If you are into bullet journaling, you’ll love this post. I’m going to show you how I plan 3 months’ worth of blog content in my bullet journal, so I’ll always know what to write about.
You won’t need anything fancy, just your journal and a pen (more about the tools I used a bit later). Or you can skip the journal and use the free, printable worksheets I made for you.
Let’s get rollin’!
WHY BULLET JOURNALING?
I’m a notebook hoarder. My beautiful, turquoise Leuchtturm1917 journals are starting to fill up a big chunk of my office shelves. And there’s a good reason for my addiction: writing things down helps me bring out my analytic side. A side that likes hiding somewhere unknown pretty much all the time…
So if you have the same problems - focusing on planning, being strategic, creating order - I highly recommend you to write things down and work on paper first. And only go digital after your ideas starts to take a clearer form.
As for blog planning I use both my bullet journal and a digital app (Asana, more on that in an upcoming post). I form my initial plan on paper and then play around more with the order of the posts and headline ideas in Asana.
TOOLS I USE IN THIS POST
You’ll need only very basic tools:
- An A5 size, dotted Leuchtturm1917 journal: I like the dotted because the little dots give me guidance for drawing straight lines and measure out sections.
- Black Prismacolor Fine Line Markers in 0.5 or 0.8 size: I prefer the thicker markers because they give more defined lines. However you can be fine with something thinner (like 0.1 or 0.3). I like Prismacolor because it has a very rich black, and when completely dried, I can color over them with simple Crayola markers without smudging my text.
- Crayola Color Markers in your favorite colors (optional): if you plan to use color coding or color some blocks of text, these are effective and super cheap. Actually, the expensive color markers (e.g. Copic), would bleed through the paper, so I don’t use them for bullet journaling.
- Any decoration you use in your bullet journal (optional): I don’t add any decoration to my blog planning bullet journal pages, but if you want, go ahead. Washi tapes, stickers, stamps are great for this. Find inspiration on Pinterest if you are new to the bullet journal game.
STEP 1 - BRAINDUMP
I start with a blog topic idea braindump. I grab a sheet of cheap paper and write down all of them. I scroll through my OneNote too, where I saved a “blog topic idea list”. I usually have enough inspiration in this list to get my creative juices flowing.
You can also do this brainstorming in your bullet journal. But be prepared that it can get messy. You might cross things through, divide ideas or rewrite them. If you are keen on how your bullet journal looks, I recommend to use just simple copy paper and bring only your best ideas into your journal.
In this phase, ask yourself:
- What are my upcoming promotions, what products or services do I want to feature in my posts?
- Is there any big announcement - about my business, shop or even my personal life - that I want to share in the next 3 months?
- What does my ICA (Ideal Customer Avatar) needs - in general and also specific to the coming 3 months? For example, they might be more open for action-packed, self development focused posts when the new year starts, and more laid-back and entertaining posts during the summer months.
- What important dates are coming that I can create posts for? Mother’s Day, Black Friday, New Year, etc. are just a few examples.
- Am I going to make any interviews, have guest bloggers?
- What are my interests, what would I like to blog about to inspire and engage my audience?
- Are there any requests from my followers or clients? Or even, are there frequently asked questions that I can answer in a post?
- What do others in my profession blog about that I have a different view on or can elaborate on?
- What are the obstacles I’ve got through, the tools that helped me on my journey, the events, organizations, courses and books I would recommend to my ICA?
Write down everything on your sheet(s) of paper. If a topic feels to complex, break it down. Don’t forget, as I wrote in the 13 Rules of Blog Planning, one post must answer only one question.
STEP 2 - PICK THE BEST IDEAS
You should aim to have at least 20 ideas, but if you can maker 30, that’s even better. Now, you can start picking the best 12-13 for the next 3 months.
In order to decide which ones are the best ideas, ask yourself:
Does this helps my ICA solve a pain point? OR Does this inspires my ICA to grow and step forward in her journey?
Can I highlight my product as one of the solutions to my ICA’s problem?
Can I add a relevant freebie / content upgrade to make people opt-in to my list?
Does this posts help me gain more traffic / followers / sales / fans / trust from readers?
Does this post idea interest me, and fire me up to grab my laptop and start writing?
When you can answer with yes to most of this questions, you have a good blog post idea. Circle the best 12-13.
And what about those ideas that didn’t make it into the 12-13 winners? Keep those too in your “blog topic idea” list in Evernote, OneNote or any other note taking app. You can also make a blog topic idea list in your bullet journal and transfer them there. They’ll be useful later.
STEP 3 - FILL THE BLOG PLANNING SHEET
Now this is where we get to our bullet journals. Here’s how I set up my 3 months long blog content planning pages:
#1 - Calendar
I like to copy here the monthly view of the next quarter or season. Of course, I could refer back to my phone or any digital calendar, but it’s nicer to see everything on one page. This way I see when are we going to have public holidays - no work on those days because my son is at home - and I can plan accordingly.
You can use colors to highlight important dates or holidays, just don’t forget to include a section somewhere on the page where you remind yourself which color refers to what.
#2 - Product launch dates
This section is important so that you can plan blog posts that help promoting your newest products or services.
