It’s about Time: On Editorial Calendars (and Why You Might Need One)

When it comes to building a healthy following, nothing is more important than publishing quality content regularly. Keeping a steady pace…

When it comes to building a healthy following, nothing is more important than publishing quality content regularly. Keeping a steady pace isn’t always easy, though.

Most of us have work, school, family, and friends (or any combination of the above) to juggle. Some of us even like spending a few hours (minutes?) a day away from a screen. All of which often means that blogging goes down the priority ladder. Can an editorial calendar help you navigate a hectic schedule? Here are some points to consider.

do you need an editorial calendar?

For many of us, blogging is a way to express ourselves and interact with others during our free time. The idea of setting deadlines and making plans can easily put off those of us who do it for the sheer fun of it, on our own loose schedule (whenever the kids/boss/dogs/cats/baseball playoffs allow it). And that’s absolutely fine.

The great thing about editorial calendars is that they can be as detailed or vague, as rigorous or elastic, as you see fit.

Other bloggers make significant strides in gaining traction by having a plan in place; for group blogs, some form of scheduling is all but necessary.

Whatever your needs, the great thing about editorial calendars is that they can be as detailed or vague, as rigorous or elastic, as you see fit.

For some, publishing twice a week (or once a month, or every day, or… you get the point) is already a calendar of sorts. Many bloggers build a foundation for a calendar when they introduce a regularly scheduled feature mixed in with off-the-cuff material. Making any pact with yourself about the regular rhythm of your posts is a huge step beyond the “whatever, whenever” of having no plan whatsoever.

scheduling: a procrastinator’s best friend

An editorial calendar allows you to plan in advance and allocate your limited time wisely. Let’s say you plan your blog monthly: you might already know that on the second weekend of the month you’ll be offline for a wedding, and that an important deadline is coming up at the end of the month.

A calendar allows you, first, to start writing in advance. Since you can pre-schedule the publication of your posts, you’re done once you’re pleased with your draft. Your blog will take care of the rest while you’re dancing (or working) the night away.

Second, a calendar lets you make smart decisions about the mix and the timing of the posts you want to publish. A busy week? Why not schedule posts that are shorter or easier to write. More free time? You can finally dive into that long essay on the history of Korean BBQ you’ve been meaning to start.

In other words, you can (and should!) play around with the types of posts you publish, giving your audience time to digest your meatier content by punctuating long, serious posts with shorter and lighter fare.

the stats-driven calendar

Once you’ve been blogging for a while and have a bit of a track record, designing a calendar becomes even more important (and can yield even bigger dividends). You should consider examining and analyzing your stats, then take your content planning to the next level. When you know what your most popular posts are, on the one hand, and what your strongest traffic days are, on the other, you can start maximizing on the patterns you detect.

The idea is to identify your blog’s core audience and serve it the content it came looking for, but not to stop to testing out new features that might expand and deepen your blog’s appeal.

For example, try combining a popular topic with a high-traffic day to expose as many readers as possible to your strongest content.

On softer days, you could experiment with a new type of post you’ve been thinking about, or go with an interactive feature (like a post with a poll, or a blogging event) to focus on higher engagement among your visitors.

The idea is to identify your blog’s core audience and serve it the content it came looking for, but also to keep testing out new features that might expand and deepen your blog’s appeal.

“Calendar.” I like the sound of it. Now what?

Regardless of the kind of blog you keep, here are some editorial calendar-building pointers you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Go visual: if it’s only in your head, it’s not really a calendar. Use your smartphone’s calendar app, or a note-making tool like Simplenote. Get any of the many templates available online. Or go old school with pen and paper. Having an actual document will help you to keep track of your progress (and to make changes when you need to).
  • Be realistic: it’s better to schedule two posts a week that you know you’ll publish on time, than a daily post you’ll miss three days out of seven.
  • Budget in time for interaction: Consider the time you’ll want to spend responding to your audience. Don’t schedule a post that’s likely to generate a lot of discussion if you know you won’t be able to moderate and respond to comments.
  • A calendar’s not just a plan, but also a record: Once you’ve crossed off the week’s/month’s/year’s scheduled posts (great job!), don’t toss away your plan. Go over it and try to detect long-term trends: what posts did you most enjoy publishing? What kind of content elicited the strongest reactions from your visitors? Planning will be easier once you rely on actual data rather than gut feeling alone.
  • A calendar is not only for publication dates: create a space in your calendar for thoughts that haven’t yet matured into fully-formed post ideas. Keeping an inventory of these can pay off whenever you’re having a moment of writer’s block, or need to change plans quickly. It’ll also make it easier to create future calendars, as you’ll never be starting from scratch.

