How to Create an Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar helps you plan your content creation. It tells you (and anyone you work with) what kind of content you will create and when it will be published.

Basic steps for creating an editorial calendar

If you have never planned out your content, here are some things to consider:

  1. List the places you want to publish content. This might be posts on your blog, videos on YouTube, email blasts or regular newsletters to your list, updates to social media, etc.
  2. Decide how often you will publish in each place.
  3. Choose the main topics you will cover in each.
  4. Set up a basic weekly schedule outlining what gets published, on which platform(s) and on what days and times.
  5. Block out time on your schedule to create the content.
  6. As it’s created, publish it or schedule it to be published.
  7. Keep a notebook or app handy to jot down notes with ideas.

How I put together the Useletter (a case study)

I have been sending out the Useletter every Saturday since June 2013. Since it is my main piece of content, I thought I would use it as an example of how I create content.

Many people have asked me how I find and organize the tips I share.

Can’t see the video? Watch it here.

Here’s my basic process:

  1. Consume LOTS of content. My sources include podcasts, blog posts, YouTube videos, newsletters, ebooks, books, social media or whatever else I can find. I funnel most of it into Feedly.
  2. Organize the content as I consume. I try to organize all incoming info into categories in Feedly, but…that system works a lot better in my head. As I’m reading, I save anything Useletter-worthy in Evernote (referral link). I have tags in Evernote corresponding to the basic topics I share in the Useletter and tag things as I go.
  3. Write the Useletter. When I’m ready to write the Useletter, I use my editorial calendar to see which topics I’m due to cover. I write up the tips in Mad Mimi (referral link). (If you’re looking for an email service provider, Mad Mimi is easy & dreamy.) Many people have asked me how I keep track of the tips I share in the Useletter. Here’s a basic explanation of my process, along with a video tutorial.

The Useletter editorial calendar

Here is a closer look at the calendar I use to plan out the tips I share in the Useletter.

I keep my editorial calendar for the Useletter in Google Drive. (If the video looks blurry, make sure you have “HD” selected in the bottom right corner of the video.)

Can’t see the video? Watch it here.

To create a calendar like mine, go to Google Drive, click “New” and “Google Sheets” to start. Edit your spreadsheet and make it pretty by dragging and dropping column & row dividers, adding color to cells, changing fonts and text sizes, etc. Here’s a breakdown of the columns and rows I use:

Section 1: Calendar & Issue No.

My first set of columns is a calendar with months and days. I also have a column that lets me keep track of the issue number (ex. Useletter Issue No. 31).

I use the calendar mostly for reference, but it’s also nice to be able to see things at a glance.

For example, when I have written and scheduled The Useletter to go out on a particular day, I change the color of that box on the calendar.

Not only can I see at quick glance that an issue is scheduled, it also gives me a quick overview of the day I send The Useletter out. (This was especially helpful in the beginning when I was testing different days I was sending each issue out.)

Section 2: Topics or Categories

Across the top of the next set of columns, I indicate the general topics or categories of the tips I share. I do this to make sure I share a balanced variety of tips.

I cover 8 basic topics and split those in half so I share 4 different tips each week.

Section 3: Notes

The notes column is for anything I want to remind myself of. For example, “I used a checkmark in the subject line this week.” This is handy for testing what works and what doesn’t.

Sometimes I also use this space for notes that aren’t necessarily tip-related, but upcoming sales or “Behind the scenes” notes.

Section 4: Shortlink

The last column is a shortlink to the web version of each individual issue. This is handy to have so I can easily grab a URL to reference in a particular issue.

I manually enter the shortlink every week after subscribing to The Useletter myself. When it arrives in my inbox, I open it, check to make sure it looks good and then click the “Web Version” button and copy the link URL. I go back to my editorial calendar and paste it in to the last column.

Section 5: Adding tips

To flesh things out, if I have an idea for a tip, I type in the main idea of the tip in a cell under the appropriate category. If I have additional notes to add to that tip, I can click on that cell, go to Insert –> Note which gives a lot more space to write additional info regarding that tip. Cells with notes are indicated with a small triangle in the top right corner.

Putting it all together

Each week I compile the tips in the Useletter within Mad Mimi (referral link).

Want to see the finished product? Subscribe to the Useletter and see for yourself!

