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When I started my first online business eleven years ago I started keeping a business journal. Maybe it was because I started the business immediately upon graduating from college and I was in the habit of taking notes for EVERYTHING.

Now, when I say “journal” I don’t mean you need to go out and buy a fancy notebook! You can if you want to, but I used a red, single subject spiral bound notebook. On the outside of the notebook I would write the dates the journal covered. Once I started filling a lot of red notebooks, I also numbered them.

My first six business journals spanning from

My first six business journals spanning from January 2003 to 29 June 2004.

And because I’m a bit crazy about it – college rule and it HAD to be red. Every new entry was dated and always started on the right-hand side of the page. I even had a special pen to write in the journal.

I got teased a lot in the early days of the business for recording EVERYTHING in my red notebook. I couldn’t even THINK about having a meeting (on the phone or in person) without it. Throughout that business’s existence, I pretty much carried that journal with me everywhere and I kept a record of ideas, meetings, plans, brainstorms, goals, systems, and pretty much anything under the sun.

Not only was the business journal a great way to keep all my ideas in one place, it also became a key to my business’s future. In the early days of the business, I ended up suing a contractor for a breach of contract. REALLY long story short, because I had kept a dated record of every meeting, my attorney was able to put together a hugely detailed case proving the breach of contract and other points in the suit. The whole experience was absolutely miserable but I felt so much better about it that I wasn’t relying on my imperfect memory of events; I had notes about every meeting.

Today, I still keep a business journal. Since I have two businesses, I have two separate journals – color coded! A yellow notebook for TheOutdoorPrincess.com and dark blue for On The Beach Publishing. I’m still in love with one-subject, college-rule, spiral-bound notebooks but I no longer insist that I use a special pen!

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But it does REALLY stress me out when I can’t find my notebook. I keep the past notebooks on a special shelf and my current notebook in the bag (briefcase) I drag around with me everywhere.

And in the rare times where I don’t have the notebook handy, I take my notes on some other piece of paper and then tape it into the notebook later.

And I’m sure you’re thinking:
Great idea! But I’ll do it on the computer.

Here’s why I use a notebook and write it out longhand, old school:

  • Sometimes a computer isn’t handy, available, or practical. A pen and paper ALWAYS is.
  • Writing things out longhand taps into a different part of your brain and can unlock your creativity.
  • You can tape or staple other things into the notebook.

 

What To Record In Your Business Journal

  • Notes from meetings. My only exception is when I meet with a client. That I do on loose-leaf, unlined white paper. Then I create a file folder for the client.
  • Marketing ideas.
  • Goals.
  • Flow charts. I draw mine on huge pieces of paper and then shrink it to fit.
  • Ideas for books.
  • Ideas for blog articles.
  • Notes from classes, teleseminars, webinars, etc.
  • Tape in business cards (and notes about the contact) from networking events.

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A business journal is pretty much like a personal journal but instead of recording your whole life, it’s a snapshot of your business.

One of the things I LOVE about my business journal is that I can go through old journals and see what I was thinking last year, last month, last week. Sometimes there was a great idea that I just wasn’t ready to implement at the time but is EXACTLY what my business needs now.

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Back in August I wrote an article about adding images to your books or blog posts. Tip #4 was:

Know from where you are getting your images
In the past week, I’ve met with two clients who are not only excellent writers, but also gifted photographers. These lucky folk have the ability to take near-professional photographs to use in their books to offset their information.

I’ve been able to use many of my own photos in my books. But sometimes, you won’t be able to create the perfect setup for the image you need. In that case, you’ll need to purchase your image.

When you purchase it, make sure you are using a reputable stock-photography vendor. And don’t ever use an image from Google Images. Just because you credit your source does not mean that you have permission to use the image!

I realized later (much later! As in THIS week) that I never gave resources for where you could go to get stock photography.

My top (paid) stock photography sites are:

DollarPhoto

This is a newer website but it is my favorite and the one I use the most. ALL their images are $1 each. All day, every day. I’ve signed up for the annual subscription — it’s WELL worth the money. At time of writing it’s just $99.