You might have only a few launches so no need to use up all the lines. My products are on the cheaper side and I can make at least 4 per month if I plan well - that’s why mine is full. If you have one huge launch, you can fill this section with your big milestones and different promotions that lead to this one big product.
If you work entirely with one on one clients and already know part of your schedule, you can add your project due dates to this section.
The key is, have an overview of what you want to sell and plan your blog content accordingly.
#3 - Freebies
I have monthly freebies that I give away for my subscribers and I like to add them here. You can also put here other important dates, for example Black Friday or Christmas if you plan any promotions.
#4 - Symbols
You can use this section to remind yourself of the symbols and abbreviations you use on this blog planning sheet. For me, these are usually very simple. For example:
B for Branding related posts,
D for Design related posts,
M for Marketing related posts
I for Inspirational posts
P for Productivity posts
+ sign for content upgrades,
! for research-heavy posts, etc.
♡ for posts where I can feature one of my products
You can use entirely different symbols or skip this section altogether if you think you’ll remember to them anyway - I forget things all the time so I must add them.
#5 - Blog Posts
On the right side of the sheet you can start inserting in your blog post ideas. Remember:
- No need to have the perfect headline yet. Just add a working title that will remind you to the topic
- Don’t stress about the order. If something comes up and you want to skip, cancel or reorganize posts you’ll be able to do that in Asana. I personally use my bullet journal as an initial direction and have my final editorial calendar in Asana.
- If you’d like it to be perfect, write with pencil first and only ink in if you are comfortable with your plan
#6 - Category Boxes
You see the little rectangles right next to each blog post entry? Those are for your symbols. Now you can define what category the post will be in and whether it will have a content upgrade or promote a product.
#7 - Next steps / tasks
Last but not least, I like to leave a short section for next steps. For example:
Add the posts to the calendar - in my case, it’s Asana and my planner
Start researching a topic that you need more info on
Share the plan with an accountability buddy
Do a little happy dance ‘cause you’re done with the hardest part of your blog content planning
You can add any tasks you wish but don’t forget the little checkboxes. The fun and most satisfying part is when you can finally check them. Yay!
STEP 4 - FILL THE BLOG POST DRAFTING SHEETS WITH YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS
Many times you have concrete ideas about a blog post you add to your plan. You might have a great story that could be used as an intro or have a superb content upgrade idea.
That’s why I love to add my Blog Post Drafting pages right after my Blog Planning Page in my bullet journal. I usually don’t fill all of them at this time - rather when I get to work on the posts - but I add these initial ideas so I won’t forget about them.
Here’s how it looks:
#1 - Date
This is when the post goes live on your blog.
You don’t have to fill it right at the planning phase. I usually fill it at the beginning of my blog batching days, when I work on 4-6 posts at the same time for 1-2 weeks.
#2 - Title Options
You can put here your working title and any initial headline ideas that are more attention grabbing.
#3 - Checkbox
Oh the plain old checkbox… I love to add it so that I can check it out when the post is done and went live. As you can see I find great satisfaction in checking out tasks that are done. You can skip it though.
#4 - Meta data
You can put here all the extra data for the post:
Keyword ideas for SEO that you want to research in the Google Keyword Tool
Blog categories where the post will belong
Blog type so that you remember if you have to schedule video or podcast recording
#5 - ICA’s Pain Points
This is where you can write information about your ICA. What is her biggest struggle when it comes to this blog topic? What would help her? What is her interest or dream?
This will help you put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes and start thinking from her view point.
#6 - Main Message
You can write here the one main question that you’re going to answer and the one main take-away the reader will get from reading your blog post.
This section was really important for me because I tend to write too long posts. The one question method helps me decide if something should belong to another post. Like here, I was thinking to include the Asana blog scheduling, but I realized that’s a completely different method, and tool than your bullet journal. So I separated it into an upcoming episode.
#7 - Feature
This is the section where you can put a list of products, affiliate links, freebies or other resources that you want to promote in your blog post - but only if it’s relevant to the topic.
#8 - Story
This is the section where you can jot down a reminder of a relevant story that would make the post more personal and entertaining.
I usually have story ideas during blog planning so I fill these sections very early, before starting to work on the post.
#9 - Key Points
This is the section where you can make a draft structure. This will remind you of all the little parts you want to add when you sit down to write the post.
#10 - Content Upgrade
This is the section where you can include notes on any content upgrade / freebie ideas that the reader can grab after opting in. These content ideas must be relevant to the blog post and help the reader further solve her problem (that you included in the ICA’s Pain Points section).
I usually fill this section early because I have many content upgrade ideas when planning my upcoming posts and I don’t want to forget about them.
STEP 5 - GO DIGITAL
As great as a bullet journal can be, I think that you must go digital to get true flexibility. As I mentioned, I use Asana for this which is a beautifully designed, free project management tool. But you can use Outlook, Google Calendar or any other calendar / project management tool.
I will show you how I use Asana in an upcoming post so stay tuned!
GET YOUR WORKSHEETS AND START PLANNING
Now you have two choices: you can grab your journal and use the above methods - and your other preferences - to draw your own blog planning and drafting sheets or you can download ready-made ones that I’ve just created for you.
These ready-made blog planning and blog post drafting sheets are beautifully designed. They come in turquoise or purple colors and have all the sections I’ve just listed in this post. You can print them and keep them in a regular letter size binder or folder.