22 thoughts on “How to Create an Editorial Calendar”

  1. Great tips as usual Amy – thanks. I use excel ( or muddle along with it may be a more accurate way of putting it) and am delighted to find a similar notes feature – never new it was there and I can think of many a good use for it now 🙂
    thanks again,

  2. I love this! I tend to be kind of scatterbrained when it comes to blogging and when I think of an idea I just stick it in a never-ending draft folder.

    I don’t do a newsletter right now but I think this is even a good tool just for regular blog posts!

  3. Hey Amy, just wondering if you’ve heard of CoSchedule? It’s a drag and drop calendar interface similar to Google calendar, only much more robust – you can start and schedule posts directly from the calendar, or drag your drafts onto desired dates. You can also schedule all your blog-related social media posts directly from the calendar and see everything scheduled together there in one place. It’s much, much more than this, and insanely helpful for working with a team of writers, but so very cool for any blogger wanting to get organized!

  4. Hi Amy. Thanks for putting up this blog. I enjoy reading your tips and tricks. I just love the way you set up you excel editorial calendar. I also just discovered the note feature on excel. Thanks!

  5. Amy, I absolutely love this! As someone who is very OCD organized with nearly everything, this is much appreciated! I’ve been very overwhelmed with starting a newsletter but I believe this will help a ton. Thank you!! 🙂

  6. WOW. I love how organized you are! It was super helpful to hear you give an explanation for why everything is set up this way. Another great thing about your editorial calendar is that you’ve simplified it enough that a virtual assistant could easily add stuff for you (to review). Thanks for sharing + for the template. Fantastic post all around.

  7. I am a little bit obsessed with editorial calendars so I love that you shared yours with us. Your tips are super helpful – as is the Useletter! Do you have a template for the calendar you use?

  8. I am always curios to see how others are using their editorial calendars and pick up on a few things. I have a similar approach for posts but I haven’t organized my newsletter like that.
    I’ll try implementing that as well! Thanks for the tip!

  9. Just wanted to drop a quick note of thanks for your Useletter. I didn’t know that the Nester’s 31 Days had its own website now, and I didn’t realize October was fast approaching. Your Useletter got me on track! Well…it informed me since I still don’t have a series topic. That’s not very on track, is it?

  10. This is so helpful. Do you do something similar for blog posts? I don’t write a newsletter but something like this would be so much more helpful to me for blogging than just a printed monthly calendar! I love using Google for everything. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Laura!

      In my head, I *totally* do the same thing for blog posts. LOL

      In reality? Not so much. Although I think it would be totally adaptable. You could set it up the very same way with categories across the top and blog ideas filled in according to how many posts you wanted to publish in a week.

      There was a post on Amy Porterfield’s blog a while back about using Google Calendar for and editorial calendar that you might find helpful!

      1. Yes I think I might totally adapt this. It just makes sense in my brain. I love the way you organize things! And I’ll check out Amy Porterfield’s calendar too. Thanks for the suggestion. love your blog and useletter and your videos!

  11. Amy Lynn,

    You’re so brilliant. I love the way your marketing plan is structured, particularly the focus you always direct toward your email list. It really is inspiring, from your popups to your affiliate links, everything is orderly and elegant. One of these days I’m going to get my act together and start being more like you. =)

    In the meantime, thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Hi Brittany, you are very kind, but I’ll let you in on a secret: this editorial calendar is probably the most organized thing about anything I do online. 🙂 Seriously. My blogging schedule is so haphazard (it’s been weeks since I last posted) and my social media strategy is totally sporadic (no rhythm whatsoever).

      All that to say, I have the very same feelings about “getting my act together.” Hang in there and don’t beat yourself up. Baby steps, my friend. I’m saying it to myself too!!

      1. So thankful for the video and the template and for YOU Amy! For the past four years you have been my go to gal for this sort of thing. You are a blessing!

        My newsletter has been driving me bonkers (the organization aspect) and this is a major step in the right direction for me. Your newsletter is my absolute favorite (I actually read every one) and I have been racking my brain on how to take what I love about yours and apply it to a very different niche.

        I am also so encouraged by your comment about organization in other areas. I want to keep growing in my management of my online work, but oh my I have so much growing to do! 🙂

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