A good calendar is a flexible one

While having a schedule in place is often useful, having one that’s too rigid can backfire. A predetermined calendar leaving you with no leeway can fast become a fun-killing distraction (and bloggers who don’t enjoy maintaining their blogs, don’t).

Time for an impromptu post? Plan for the unexpected by not over–planning.

Practically, too, having some wiggle room is important. Keeping a day open, here and there, gives you the space to write spontaneously and publish time-sensitive content your readers might be eager to read.

Did your team just win a big game? Did your partner just propose? Did you just accidentally bake the best chocolate chip cookie in recorded human history? Time for an impromptu post! In other words, plan for the unexpected by not over-planning.

Do you have a content plan or an editorial calendar? How do you go about building it? What are the most useful tips you can give other bloggers? Please share your insight with us!

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  1. I intend to post daily at the moment, I am a new blogger so I feel need to in order to establish myself. Anyway I write for the joy it so it’s not a chore…yet!

    1. Keeping a calendar and having a plan can actually help prevent blogging from becoming a chore — which it should never be.

  2. I don’t plan, I just need to get it out.
    But I also think that in order to become a more established blog, I’ll need to deliver value to my readers and perhaps plan some good blog posts

  3. I could definitely do with an editorial calendar. I’ve been struggling to update regularly lately, and every time I think I’m back on track, something else comes along and throws me all off course. Thanks for the tips, I will try to put them into practice… :)

    1. They are blockquotes with a smidgen of extra html code (do note, though, that blockquotes look different depending on the theme you’re using).

      1. Blockquotes are available in all themes in the visual editor, you just need to highlight the desired text and click the quotation mark icon.

        The breakout quote effect in this post (the text box you mention) is specific to this blog’s theme.

  4. I committed to a post a day on Jan 1st 2013 – fortunately I have succeeded even though I have been on vacation in another country and had to deal with my Mother’s death as well as a full time job and other commitments during this time. I draft posts ahead of time, which has helped me a lot. My inspiration is a word of the day desk diary.
    Thanks for sharing your tips.

  5. So simple, yet brilliant! I’ve been wanting to set up a “schedule” that takes my writing time beyond the Daily Prompt; trying to actually find something that works has been overwhelming. However, you gave me some different perspectives to view it from and I think I’ve got a plan. Thanks! :) (BTW – If not for the Daily Prompt I’d probably still be the “whatever, whenever” type.)

    1. I’m glad this helps — of course, following the Daily Prompt is itself an absolutely acceptable plan!

  6. Kudos to my blogging partner @sojo1913 who realized we needed a calendar when we started our blog in June. It looks like we’ve taken many of the things you discuss into account.

    1. Great to hear! And yes, with two people’s schedules in play, a calendar becomes more or less a necessity.

  7. Since joining WordPress, on July 23rd, I have kept to a pretty regular schedule, writing at least one post a day. Having said that, I have taken a couple of days off! This kind of discipline comes easily to me because I have been keeping a journal for the past forty one years, so the writing habit is part of who I am.
    I do try and respond to other people’s posts as quickly, and sensitively, as I can – because sharing yourself through words can induce great feelings of anxiety.
    If I were still teaching, I suspect I would find it FAR harder to write; in fact, I know I would because, for the thirty years of my teaching career, I wrote far less than I have in the past fifteen months. Ironic, eh?!
    I think your ideas are great, particularly for those who do juggle writing with work. Thank you.

    1. You ask yourself, who are you blogging for, yourself or for others. I do it for myself, to keep my mind occupied. If people like my blogs and read them then thats a bonus. I know some survive and even need people on their blogs to make a living. I just like to read, interact and write. :-)

  8. I keep my ideas for future posts right inside my blog. How? you ask.

    Simple, it’s a draft post where I can cross off the posts I’ve done and of course it will NEVER be published!

    I’m also a big believer in starting drafts even when it’s not practical to find the photos or scans that I plan to add. I’ll just put for example:

    Here are the blue blocks I’ve made for the baby quilt [PHOTO]
    My buddy Suzy Quilter’s log cabin quilt [LINK] inspired me to try this

    Then later on when I’m feeling more detail oriented it’s a snap to go back in and edit to include that material. Also I usually catch a typo or three!

  9. I have a poetry blog, which relies a lot on spontaneity. However, these are great tips that I know I can implement. Although I don’t plan ahead yet, I do have several drafts that I am working on, and that is key for me.

    When I used to be the features editor of my college newspaper, our editor in chief told us to brainstorm a huge list of story ideas the first week. My team and i came up with with 30 – 40 story ideas which were really helpful to tap into during the school year when we really needed stories to fill our pages.

