Chaos theory. Jeff Goldblum used it in Jurassic Park to describe the wildly unpredictable actions of Mother Nature. He easily could have been talking about my organizationsl skills, though.
I write. A lot. Yes, I try to blog here daily or at least three or four times a week. But I also do a lot of freelance writing. That means I have deadlines. Lots of deadlines.
You’d think by now I’d have set up a decent schedule. And knowing how i live in an online world (Google Docs are my best friend!), I must be using the coolest apps to keep tabs on everything and make sure I never miss a deadline, right? Wrong.
Yes, I put deadlines in my Google Calendar. Sometimes. But for the most part, I go old school with everything, especially all my blog assignments. Yeah, I jot down the name of the assignment on a yellow Post-It note and stick it right on my monitor. It’s pretty sad but here’s a look at my “scheduler.”
See, the two of them run Top Mom Blogger, a fantastic resource for bloggers both new and old. If you’re just breaking into blogging, stop reading now and head over there immediately. You won’t regret it.
Anyways, the two also put together a pretty unique and much-needed product called The Blogging Planner. I’d seen them talk about it before and said I’d want to try it out one day, as I could certainly use the help. Recently, Trisha offered to send me a copy to review, so I jumped at the chance.
Let me start by saying, I rarely use any kind of scheduler. I’m terrible. I’ve held many jobs as a Managing Editor where I’ve made all sorts of schedules, but even then, I’d rarely use a calendar. I’m hoping that’s all about to change.
I’ll be honest. Before I even opened the Blogging Planner, I figured it was going to be a small monthly calendar with lots of blank pages and areas to jot down notes. Nothing wrong with that and that would’ve certainly sufficed in terms of what I need it for. But when I finally cracked the cover, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Blogging Planner is exactly what its name says: it helps you plan for your blog. That includes ideas, giveaways, reviews, sponsored posts, holidays, contacts, blogging events, etc. Yes it includes a calendar (both a monthly and a weekly) but that’s only a small portion.
First, coming from a print background, I have to discuss the physical product. It’s a great size, much bigger than I expected. Like a large spiral bound notebook, but a really thick spiral notebook. Second, the pages are thicker than you’d expect. They’re super easy to write in, which is definitely something you want in a planner. Too thin and your pen’d go right through the paper. So physically, the book’s a really solid item.
The first few pages of The Blogging Planner talk about how to get the most out of the planner itself. Then the book is divided up into a number of different sections. The bulk of it being the actual planning section that consists of a two-page monthly calendar spread, notes page for that month, a weekly breakdown of days, expenses, etc. Each section is duplicated enough time to cover all the days in a month, and then that entire section is duplicated to cover the year.
The really nice thing about the calendars is that no dates are listed at all. There are just blank squares for you to fill in the month and days. That means you don’t need to toss this thing out on January 1 and buy a whole new one! It also means you can buy it now and give it to a friend any day or month of the year.
I’ve been blogging for over a year now and doing freelance writing for more than 10 years. So a number of the sections in here just don’t really apply to me. The one thing I am good at is keeping a detailed spreadsheet of all my assignments in terms of pay. I need all of that for tax purposes, and since it’s a large volume of work, a spreadsheet just works for me. But if you’re just starting out or only handle a small amount of paid posts each week, you can (and should!) definitely take advantage of the weekly and monthly finance sections.
The fact that I won’t use everything in here is actually a testament to how good the Blogging Planner is. A what what now? Just think about it. It has everything a blogging newb would need to get started and build up their site. But it also has enough good stuff in there to keep a veteran blogger or writer organized. I guess I’m saying that I personally just don’t need all the bells and whistles in here, but it’s great that they’re in here for those that could use them.
So what exactly do I use in here?
The Monthly Calendars – This is by far the most helpful piece for me. At a quick glance, I can easily map out the month and see how everything falls out timewise. My freelance writing assignments, paid posts, reviews, giveaways, events, as well as any vacations or family committments. That way I can actually plan ahead (gasp!) to make sure I’m not surprised by a deadline the day something is due and I’m stuck out of town.
Monthly Focus Brainstorming – I’m always coming up with ideas for unique blog posts. And many times, that’s all I do. Just come up with them. I like the way each monthly calendar kicks off with a page letting you jot down your goals. This way, I can put down those ideas that have been rattling around my head for weeks or months, and finally put a date to them. That helps get them out of my head and onto my blog.
Monthly Focus Assessment – Nobody likes criticism, but to be a blogger, you’ve got to have thick skin. There’s way too many useless trolls out there with nothing better to do than shoot you down. Anyways, I love how I get to basically critique my previous month’s work in this section by thinking about some fantastically helpful questions like: What worked the best? What didn’t work at all? What’s a goal for next month? Etc.
Contacts – As an old-school writer I actually still have my ol’ rolodex. I’m talking about the physical rolodex that sits on your desk with a separate card for each contact. I don’t use it, but I still have it. No, I have my contacts all over the place from gmail, spreadsheets and a big stack of business cards in my desk. I certainly can (and should) be more organized with this. The various Contact pages near the back of the book can force me to organize my blogging contacts much better and jot down important contact information.
It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve started using The Blogging Planner, but it’s already started to help make me a way more organized blogger. I’m an old dog, so it’s certainly going to take some time for these “new tricks” to sink in, but once I get into a groove, I can see this really helping me stay on top of all my work better. The only minor suggestion I’d have for the next upgrade to the books is to add a series of tabs to each section. Since the book is broken up by months, a tab at the start of each month would make it super easy to flip to the right page a.s.a.p.
If you’re just starting out in blogging, having one of these is so worth the investment. They’d also make a great gift for any blogger friends of yours.
The Blogging Planner is available in two sizes: Travel (8.5″ x 5.5″) and Executive (11″ x 8.5″)
The Blogging Planner
The Ultimate Time Management and Organization Tool For All Bloggers!