, it’s so much easier to just give up the idea of consistently producing content. In my relatively newer role as the sole manager of my website, ScribbleSquare, I felt like quitting certainly more than once already.

Creating a content calendar helps to reclaim your peace of mind. I just make a rough sketch of what to write, when to write and where to publish or send it after finishing and then work on creating the individual contents whenever I can work on them to finish them on time. ( I work as a freelance content writer also, so meeting the project deadlines is a very important factor.) That often means sleep-deprived nights after long and tiring days but also a soothing calming effect by always understanding the bigger picture in terms of where I am with respect to creating future content as well as a sense of accomplishment when finishing.

In a nutshell, creating a content calendar can :

  • help in organizing things for better control
  • make it easier to work with a team
  • make sure that nothing misses the deadline
  • give you a holistic view of your upcoming content
  • put all the content related tasks in a single place for better accessibility

Creating a Content Calendar : How?

From stand-alone desktop and mobile applications to the almighty spreadsheet or the more traditional yet powerful pen and paper version, you can create your content calendar in a manner that makes the most sense to you. Always keep in mind that you are the one who’ll use your content calendar to keep track of all your content. So don’t use anything unless you’re comfortable using it. Here let me tell you about my way of creating a content calendar and keeping up with it.

Personally I like to make a spreadsheet with all the important details about the basic content requirements and an attached date of publishing. Also I add some dates to the calendar for editing older posts on my blog. Once submitted, I can’t edit the content of my freelancing gigs. So I just put an ‘NA’ label next to them. Here’s one screenshot of my April’21 content calendar. It’s pretty much self-evident, still allow me to elaborate on the respective columns of the spreadsheet one by one.

creating a content calendar can be done with a simple spreadsheet application
Screenshot of the spreadsheet of my April’21 content calendar

Content Title

In the first column of the spreadsheet, I brainstorm and write the title of the content. It may be a post on my blog or a project from a client. I scribble some draft title capturing the essence of the post and then come back to edit and re-edit it again and again until I’m satisfied with it. ( But am I ever?) Almost no one succeeds in writing the perfect headline at the first or second go and I’m also no better at that. You just don’t have to hone your headline from the very first moment of creating a content calendar. There’ll always be room for further refining before publishing your content. The idea is to put some working title that describes your topic of the content.

In the content title section, brainstorm and jot down working title ideas for each content
In the content title section, brainstorm and jot down working title ideas for each content

Topic

If you can’t think about some working title to begin with, starting with your topic seems the obvious choice. You don’t have to think a lot about it. Instead, you can focus on your writing first.

When stuck with the title, start with just the topic of your content
When stuck with the title, start with just the topic of your content

Keyword/s

Sometimes my clients provide me with a list of keyword/s to rank for with their articles. Sometimes they do not. I always put some keywords in this column nevertheless. This way, it gives me a freedom to think and exercise SEO properly even before beginning on the article.

Think of some or all possible keywords you want your content to rank for
Think of some or all possible keywords you want your content to rank for

Est Word Count

Almost always the clients come up with the content length requirement. Even when they don’t, I always feel better by having a rough idea about how long my article is going to be. It also helps a lot while creating an outline for the content.

Having an estimated word count in the content calendar helps in better planning
Having an estimated word count in the content calendar helps in better planning

When

In this column, I put the expected date of submission or date of publishing for a particular content. I’ve never missed a deadline yet ( there! a little bragging never hurts anyone) and am pretty confident about never missing one in the future because I have this content calendar with me at all times, glancing through it several times a day, subconsciously planning one thing or other whenever time allows me.

Where

I use Notion for writing all of my articles. Having this “Where” section in my content calendar reminds me which article is for which platform : is it for one of my writing gigs or my own blog here at ScribbleSquare or some other publishing platform like Medium or LinkedIn. Some wise person once said,

“Keep your head blank and your notebook filled. You’ll achieve far more with this single practice than anything else. Just don’t forget to open your notebook from time to time.”

In my case, it is my content calendar in place of a notebook.

Published / Sent?

Once your articles are sent to the clients or published in your blog, you can put a happy little ‘y’ next to each of them to indicate your success. Those little ‘y’s will make your days brighter, nights calmer and your efforts more fulfilling. They tell you that you’re on the track and doing everything right. Most of the times this is uplifting in the most frustrating of times.

When to publish, where to publish and is the content published / sent to the client?
When to publish, where to publish and is the content published / sent to the client?

Editing

Here I set a date for future editing on each of my blog post. This is an important SEO strategy I learned from the HubSpot Certification program. I try to update my old posts on a regular basis. There may be some proofreading bits I previously overlooked, or some scope for further optimization, or some other improvement on the post. I do the necessary edits and set another date for doing the same in future in this column. That’s why those dates look like this in my content calendar. (See the next picture)

Editing Done?

Again the same trick of using them cheerful ‘y’s to make myself happy and proud that I’ve done the things I had put into my calendar.

Next Editing

I put the next date to edit a particular article, either on my blog or on Medium or LinkedIn after the previous editing has been done. This ensures constant editing to improve on my articles.

Include date of editing each content, a column indicating whether edited or not and also the next date when to edit the content again
Include date of editing each content, a column indicating whether edited or not and also the next date when to re-edit the content again

Creating a Content Calendar : Last Words

In this post, I tried to tell you what a content calendar is, why is it important for keeping the sanity in overwhelming times and how creating a content calendar helps me in keeping myself organized and effective. I’ve shared probably the simplest approach for creating a content calendar, i.e. a spreadsheet. But there are other dedicated tools for the same purpose.

  • Using Google Calendar on a smartphone itself can be sufficient for solo bloggers and freelancers.
  • For those working on a collaborative approach, tools like Google Sheets (starts at 125Rs/month/user), Slack (unlimited free trials for small teams) or Asana (starts at free forever plans for teams with up to 15 members) can be very good options.

Also, you can add or remove any sections to or from your content calendar as per your requirements and comfort. For example, some content creators have separate sections in their content calendars for site-wide content audits or promotional activities. Feel free to mold this to a style that best fits your needs.

That’s all for today. Have a very happy week and create your own content calendars to stay organized and stress-free.

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