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Top picks for best planners

Planners, Calendars & Journals, OH MY! (Top picks for planners)

This timely guest post comes from my uber-organized, proficient planning, brand-strategizing friend Victoria Vitarelli and originally appeared on her website, V Dot V Marketing.

A hope is a dream without a plan.

I often get asked, “how do you keep track of your ‘EVERYTHING’!?” Juggling my clients, my kids, my mom and life in general. I’ve gotten to the point if it’s not written somewhere, it ain’t gonna happen.

I have notebooks, whiteboards and paper scraps all over for the urge to list and do a brain dump. I have figured out over the years that I need to be disciplined every day and keep one main repository as an extension of my memory. Journals for different topics or goals do not work for me because the arteries of life often bleed into one another.

So I keep my system to a family whiteboard, google calendars merged together and a paper planner – currently diving into Self Journal.

Since my very first job out of college, I’ve kept a notebook to write down my notes – from meetings, calls, thoughts, ideas. I had a plain spiral notebook to “get the job done” and a de rigueur Filofax.

Today there is an onslaught of planners, calendars and such! For me – a lot of fun! However, I have a friend who is paralyzed by the choices to make the purchase. Here are four questions I asked her to help her with her decision.

  1. Do you want to fill in the blanks or have a white canvas? How do you set your goals? Best practices say to write out your big goals; distill them down into weekly and daily to-dos. Depends on your style and what makes you productive vs busy. There are planners that have the year/day date written out and are very structured. They are designed to deliver the general best practices in keeping a goal and getting it done so you don’t have to think about that aspect. There are journals for very specific goals e.g. fitness, business, parenting. Daily Greatness has many specialized versions. If you have your own structure or want to be more creative about your pages, try the Bullet Journal system. You make the rules, but there is a system to writing it down. Here is a video. Bullet journal “porn” is all over Pinterest and Instagram. There are some beautiful, truly amazing works of art out there!
  1. Are you carrying it around everywhere and anywhere? Weight matters!  Certain paper stocks can get heavy and depending on what you use to write with, the ink can bleed through light paper. Details…Details…Most planners have the weight listed on their respective websites. And depending on if you want a defined calendar style e.g. 30 days or week at a glance, full year by the day, quarterly etc. this can make a big difference in weight as well. Also there are various sizes from 8.5″ x 11″ pages to small pocket styles. Think about what you will be carrying this in – purse? briefcase? pocket?
  1. Does brand/color/style matter to you? Once you decide on white canvas or fill in the blank style and weight- the search narrows down. There are hundreds of journals out there by designers, planner brands, etc. I found a Lily Pulitzer planner with every page in her signature style. Some white canvas, purists will stick to a classic marble notebook or the ever-reliable Moleskin.  Both are sold in all kinds of stores in addition to online outlets e.g. Staples, bookstores, Target and boutiques.
  1. How much “woo-woo” factor? We use this term affectionately. There are some that have messages of inspiration and faith as well as planning out your dream days and life. An example is Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Planner. Per the description, “This planning system incorporates your inner and outer worlds; your gratitude and your goals; your Core Desired Feelings into your daily regime”. Personally, I enjoy seeing a good Zig Ziggler or Aristotle quote to inspire me. And then there are days when it’s just about checking the box and getting stuff done without guru sounding pep talks. This one is very interesting, The Sacred Circle Planner – starting on December 18th, the Winter Solstice. Per the description, “Through the use of Divination, Affirmations, Archetypal Wisdom, Goal Manifesting, and specially designed Spiritual Practices that keep you in sync with the seasons–you have the opportunity to craft a whole new you this year!

As you go through the many other lists and ideas the key is to start somewhere and think about how you get stuff done NOW! You can always shift or try new styles or methods as the year goes on. The key is to find something that is going to support your goals and motivation. These are tools to help us get the job done and get to our destination! The discipline to follow a system is KEY no matter what you use. Happy goal setting and getting stuff done!

Check out Vicky’s video where she test-drives some of the best selling planners and journals.

Also, tune into this recent Plannerpalooza podcast from the “Best of Both Worlds” team of Laura Vanderkam and Sarah Hart-Unger who take planner enthusiasm to a whole new level.

Are you a planner perfectionist? Which one(s) do you use? Please share in the comments.

Nancy Sheed 5 Social media hacks to save you time

5 Easy Hacks to Cut Your Social Media Time in Half

Save time and still look like a social media superstar

There are two types of social media users. Those who love it and those who consider it a necessary evil. Social media is important but it doesn’t have to take all your time. Here are my go-to shortcuts and hacks that will have you sharing your social media in record time with consistency and ease.