Beyond the FANTASTIC price-per-image, they also have a great selection of really high quality images. And they have plenty of selection for illustrations and photos. I haven’t found any images that are amateur-ish either. And since this is a newer site, I haven’t seen their stuff all over the web.

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I’m heading to Maria Andros‘ Momentum event this week so I asked a client and friend to bring you this week’s article.

5 Simple healthy foods to boost your brain power!

We’ve all been there at one time or another when we’re sucked in day after day sitting in front of our computer, time flies and we realize we missed breakfast, lunch and maybe even dinner, right?  We may have had several cups of coffee, a few sweets and salty treats – but haven’t actually haven’t had any meals or any REAL BRAIN FOOD offering any nutritional value.  Well, this scene MUST be deleted!

Try setting yourself up for success with these simple health foods and tips that WILL BOOST your BRAIN POWER.

HYDRATE

It’s simple, everyday plan to have fresh purified H2O at your computer side.  Aim for drinking a minimum of 64 ounces of water daily to start.  Once you’ve got that down, then bump it up to ½ your body weight in ounces every day!

TIP:  Use a 32 ounce mason jar and have two jars ready to go before you sit down at your computer.  Squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice for a little pizzazz plus added health benefits!

FARM FRESH FOODS

Stock up and make it a habit to always have apples, bananas, eggs, celery & carrots on hand.

TIP:  Plan to hit your local farmers market and health food store each week with your staple shopping list so you’re always prepared – stocked with brain power foods!

EGGS

Have hard boiled eggs ready to go for a brain boost.  To sum it up, eggs are rich in nutrients and protein that are essential for your brain; full of vitamins and minerals [vitamin A, B, potassium, choline, omega 3 fats, & more] – all needed for healthy brain function.  You’ll want to be sure your eggs are farm fresh to get the most nutritional benefits and at least buy organic fed, free range or cage free!

TIP:  Enjoy a hard boiled egg alone or with carrot & celery sticks while clicking away at your computer – it will satisfy and you will notice the surge in brain power!

APPLES

The old saying, “An apple a day keeps the DR. away”…is a TRUTH!  Did you know that one apple has over 10,000 phytonutrients, is rich in fiber & vitamin C and offers amazing health benefits like building your immune system – prevention of disease, cardiovascular health (can lower your cholesterol), can regulate your blood sugar levels – all fueling to your brain power!

TIP:  Slice your apple and serve it with 2 tablespoons of Almond Butter and you will love dipping and crunching away – you’ll be amazed by the wave of ideas and flow that’ll come to you!

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WALNUTS

One of my favorite brain foods because walnuts look like a brain, considered an “intellectual” food – I love that!  Walnuts not only taste great but they are a “superfood” – it’s easy to have 2 ounces of walnuts every day and boost  your brain with a surge of vitamin E, b-complex, minerals – magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, omega 3 fatty acids; to name a few!

TIP:  By crunching a small serving every day, you will have your recommended amount of vitamins, minerals, and protein needed to keep your brain working at its best!

SUNSHINE

have a cup o’ sunshine!  Aim to fuel your brain with a sunny window or schedule a break in your day for a little fresh air and natural sunlight!  Natural light from the sun gives your body vitamin D – which is one more vitamin that we need for our best brain power.  It’s easy to overlook when you’re behind the computer screen day after day.

TIP:  move your computer in a room with natural sunlight and/or SCHEDULE [and TAKE] a daily 20 minute break to get out and breathe in the natural nutrients of fresh air and sunlight!
As you can see, these truly are Simple Healthy Foods to Boost your Brain while sitting at your computer!  By taking action and trying these foods and tips you will begin to see that you do not need to rely on that coffee and the old patterns of unhealthy snacks that don’t offer you any form of brain power.  Hopefully you see how simple it is to feed your body and your brain nourishing foods while you sit behind your screen creating your work!  These are simple foods that offer powerful benefits that will boost your brain, boost your body and boost your life to great health, lifestyle and success!

