Today, I am joined by Nicole from The Mum Reviews, she is going to share how she uses planning to organise her blog. As you will see she’s more on the technology side of planning rather than paper based but it all works!
The Mum Reviews totally geeks out about using technology to plan and manage your blog
I started blogging last July when I decided I’d really like to share my thoughts about things I do with the kids, like days out and holidays. My husband was getting tired of listening to me pretending to be a newspaper critic, and I was tired of my sound opinions falling on deaf ears. So the original idea for my blog, The Mum Reviews, was to write reviews!
I wasn’t expecting to make money or receive free stuff to review. I just wanted to write about stuff I’d done anyway and share useful tips. However, once I started blogging, I realised I was completely clueless about blogging. Reading other people’s blogs inspired me to make more of my blog than just reviews, and it became a parenting blog where I share stories about my life and talk about issues that are important to me.
I love my blog as a creative outlet that allows me to express myself, and it’s even more rewarding when someone reads it and it makes them think, or feel less alone, or even (if I’m very lucky because I’m rubbish at comedy) laugh. But I have found that if I want to find those readers, I need to put a lot of work into it. And that’s where the planning comes in!
Planning my blog with tools I learned from the day job
My approach to planning my blog is adopted from my approach to planning in my day job as a production editor at a publishing company. Each project has any number of tasks to complete and these need to be completed in a specific order. A simplified version of this for publishing would be:
- Copy-editing the manuscript
With lots of sub-tasks under each heading! So I think of blogging in much the same way. Each post is a project that requires a number of stages, such as:
- Writing (obvs)
- Taking photos
- Editing photos
- Sharing on social media channels
- Putting on linkies
The tool I use for this is called Pivotal Tracker. I learned about it from my husband who is a software developer. Although it is specifically marketed at software developers, it is so useful and user-friendly for anyone who wants to manage projects. And it’s free for businesses with less than 3 employees – which is usually the case for bloggers.
The way it works is each task you have to do on a project is called a ‘Story’. You add a title to the story that describes the task, and there is also space to add further description and even attach a document. You assign between 0 and 4 points to indicated how much work you think is involved in the task.
As you work on a ‘Story’, you can add notes underneath anytime you make progress. So, for example, if my story was ‘Add blog post to awesome linky’, then after I add the post to the linky, I would comment on my story that I’d done so. I could also make a note of further work to be done, such as the need to complete the linky commenting requirements, and I could store a link to the linky there so that I could easily find it again.
When you’re finished with a ‘Story’ you ‘Deliver’ it. This part is more designed for if you’re collaborating with or working for someone else. If you were, the other person would be prompted to review your work and press the ‘Accept’ button. But as I’m working alone, I just deliver stories and accept them myself! The nice thing about this is you have a total record of everything you’ve done even after it’s complete.
So, in essence, Pivotal Tracker is just a glorified to-do list. But I love the enhanced ability to add notes, attachments and links, so that each item on your to-do list has all the information you need.
Using Google tools to make my blogging life easier
The other organisational tool I can’t live without is Google. It’s not just a search engine! For my blog and life, I use Google Calendar, Google Drive and Google Photos, and I love the way they allow me to switch seamlessly from my smartphone to my laptop. Everything is stored “on the cloud” so I can access it from anywhere on any device.
Google Calendar allows me to plan all of my life events and invite my husband to join in/be aware of different events. I love the way it has daily, weekly, monthly and schedule views. The schedule view is the best as it just shows what’s happening and when, cutting out any days where nothing is planned, and it automatically adds cute pictures. Like when I go to the dentist it puts a picture of a toothbrush. I know … nerd alert.
I know many people prefer paper diaries but those don’t work for me because I would forget to even look at it. With Google Calendar, it beeps at me and pops up on my phone so I can’t forget. Google even tells me when I need to leave in order to get somewhere.
Google Photos is amazing because it automatically backs up photos from my phone almost as soon as I take them. I can then access my photos from my laptop without having to sync or plug anything in. It has a brilliant editing feature and it also allows me to share directly to all of my social media accounts. And it’s easy to download photos to save elsewhere if I need to.
Google Drive is the document version of Google Photos. If you download the Google Drive app onto your computer, then you can save all your files to it in the same way you would save to the usual hard drive. You can then, once again, access them anytime on any device, either from your app or a normal web browser.
Are you convinced?
I’m often surprised by the wide range of planning and organisational tools bloggers do use. Despite being very modern by publishing stuff on the internet, many of them use paper diaries and journals to keep themselves on track, rather than technology. And I’m not judging them. I think it’s a very personal choice – you need to use what works for you and fits your personality. For me, I am forgetful and impulsive, so I love the way technology reminds me to do stuff and enables me to do stuff – immediately, whenever I fancy.
Here’s where you can find Nicole across the internet: