When I was in NYC at a blogger event a few weeks ago, I had the best time chatting with fellow bloggers about all of the ups and downs of blog-life. Whenever I get the chance to network with bloggers I have the best time — it’s a rare chance to get to pick the brains of others with similar challenges in writing content, making it a business, and figuring out how to manage it all with the other parts of our lives. One topic that we were discussing was all of the different ways we plan for our blog content and after hearing ideas from a few other creative ladies, I realized that this just might be a topic worth sharing here with some of my own tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over almost 8 years of blogging (yikes! I’m a blogger dinosaur!). Stay with me guys, it turns out I had a lot to say on this topic! img_5440GATHERING IDEAS. When people ask me what the hardest part of blogging is, it has to be keeping your momentum going and constantly coming up with fresh, new ideas. Especially after almost 8 years of blogging with topics that I hit on year after year like seasonal holidays, it can be a challenge to create new, inspired, innovative ideas. I have a few tricks up my sleeve though for gathering ideas for blog content.

#1 Capture inspiration when it strikes! I usually find inspiration for great Halloween ideas the day after Halloween, or great ideas for winter foods somewhere in the middle of summer, so I’m careful to capture those ideas when they strike and file them away for future content. It’s really refreshing when a new month starts and I have a few ideas already planned from inspiration I found months earlier.

#2 Start with the topic. My site is organized into different categories, so I try to find ways to add new content to each section over the course of the month. If the travel section is looking light, I might ask my husband if he wants to take a little day-trip adventure with me somewhere, or if I haven’t posted a home update in a while, I take a look around my house for projects I’ve been working on and prioritize them to get photographed for the site. Starting with the category first is a great prompt for inspiration.

#3 Think seasonally. This may sound obvious, but planning ahead for holidays and seasonal changes makes a big difference for quality blog content. For example, while it’s great to post a Christmas DIY the day before Christmas, chances are your readers won’t have time to recreate the project on their own, or run out and get the ingredients they need for a recipe if they see your post the day before the holiday. So I like to always take a look at the calendar for the month or two ahead to figure out what content I should be planning for. I write out a list of big seasonal events, themes, and even silly made-up social holidays like #nationalpastaday that I can plan content for (and repurpose older content in round-ups or re-share on social media!).

#4 Get off the Internet! I use Pinterest a lot to help me organize my ideas and inspiration, and spend an ungodly number of hours scrolling through social media feeds reading what other bloggers are doing. Sometimes all of those ideas funneling through my various social outlets can be almost paralyzing when looking for true inspiration. I find that I got a lot of my best inspiration offline: flipping through old magazines (my mom has never thrown a magazine out, she’s basically an archivist, which is so helpful for me!), take a stroll through the craft store, or ask my family for ideas. Sometimes my sister will email me and say “hey you know you haven’t posted about this recipe yet, can you put it up on your blog so I know how to make it at home?” My husband comes up with so many good ideas too, he’s a massive help when brainstorming for my brand content collaborations.

ORGANIZING YOUR PLANS. Once you have the ideas, great! What do you with all of that awesome inspiration that’s floating around in your brain? I have an absolutely terrible time remembering things unless I write them down (and in some cases, right them down in 3 different places and add reminders to my phone). I’ve honed in on a few techniques to help me keep it all organized so I can find a way to execute on those ideas.

#1 Get a big picture view. At the beginning of each year, I get an old-school monthly planner and use it to map out ideas for the entire year. I note major holidays, seasonal themes, and social media holidays I want to remember. If I get an idea in January about a summer BBQ recipe, I pencil it in for the month I’d likely post about it. As I roll into a new month, I take a look at what’s on the calendar and try to build out ideas and fill in the blanks with different topics that will get me to a final content calendar. I also work a lot with brands for content collaborations, so this helps me find dates to schedule in that content so it all flows smoothly with my other posts.

#2 Inspiration folders in many forms. I use tons of different resources to gather, organize, and store my inspiration for content. Pinterest is a great source for storing visual ideas, I use an old-school file folder to hold paper tear-outs that I reference monthly for post ideas, and I keep a “to be blogged” folder on my desktop with information about upcoming posts I need to tackle. If I have an idea or series of ideas that I’m working through but it’s not quite finished yet I use the sticky-note app on my MacBook to keep a running list of ideas that I can reference and keep adding to!

#3 Outlining drafts. Sometimes when the idea for a post pops into my head, the content structure can flow in at the same time. I grab a legal pad and try to outline the tips I want to share, or outline the structure of a larger post (like this one!). This technique is something I just started doing recently, and I find it really helpful once I sit down to write. I might have a rough outline of post about holiday entertaining that I keep in my notebook for 2-3 months before I write the post, and can add little notes to it as I think about the content over time.

STAYING ON TRACK. All of this planning is great, but when it comes time to execute on the projects, I need all of the help I can get to prioritize and stay focused on what needs to be accomplished. The best advice I can give bloggers for how to stay on schedule is to budget your time, plan-plan-plan, and give yourself a little bit of forgiveness and leeway when things don’t go to plan. I have a toolkit of resources I use to help myself with the budgeting and planning part of staying on schedule, and I’m working on that last part!

I swear by Meg Biram’s Get Shit Done Master List notepads! I tell everyone I can about them because they’ve truly changed how I organize my work and life. They’re divided into 6 sections and you can decide what goes into the boxes. I use the top box for my weekly schedule where I list big due dates and meetings and events. I use the next box for a list of upcoming posts – things that have to get posted that week, and upcoming ideas – things that I’ll likely post about soon. The third box I use for a list of projects and to-dos, which usually includes blog-contracts and pitches I need to send, emails I need to return, business tasks I need to tackle. The other three boxes I use for my day job and I keep a running list of all of the tasks I need to tackle in that part of my life. It helps me get a birds-eye view of everything going on in my week so I can plan each day accordingly. I keep the GSD pad in a pretty pad folio that also has a folder pocket for those post outlines I mentioned above, any inspiration tear outs I need for that week’s content, project assignments and contracts. Then each day I review the GSD pad and make a mini list with just the things that need to get done that day.

My other trick is to add reminders to my Google calendar where I block out time after work and on the weekends for certain posts, projects and deadlines. It keeps me focused and on track. Recently I’ve also started a spreadsheet I keep on my computer with a project tracker for all of my “open” blogger collaborations – this might be sponsored posts or event hosting or recipe development I’m doing with a brand or publication – and I keep a record of deadlines and next steps listed with each project to organize what’s coming down the pipeline!

I’m constantly evolving my techniques and figuring out new ways that work best for me to keep track of it all! Any tips out there from other bloggers for blog-planning? Share them with me, I’m all ears!