120313-MichelleVerdugoMichelle is a Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Healthy Lifestyle & Success Coach and focuses on offering solutions for holistic health and wellness.   Michelle has been helping clients with their health for over a decade by providing a holistic formula for healing, health and wellness for life.  Michelle is the creator of the 30 day Path to Higher Health Challenge at MichelleVerdugo.com “Inspiring and Empowering YOU to live your Healthiest Life” – for more juicy tips, recipes and inspirations click over to MichelleVerdugo.com or Holistic Healthy Lifestyle with Michelle Verdugo on Facebook.

I always get the best shopping ideas from the gift buying lists! Here’s a list of gifts for writers that I’ve compiled that are sure to thrill any writer on your list. Or maybe you’ll pick up a gift or two for yourself.

With the exception of my HIGHLY recommended leather journal, all items on this list are $25 or less!

FYI: The TITLES are the links to the products!

D’Vyne Wrytes Leather Journal

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I thought long and hard about suggesting a blank journal for the writer in your life. Frankly, we all have something that is “the perfect journal” and I always get a little cranky when I get a journal that doesn’t match that ideal. But Leslie’s stuff is just fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough. I have three or four of her journals!

This isn’t under $25 BUT it is 100% worth the investment!

 

Stephen King’s On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft

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I have a much loved, much dog eared version of the original. Even if you don’t like King’s terrifying stories, he offers fantastic insights into writing novels that can be applied to any type of writing.

Writer’s Block Mug

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Writer’s Block: when your imaginary friends stop talking to you
Because writers drink copious amounts of coffee!

Magnetic Poetry Kit

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Do me a favor, buy several different word kits! A great gift is to include these with a cookie sheet (double check the magnets stick) so your fav writer doesn’t even have to leave the desk!

Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows from Trader Joe’s

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Every writer knows that chocolate is brain food. And when it’s coating a light, fluffy, perfect marshmallow it’s a recipe for writing a few extra pages!

 

Paper Clip Earrings

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Hey, it’s better than putting REAL paper clips in your ears!

Scrabble

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Okay, okay MOST authors will probably already own Scrabble! Except for me. I use my parent’s board which is older than I am. Soooooo, if you’re looking for a gift for me, get me Scrabble!

 

William Shakespeare Air Freshener

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An air freshener by any other name would not smell as sweet as one decorated with the image of the immortal bard.

 

Typewriter Tote Bag

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I think this one is especially cute but any tote bag will be well received. Especially if you fill it liquid brains (aka liquor!)

Liquor

Offer up your writer her favorite brand of liquid brains and watch her eyes light up! Suggestions include:

  • Baileys (any flavor!)
  • Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey
  • Fat Tire Beer
  • Mojito mix and rum

Writer’s Unwinding Cocktail, aka Caramel Apple Tinis

Ingredients

  • Green apple vodka
  • Baileys® Caramel
  • Green apple slice (garnish)

You know how a shot measuring cup has a big side and a little side? You’ll use both sides for this recipe. 1 “big” shot (1 ounce) Baileys® Caramel. 1 “little” shot (0.5 ounce) green apple vodka. Stir gently.

If you are using a traditional shot glass without a measure marks, the ratio is 1 to 0.5 Baileys® to vodka.Garnish with a green apple slice if you have it.

From Camp Cooking 101: 101 Fun & Easy Recipes from The Outdoor Princess

Pencil Eraser Hats

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I love the idea of “stocking stuffers”. Pair these with some #2 pencils and a nice sharpener and you’ve got it made!

A gift card for a massage

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After spending hours at the computer, a massage is great! But don’t get a $25 gift card. Go whole hog and spring for a gift card worth a few massages.

Red Pens & Yellow Highlighters

112613-PenHighlighterBecause we use them a lot!

 

Edgar Allan Poe Action Figure

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Because he’d look cool on your desk!

 

Novelty Flash Drive

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These are food but there are HUNDREDS of possibilities out there!