    I suggest doing the same for your blog, whether you have a long form post (essay) or poetry blog. Anytime you get an idea for a topic that you would like to explore, start a draft. That way if you come across an image or all of the sudden something inspires you to write about it, you have a head start.

    The next logical step then is to finish a couple of posts and then schedule them throughout the week. Definitely leave some space between your posts and tag them accordingly so they can be found!

  10. Thanks for this post! I recently set up an editorial calendar for my blog two weeks ago and have found that keeping to a schedule has been really helpful. Currently, I have a theme for each day of the week (such as “Travel Tuesday” and “Wedding Wednesday”) and post daily on weekdays. I also get the not being too rigid part; I used to schedule a post every day but found that having to post on weekends was too taxing and also I wanted to leave room for spontaneity :)

  11. I do put a reminder on my phone to remind me everyday to blog (not that I need reminding). I think it also helps to add what topics you’d like to blog about as that will mentally prepare you for your blog. Sometimes I change topics, but it’s nice to know ahead of time so that I can at least think about it.

  12. I don’t really have anything to add to the conversation, just wanted to point out that the key in the top picture appears to be a timelock winding key, and as an antique safe and vault geek, I heartily approve.

  13. I created a calendar on my smart phone immediately after starting my blog! That’s just because I’m the kind of person who needs things to be scheduled or else I feel like I will forget something. Scheduling makes my blogging life so much more enjoyable.

  14. I’ve got a calendar (with alerted reminders) to write and post my twice-weekly blogs and it works really well. For me, it’s the only way to discipline myself. Otherwise, life just takes over!

  15. you are absolutely right. I just started and at times i feel that i need to organize my practice to make sure I stay on top of it all. Thanks for the tip!

  16. That’s a really good point. I just started blogging, and it seems like I could just write for days. But, I can’t let myself do that. I have so many thoughts, but if I write about everything, I’ll run out of things! If anyone has time, take a look at mine and let me know what you think!

  17. Wow! I was just thinking about this a couple of days ago. I don’t like to abandon my blog for long, so I try to keep a consistent schedule. I currently only have one “feature” if you may call it so, which I post on Mondays and Thursdays. I schedule many posts beforehand, sometimes ten or more. They keep the blog going for a couple of months, and I post other things as they come in the middle. . . or not.
    I know I need to make more effort towards the blog, and I am working on it.

    Check my blog out?

  18. Great post as ever. Does anyone have any thoughts about the best frequency for posts? I’m pretty disciplined about posting once a week but wonder whether this is enough (or maybe too much!) would love to hear what people think. Cheers Lindsey

    1. I’d say there really isn’t any absolute rule. ‘The more frequently the better’ is a common answer. While generally true, there’s also value in letting some material stay at the top of your page for more a little while, especially if it’s a particularly strong or meaty post. Ultimately, if once a week is as frequent as you feel comfortable committing to, that’s great — it’s far better to have one solid post a week than to leave visitors hanging for weeks on end.

  19. I created an editorial calendar for my main blog just a month and a half ago, and I can see good results. The discipline of having my plans down on paper – like “5 posts a week” – has led to a significant increase in readership. I have also established daily and weekly goals for commenting on other blogs, scheduling interviews, and covering events. I tried using other people’s electronic templates, but none were satisfactory to me. Pen & paper do the trick. As I work to turn my “vanity” blog into something more substantial, I’m finding that the editorial calendar is a good tool.

  20. Thanks for the advice! I just started blogging and I have been wondering if making a schedule would make things a little easier! After reading this I am definitely going to try it!

    1. That’s a neat idea! At the moment we don’t have such a tool, though you could use the Milestone Widget creatively to a similar end — i.e. alerting your readers to when your next post will be up (and forcing you, in a way, to keep your end of the deal…)

  21. I set myself a modest goal of a thousand words a month and over the last year I have kept myself to it. Doesn’t see a lot but with work, family a monthly article for a local journal, and Uni it was what I felt I could achieve and I have!

  22. Well this is the exact kick I needed in the rear end to get me started. The problem I have though is that my blog is in a difficult category “spirituality” so to attract more readers I have to constantly keep up with daily news and try to tie them into my themes. Thanks for the tips though.

  23. I only like to post to my blog if it’s quality writing and relevant/good photos. Sure I’m impressed by other bloggers who blog more frequently than I (I blog-publish once per month or at most 2 times per month).

    But I am also mindful of my regular readers too who have their own responsibilities, lives and schedules. I cannot expect readers to have time to read a lot of my stuff. I would be truly hard pressed to believe they would even read my stuff regularily if I posted more often each month. I don’t just post 1 photo on a blog post and that’s it.

    I do craft blog posts when the Muse strikes me and do advance pre-scheduling for blog publishing. It’s helpful because our personal lives throw curve balls –a family death, vacation, etc. when it’s sometimes hard for our brains and willpower to even want to blog at all. Pre-scheduled new blog posts set on publishing schedule has been very helpful to me.

  24. Great ideas! My posts are sporadic at best, mainly because I write longhand during my morning commute and get sidetracked with typing them in. I may need to make appts with myself to get material in WordPress, and also make one out of two posts shorter ones. I also write stories on post-it notes. Thanks!

  25. Love this topic! When I first started blogging I would write whenever I felt like it, mainly because I felt like I needed to build a list of book reviews up before I could post less often. I am quite scared of the “chore” element of blogging and have set a clear schedule for posts and find that it works well because I can pre-write posts and schedule them and then daily life doesn’t affect it. Does this work long-term though in your experience?

  26. I have two blogs so a regular post once a week on each is enough to keep up with. I also like to take part in the Weekly Photo Challenge every weekend. I like being able to get ahead with scheduling, especially when I have plenty of ideas brewing. When we are away on a holiday I schedule all my posts for both blogs so I don’t have to worry about keeping up while we are travelling.

  27. I try to post regularly but does the time you schedule a post also important? I tend to make mine live at 4pm, there was no particular reason for this time but I figured as well as a regular date, I also need to post ate regular time (mostly). But I am not sure if the time you post is important too.

      1. In my case, most of all of my followers are facebook friends who I know personally. So we all live in the same time zone. However, you make a valid point because if I gain followers from other parts of the world, timing will get complicated. But, I guess that is where email notifications come in handy for those who might have missed your post! :)

    1. That’s a great question. While there’s only so much you can do — your readers might be spread around the world — you could still aim for an hour when it’s likely at least a major group of readers are likely to tune in.

      Think of your audience: if you’re writing a parenting blog on the East Coast, when is it most likely fellow parents will have time to read your blog? If you’re running a travel blog while backpacking through Africa, does it make sense to anchor your posts to a regular time at your home country?

      With these kinds of questions in mind, you can at least zone in on something reasonable. And, ultimately, some trial and error never hurt: you can test a couple of different times and see if you can detect any shift in readership.

  28. I try to post every week to keep my blog updated regularly. Once I get my photo skills where I need them to be, I have planned to increase my post to at least 3 times a week. I have had other blogs that did amazing with traffic and my current one is struggling so building a healthy following is at the forefront of my mind.

  29. I post nearly every day, but the hinge upon which my blog swings is my Wednesday feature, Breaking the Silence of Stigma/Voices of Mental Illness. Each Wednesday I interview a fellow blogger from the immense Mental Health blogging community. I provide the interviewee with a set of questions from which s/he can pick and choose, answer outright, or use as a guide for a personal essay. I’ve also had several wonderful pieces from people who chose not to use the interview format, including a powerful letter from a mother whose daughter unexpectedly committed suicide, apparently “out of the blue.” My Wednesday feature keeps me grounded, while my current serial, “Riding For My Life,” a memoir told via my “horse life,” gives me free rein (sorry, couldn’t help that ;-) )to gallop wherever my memoirist voice wants to go.

  30. Funny you should mention this. Two days ago I jotted down a writing schedule for my three blogs– two of which have not yet been conceived. My current blog is a re-start from last year and while I don’t have a schedule, I’ve been trying to post on a regular basis. I was surprised, though, when I went back and checked the calendars since July. I’ve only posted sixteen times each month. A good reason to set up an editorial calendar.
    I’m waiting to get the final okay from a publication that would like me to write about addiction and I have an idea to start another blog with that would cover a narrower topic and possibly draw a larger audience. But I’m wondering if I might be biting off too much with all of that.
    Life just gets in the way! Sometimes I wish I could lock myself away in a little cabin somewhere and write all day long.
    Maybe when I retire.

  31. My blog is mainly an idea if things to do as a dad in Singapore. I have set myself a schedule of:
    Fri – digest
    With the digest being short notes about stuff but it has evolved into having a theam each week
    I have missed days but don’t beat myself up and I also maintain a list upcoming posts just in notes on my phone
    Recently I have re-blogged a post and also put in a picture post but will try and restrict the re-blogging to a max of 1 in 10 posts and the pics we will see.
    So far it’s working for me but using the stats is something I need to work on as I don’t plan my type of post (except the digest) by day.

  32. Thank you, I find this post very useful. As the purpose of my newly created blog is self-teaching, these tips will help me in organizing my studying process as well as regular blogging.