Have you after sat down at your computer and thought “what am I going to write about this week?” If you have a blog, newsletter, or a podcast, you’ll know this feeling. Each time you come up with an idea for a piece of content, it feels like a lucky escape. But you can avoid that feeling of dread as Newsletter Day comes around again, by planning your content in advance.
Sometimes the problem isn’t a lack of ideas, it’s knowing where to start. If you’re providing knowledge, releasing without a plan means pulling an idea from the vast array of human existence each week.
That’s a lot!
Instead, divide your content up into themes spread out over the year. That way, each time you sit down to write, you have a much smaller subset to choose from. And instead of writing on-the-fly, you can spend a morning every so often, planning the next theme’s content.
Taking a cue from nature
Not only do seasons bring a change in weather, they also inform our mindset.
🍃 Spring is about starting new things, or re-committing to promises we made on December 31st. It’s a season full of possibility and potential, of new ideas, and planting metaphorical seeds.
⛱ The summer is a time for activity, fun, recreation, and maybe a bit of relaxation too. In summer we build on the momentum of spring, and reconnect with what’s important to us. That might be by taking a family holiday, or going on an adventure.
🍁 Autumn brings reflection, and a commitment that might carry a bit more weight than summer. In Europe, schools re-open at the beginning of autumn, so there’s a sense of getting back to work. But coupled with that is also the potential for second chances.
❄️ Winter is about conserving energy, and of taking stock. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it coincides with the end of the calendar year. That adds to the sense of reflection and thinking about the new year ahead.
Mapping the seasons
Let’s say you publish a weekly blog or newsletter that you’re going to turn into a podcast. Or you’re planning an entirely new podcast and you want to release weekly. Now think about the knowledge you want to share in your content, and map it against the seasons.
If it helps, think more about how people feel, and what they think about, rather than the weather. Give it some thought, and you might be surprised how well the cycle of the seasons can map against your audience’s needs.
If you’re a designer, your small business clients might struggle in the winter months as work shuts down. You can help them plan for spring, or encourage them to review the previous year’s work.
Virtual assistants know how clients’ family commitments change throughout the year. So you can then adapt your content to match their needs.
If that still doesn’t quite click for you, there’s another approach we can take.
The Story Circle
Dan Harmon created the critically-acclaimed TV shows Community and Rick and Morty. He perfected the Story Circle while working on Community, which gives us a perfect scaffold for our year of content:
You: A character is in a zone of comfort…
Need: but they want something.
Go: They enter an unfamiliar situation…
Search: adapt to it…
Find: get what they wanted…
Take: pay a heavy price for it…
Return: then return to their familiar situation…
Change: having changed.
If that feels familiar, it’s because it’s based on the Hero’s Journey, but it’s made cyclical… just like the seasons of the earth!
Now, divide up your calendar
Start by noting down all the themes you want to cover during the year. Map them against the four seasons or the eight points of the Story Circle. For example, my January theme is “Fuelling up”. It’s all about finding permission, and feeling ready for when spring arrivers.
Once your year is divided up into segments, your next job is to plan your first segment’s worth of content. Let’s say that’s about six weeks’ worth.
Write down as many rough headlines for blog posts, emails, or podcast episodes as you can in 15 minutes. Don’t edit just yet – just try and stick to your theme.
Once you’ve emptied your brain, go back and look for ideas you can combine together. Similarly, look for titles that might be a bit broad, as chances are you can split them out into more detailed posts.
You don’t have to make it explicit
I mentioned that my January theme is “Fuelling up”, but I haven’t stated that publicly anywhere. Instead, I’m simply letting it guide my content. If I have regular readers that spot a theme, good on them! But this is more for me than it is for readers, even though I’m using the seasons to reflect how they might be feeling.
Of course, if you want to communicate your theme to listeners or readers, feel free. People often enjoy getting a peek into your process, and it shows you have a plan and you’re thinking long-term.
Now go forth and plan
The cycles I’ve mentioned above don’t have to last a year. You could easily fit a few cycles within twelve months. That way, you always get another crack at a theme if you don’t feel like you nailed it last time, or you get bored easily.
While it’s nearly February as I write this, it’s never too late to start a plan like this. That’s the beauty of thinking in cycles. Make sure to schedule time to schedule your next theme, and consider making time to review the one just gone.
If you have a blog or newsletter, now’s the perfect time to think about turning it into a podcast. Check out our Blog to Podcast course, which covers everything you need to know.