 

Pencil Socks

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How cool are these?!

Fancy Paper Clips

112613-FancyPaperClipsWe all have a deep love of office supplies. But we probably won’t buy them for ourselves!

Jane Austin Temporary Tattoos

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Not interested in temporary tattoos? You can also get bandages!

Writer Pendant

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A way to subtly announce who you are!

The Complete Book of Baby Names

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I got my book of baby names in high school. THEN I had to explain why I had it! For characters, people! But a lot of writers won’t invest in this themselves and it’s a great resource!

Buy Their Book!

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As an author, most of the time my sales do not come from my friends and family. Be a peach and buy their book and then leave a positive review.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for products that I personally use and believe have value to my readers. When you make a purchase using my affiliate link, I earn a small commission. High-five for your support!

PS: All images belong to the websites in the links.

I look at a lot of blogs: friends’, business associates’, clients’, for-fun blogs. One of the items that I always check out is how often are the blogs being updated. Weekly? Monthly? Not in a while? Or, the kiss of death, the “I’m-Not-Sure-How-Long-Ago-This-Was-Updated”.

You know the date stamp I’m talking about, right? It appears somewhere on a post and gives the date (and sometimes time) the post was published. Here are some examples:

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I think there is a school of thought out there that says, “If I can’t update on a regular schedule, I’ll take off the date stamp so people can’t tell I don’t post weekly.”

Not posting the date of your post is a kiss of death. Not because it makes the reader think, “Oh this is a recent post” but because it makes the reader think: “IS this a recent article? Is it still relevant?” Or, the even scarier thought: “Is this business still in business?”

Sure, no date stamp on a post means your reader doesn’t know for certain it’s been three months since your last blog update. But it also means that your reader figures out quickly that you don’t post regularly on the blog. If you did post regularly, you’d want to make sure the reader was aware so you’d have a time stamp!

Circular logic? You betcha!

But it doesn’t change the fact that your blog needs a date on each post. If you only post once a month then your reader will clearly see from your post’s dates that you update once a month. If you post weekly then she’ll clearly see that it’s important to you to offer her new contact every week.

Take a look at this blog. Go ahead, I’ll set myself up as an example. You’ll see weekly posts going back from now (first week in November) through July with the occasional “extra” update thrown in as well. (If you’re really looking closely, you’ll notice that the August posts weren’t actually one per week!) Before July, you’ll see that the blog was updated occasionally.

What does that mean?

It means that in July, I got serious about updating my blog regularly. I know that the bare minimum I was willing to accept was a weekly update. If I was able to squeeze in an extra picture, post, or bit of breaking news, great. If not, you can count on it being updated weekly. (On Tuesdays, FYI).

To the reader, it means that she can tell at a glance that I am still in business. She can see that I post weekly. She can guess that if I post weekly, I probably check my email, answer messages, and am around.

Does she notice all of this with her conscious brain? Probably not. But a blog that’s not updated regularly has the same feeling as a house that’s only lived in one weekend a month. It’s not neglected, exactly, but you can just feel that it isn’t lived in.

How Often Should I Update My Blog?

Weekly.

I know, I know, there are folks out there that say you should update your blog daily or several times a week. And it’s a lot of fun to check in with the daily updated blogs or the blogs that update several times a week. There’s exciting, fresh content! You can glimpse into their lives, businesses, hobbies, passions, etc. But really, do you check those blogs every day? Do you read it or just skim it? Do you have time to really read it every day? And is their content fresh and engaging and well-written EVERY SINGLE DAY? Or is it really just fantastic once or twice a week and the rest feels like filler.

Weekly posting is okay. Pick a day of the week you’ll post your new article and then stick to it. You have a schedule, a goal, and a deadline. Your readers know that your new article will appear on the same day of the week every week. And weekly is manageable for most business owners.

What If I Just Can’t Keep My Blog Updated?

I get it; you’re busy running your business, marketing, serving your clients, and enjoying your life. Sometimes, nothing will kill your passion for your main thing like having to sit down and write about it.