Tip one: Turn off notifications

You do not need an email, ping, and pop-up every time some action is taken on your social media platforms. These notifications are distractions and killing your time for productivity and creativity. You should be in charge of your time, not the other way around.

  • Turn notifications off on your phone (settings tab)
  • Turn them off in settings on computer/laptop as well
  • Turn off all notifications about email list updates, a daily summary will do
  • Schedule specific times to check comments, post and reply

Tip two: Create a portfolio of your social media assets

This includes images, content, hashtags, brand elements, style guide, boilerplate, bios and mission statement info. With everything in one place, you won’t spend hours tracking down all your stuff, every time you want to post on social media. Put it into one easy accessible location. If you don’t have an easy-to-find folder on your computer, then put it in the cloud, so you and your team can access it.

Here are popular apps for storing and retrieving images and information from anywhere:

Tip three: Develop a content calendar or checklist

This is ideal to have so you know what’s coming and you have dates and deadlines built in (free one here, for you!) With a plan in place, you will no longer be scrambling trying to figure out “What will I post today?”

A social media post checklist means you won’t forget anything and it provides you with a process for getting things done and leads to consistency across your platforms, which most certainly leads to better engagement.

Tip four: Batch your content or posting

This is big, so don’t skip it. Use focused blocks of time to knock out multiple versions of the same type of content.

  • Write 3-4 blog posts – then you are done for the month (if you are weekly)
  • Record 3-4 podcasts and schedule them for weekly release
  • Pick a time every week in which you schedule the bulk of your social media posts
  • Use posting tools to help you with your scheduling and management: Hootsuite, Buffer and Sprout Social are a few I like to use

Tip five: Hire someone

I promise, this is not a shameless plug! If you are stuck, uninterested, or truly don’t have the time for this, then figure out what would help you the most, and start there. Don’t waste time on projects that aren’t your “zone of genius.”

If a $20 an hour task is keeping you from doing the $100 or $1000 an hour work, then hiring someone else is a no brainer.

  • Need help organizing everything – hire an assistant (or VA)
  • Need help making things look pretty – hire a designer
  • Need help figuring out what the best content is – hire a strategist
  • Need help with Facebook ads – hire an ad specialist
  • Need help posting it all – hire a social media manager

What’s giving you fits today? Start there. Find out how to batch it, automate it or outsource it. You’ll love seeing these tasks off your to-do list and know they are still happening and helping you grow your audience reach.

Need specific help with these tips, tools or a strategy to make it work? Happy to chat about how I can help. Schedule a clarity call here.

3 Ways to Simplify Your Online Marketing [+ FREE Content Calendar]

Raise your hand if…

You’ve written a blog post that never saw the light of day. How about an email promoting an event that came and went without getting sent? Ever spend time creating great content and then watch someone else’s info (that wasn’t as helpful) get lots of praise and engagement?

Me too. Which is why I created the Content Calendar Template – to help ensure great content gets out!

You need it. I need it. My clients need it. Plus, it’s nice to share.

We cannot allow you to let your content stay in hiding any longer. It’s time to let your light shine, tell your story, and get your message(s) out into the world.  People want to hear from you, so let’s get moving.

Step One – Create a content calendar

(download your very own customizable one below).

Think of this like planning for a vacation. You don’t wait until the day before to book the flights. You don’t wing it when it comes to reservations. If a week-long vacation with the kids gets you several hours of research and planning time, then certainly, the content that drives your vision, mission, and business deserves an hour or two – right?

So think about:

  • What posts will you create?
  • Who on your team does that?
  • What are the deadlines?
  • What images or design help will you need?

Your plan needs to serve you and your team. Make changes as you go – but if you know everything you want to share for the entire month, then guess what? It will happen, your tribe will be served, and your fans will wonder how you manage to create and share so much awesome content.

 

Step Two – Use social media management and scheduling tools.

No one has time to be hanging out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all day.

“Oh look. A cat video!” – said no one who is crushing their content plan. Stay with me.

Take advantage of technology so that relevant posts, pictures, and links show up like magic. Use these tools to share not only your new content, but also your evergreen and most popular posts.

Pop in (or have your designated team member) reply to questions, thank people for sharing, and let the world know that real people are behind the cool info you’re sharing.

A few of my favorites are:

Also, use automation and cross-promotion tools (within your blog and email marketing platform) when possible. For example, set up your blog so that it automatically emails your list and posts to social media every time you post. Seriously, take advantage of technology.

 

Step Three – Get help.

If writing isn’t your thing, then have a team member help or hire someone to do it for you. If you have no problem creating and coming up with ideas, but hate technology, find the resources that will help you execute the plan.

