Plan Your Writing With an Editorial Calendar

I don’t know about you, but I don’t make much headway on goals by relying on my memory to execute my plans. If I do, I end up with random floundering and results.

After all these years, I still have trouble coming up with a daily plan of action every day. My intentions are good, but my execution is poor.

In order to overcome my randomness, I try to make my daily plans by the month and week.

And, if a writer is supposed to write every day, then the daily plan should include writing.

The Monthly Plan

As I review my annual goals and aspirations, I know that without some sort of plan, I’ll get to the end of my year with very little accomplished.

I am too easily distracted by shiny objects. My eye catches movement and my mind follows.

By establishing at least some vague plans for the months ahead, I’ll find myself wandering the aisles of my favorite hardware store instead of pounding my keyboard to complete a project.

I set up a theme for each of the coming 12 months. I expand that theme for the next three months. I take the next month and plot out the accomplishments for each of the weeks.

Now, for the upcoming week, I simply build a long to-do list. I know, a to-do list is passe’ and likely to make us feel bad about ourselves because we can’t get everything done.

Boo-Hoo. Too bad. How does it feel to not get anything done?

If I don’t have it marked down, it doesn’t exist. If it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t get done.

Now, every night when my brain reboots, I can wake to my pre-written memories of what I need to focus on this week.

I don’t have a rigid plan for the every day of the week. But, I don’t have to rely on me accidentally remembering what’s important. I can even chase a few shiny things knowing I can find my way back.

This list is more like the dream catcher, grass catcher, lock box of many other productivity programs. It’s different because it was drawn from a focus on the month instead of random, “Ooh ooh — that would be cool” ideas that I might never want to do.

What about writing every day? I use a Google Calendar reminder every day to write.

The Idea List

Part of my creativity exercise is to make lists of ideas, starting with 10 ideas every day. Like Alice, I can think of 10 impossible ideas before tea.

This idea exercise might allow me to harvest something good once in awhile. Those ideas can go onto my dream catcher list. The purpose isn’t so much to come up with useable ideas as it is to practice thinking and building a habit.

These are ideas, but not part of my theme. When I work on themes, I will review the idea lists and dream catcher for inspiration.

If you work on thinking of ideas every day, you will be exercising that creativity muscle for the times when you really need it.

Like for an important project.

The Editorial Calendar

For my writing projects, I have certain tasks to accomplish depending on the topic. There’s research, brainstorming, outlining, writing, editing, publishing, marketing — you know the list.

These tasks can’t go on the monthly list. They have to get done.

They also can’t rely on my random memories. They have to get done.

Get out my Google Calendar, and create a new one in my default calendar. I name it “Editorial.” It will appear alongside my default calendar, but I can also elect to show only it.

Writing project A is due several weeks from now. That date is my drop-dead to have the project all tied up with neat bows and to the client.

I know the writing will take several days. These go into the calendar.

Editing and final prep — into the calendar.

Research and brainstorming? You got it. Into the calendar.

If I want to get this project done, all I have to do is be a Pro and a good employee, and show up for work when the schedule says I should.

Amateurs wait for inspiration. Professionals get up and go to work anyway.

That’s my process, scattered and random, but mine. Productivity is an individual affair. Nothing will work for everyone. You have to try various approaches until you find something that works for you.

What productivity tools do you use to get the writing done?

By John Larson

John is an experienced small business owner, management consultant, project manager, and family man. John has been married since 1967 to the same beautiful bride. He has two sons and eight grandchildren. He makes his home in Carlton, Oregon, USA.

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