Here’s my solution: Hire a ghost blogger.

A (good) ghost blogger will be able to translate your passion into a well-written post or article. (What’s the difference?) And a ghost blogger will be able to write something that still sounds like you so your blog will still feel authentic to your readers and clients.

Plus, a ghost blogger will help you generate lots of ideas for content for your blog. Then, you’ll work together to come up with an editorial calendar. And you get weekly posts for your blog!

If the idea of a ghost blogger is resonating with you, this is one of the services offered through On The Beach Publishing. You can sign up for a complimentary “Blog Content Clarity Call” that will help you solidify your goals for your blog, generate ideas for future posts, and let you know if ghost blogging services are right for you.

Just visit OnTheBeachPublishing.com/BlogContentClarity to sign up.

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Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and every November 1, participants from around the world begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. The “rules” state that you can plan, outline, think, and research as much as you want in October, but on November 1, you start a brand-new novel with no words already written.

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Writing a book is a great exercise in discipline, refining your thought processes, and creativity. Even if you have no desire to write a novel, November is a great month to do the writing you are interested in. Or the writing that you know you’ve been needing to do for your business but just haven’t had time for.

Here are five steps  to get you going:

1. Have a “plan”

You most likely have an idea about what book you want to write for your business. Start there! Unlike a novel which needs characters, plot, setting, mood, theme, etc. the book you need for your business has basic sections that are unique to the information you specialize in.

As you create this plan, jot down all your ideas for chapters, topics, and sub-topics. After you have a page of ideas, you’ll organize them into sections. Don’t think too much! Just get all your ideas down. This will become the “plan” for your book.

(This isn’t an outline! It’s a writing plan. I’ll explain more in step 4.)

2. Get it all out

My writing instructors used to call this writing to silence the critic. It’s when you just keep writing even if you know that you’re not making sense, contradicting yourself, missing steps, and most importantly, writing like crap!

Write anyway.

NaNoWriMo isn’t a slow and steady marathon, remember! It’s a sprint to write an insane amount of words in just thirty days.

So get it all out of your head and onto the page. Don’t worry about grammar, flow, or false starts. Keep writing. You do, however, want to write clearly enough that when you look at it later that you can follow along. So it’s not jotting down notes; it is sentences and paragraphs and *gasp* chapters. But don’t worry if you don’t know how to bridge from one topic to the next.

3. Write every day

The strategy is to break 50,000 words down into daily writing goals. This isn’t a marathon, it’s a sprint. But, unlike writing your term paper the night before it is due (or your blog article the day before you post it!) you can’t just catch up in the days before November 30th!

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You may be able to catch up from a day (or two) off, but if you wait too long, the goal of 50,000 words will slip away. (Speaking from experience here!)

Daily Writing Goals

  • If you write 5 days a week (including Friday, November 1) you’ll need to write 2,381 words per day. (21 total writing days)
  • If you write 6 days a week (including Friday, November 1 AND Saturday, November 2) you’ll need to write 1,923 words per day. (26 total writing days)
  • If you write 7 days a week you’ll need to write 1,667 words per day. (30 total writing days)

And let’s face it, with your busy life and schedule (and the Thanksgiving holiday!) you’re unlikely to write every single day. Go ahead and plan some days off! And in that plan, make sure that you plan other days where you write more words to catch up.

Not every person who starts NaNoWriMo makes it to the 50,000 word finish. And since you’ll most likely not be writing a novel, it will be tempting to let it slide and not work to complete the challenge. But think about this: if you write every week day in the month of November, that’s 21 days. Let’s say you ONLY write 1,000 words a day (about two pages). That’s 21,000 words that you didn’t have before!

4. Don’t publish it!

Yep, you heard me right. Whatever you come up with at the end of November DON’T PUBLISH IT.

At least, don’t publish it as is!

Too many writers, especially non-fiction writers, have the nasty habit of publishing too soon before the project is fully edited. And here, I don’t mean edited for grammar or consistency. I mean edited for THIS should be in the book; THIS shouldn’t.

I recently read a very interested non-fiction “business” book. The author had a wealth to say on a variety of different topics. But that was the problem. There were at least four different main topics and each one shouldn’t get a section. It should get its own book! The topics were loosely tied together under the umbrella of the author’s personal life story but each lost its impact because it wasn’t given enough depth and breadth.

Here’s a personal example:
I just published my “camping book” Pitch Your Tent: A Family’s Guide To Tent Camping (Affiliate link)

This project took me nearly two years from conception to publishing. Why? Because I just couldn’t focus. In my initial “plan” (Step 1) I had everything from tent camping to RVs to how to hook up your trailer to what type of porta pottie to buy to how to pick a tent to why you should go fishing while you were camping. I wrote a ton! After I started backpacking, I wrote sections for the book about that too!

After writing pages and pages and pages (over 200) I realized that the book I really needed to write was just a beginning guide to tent camping.

If I had tried to make my camping book everything to everyone, it would lose the focus and impact. And I’d lose credibility!

Once you have a “draft,” go over it to see what sections naturally go together, what has to be there, and what can be cut.

5. Decide what to do next

From this one big book where you have packed in every bit of your knowledge, expertise, love, and passion, decide what you’ll do with all the content you’ve created. You’ll probably find that at least one book is in there. A book with a tight focus on one aspect of your knowledge that doesn’t give away the farm!

You’ll also probably see 2-3 smaller books that might be ready to stand on their own or be expanded into larger books.

And I know you’ll have dozens of articles for blog posts, newsletters, or to submit to publications.

Then do it!
This is a bonus step: DO something with what you’ve created. It’s not enough to just realize that your 50,000 word business book exists, you need to do something with it!

What are your writing goals for November? Will you participate in a business book 50,000 word sprint?

If you would like to learn more about NaNoWriMo or to sign up to participate, here is the official website as well as the social media links:

http://nanowrimo.org/
https://www.facebook.com/nanowrimo
https://twitter.com/NaNoWriMo

I’ve been trying for the past forty-five minutes to write this week’s article. You want to know the problem? Too many ideas!

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I’ve had fits and starts with everything from promoting your book once it’s written to WHY you need to promote your book; an analogy that books are to marking today what websites were to marketing (and credibility) in the early 2000’s. And another analogy about how books are like life rafts! I even managed to work in a plug for a new teleseminar I’ll be offering later this year.

None of those fits, starts, and ideas actually BECAME an article though.

Why?

Because I am not working from a plan!

In the publishing world we call it an editorial calendar. It’s where you sit down and outline the next [BLANK] articles. I think most people are familiar with an editorial calendar as it relates to magazines. But they’re dead-useful for blogs, newsletters, and articles as well.

An editorial calendar takes a list of articles you COULD write one step further and makes it into a timeframe. For example, I publish an article here every Tuesday. An editorial calendar takes into account what topics I want to cover, any news or events I know are on the horizon, and then helps me merge it together.

I don’t use my editorial calendar as gospel. Sometimes, research doesn’t come together, exciting events take place that I’d rather write upon, or when I get to an article’s topic I find I don’t want to write about it, it’s no longer relevant, or I covered it as part of another topic. But having that calendar gives me a framework for my next six weeks (the time frame I use) AND keeps me from “wasting” nearly an hour on the night of my deadline!

I’ve used editorial calendars to great success in the past with my other business, TheOutdoorPrincess.com. Notice the sparseness and irregular posting recently? Yep, I got away from using the calendar and the quality and quantity of articles has suffered.

I recommend this free resource PDFcalendar.com for your editorial calendar. (And yes, go old school and HAND WRITE it out!) Just print out a month at a time, landscape, and outline the articles you want to cover in the next month. Be sure to build in time to research articles and/or line up guest authors! It also helps when you’ll be searching for stock images or taking your own to know what you’ll need when!

Oh, and all those ideas I had? I’ll be working them into the calendar over the next six weeks!