Like many things in business (and life) when you have a system and support, things get done. Your content soars and new fans and clients find you!

It’s not magic. It just feels like it.

 

Get started with a Content Calendar Template now!

 

Need help getting started? Let’s schedule a clarity call and get your content plan in place. The world needs to hear from you!

3 Super-Simple Marketing Planning Steps (and free templates)

 

Embrace simple and get it done. That’s the best advice I have when it comes to creating and executing your plan for marketing your business. While there are tons of ways to complicate this, there are a few easy steps to follow when “simple and done” are the goal. If you’ve been overwhelmed (and who hasn’t?) by all the options and to-do lists, you’re going to love this approach.

I promise.

Disclaimer: This process is super simple. That doesn’t mean it won’t take some focus and time. Put 30 minutes on your calendar at least once a week and make this a priority. Simple? Yes. Magic? No. At least, not yet.

Super-simple step one: Get your ideas out of your head. Many of us are idea machines. We think of so many things that we don’t know what to do first. If that’s you, then the first step is getting the ideas for your marketing out of your head and into a format you can refer to later and add to often.

Use the “Your Ideas” template if you’re a pen and paper person, or use your favorite app. The technology doesn’t matter.

If you fall into the “I have no ideas” category, then use your first 30 minutes to brainstorm.  Start here:

  • What would you love to tell people about your industry?
  • What are common myths or misconceptions that need busting or correcting?
  • The last time you were inspired—what did you do, and what happened next?
  • What have your learned from your clients/customers?
  • Where is the best way to meet/reach your ideal clients?
  • What events are strategic for you this year?
  • What trends are you loving/sick of?  

Super-simple step two: Create a plan. Since we’re not going to complicate this, I’ve made a “Your Year” template you can download and keep handy. Start filling in the months with events, promotions, and campaigns. Don’t forget any seasonal times that occur in your business.

Some of you may be thinking…

“That’s all fine and dandy, but I don’t have campaigns; I’m not sure what to promote, and don’t even get me started when it comes to events!”

I hear you. Since we’re all about simple, just start with the next month or quarter. Is it back-to-school time, or the snowy days of winter? What events are happening that drive activity? If you’re still stuck, just look at the next month and start there. Review your idea list and find something that resonates with you. Use that as your focus for the month. (If you are feeling extra organized, then you can go a step further by mapping out your weeks in detail using the “Your Month” template here.)

Super-simple step three: Now that you’ve got a focus, it’s time to execute. How do you reach your audience? By sharing information where they are. Showing up in their email, their Facebook feed, at events they attend, etc. Write a blog post, tape a video, record a podcast, attend an event, or even better, be the speaker at the event.

Hint: It’s not necessary to do everything. It is necessary to do one or two things really well – and BE CONSISTENT!

Do what’s natural and easy for you. Not a writer? Then use voice-to-text. Don’t let technology (or lack thereof) keep you from sharing the information with your audience. I know someone who launched an entire business writing advice in Facebook posts. It’s not my go-to recommendation, but if that’s all you’ve got right now, then use it!

Rinse and repeat. It really is that simple.

Like most things in life, it gets easier when you know how. It also becomes part of your daily flow if you schedule the time to get it done. If you need more customers, you can’t NOT do this. If you’ve got more clients than you can handle, then hire someone to do it for you.

Ready? Let’s go!

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Content planning tips

Time for a Plan! What, Why and How of Content Planning

Do you find yourself scrambling every day, week, or month, trying to figure out content planning (i.e., what you are going to blog, post or email to your fans and customers)?

How would it feel if you had a schedule and system, where your content was all planned out – so that every day you and your team would know what was posting when? Awesome, right?

Say goodbye to stress and feeling guilty about neglected social media platforms and blogs. Say hello to organization for you and your audience in providing consistent valuable and engaging content that will leave your fans wanting and expecting more.

Let’s dig in to the WHAT, WHY and HOW of content planning:

WHAT is content planning?

Content planning – sometimes known as editorial planning or editorial calendar – is the system of planning out all of the your content (blog posts, promotions, campaigns, newsletters and social media posts) ideally in calendar format (or spreadsheet, or Word docs) so that you are constantly and consistently delivering valuable, timely information to your peeps.

For example, I try to blog at least once a month about something I’ve been working on with clients or something that I think needs explaining to my followers who are interested in learning more about online marketing and social media.

I then create a monthly newsletter to share the most recent blog post(s) and any other recent online marketing and social media news and trends as well as upcoming events. And for my “secret sauce” – try to include a playlist!

Typically, I plan this for the middle of the month, because I’m usually busy at the beginning of the month working on client work (their newsletters, etc.). Then, I share the blog/newsletter on all of my social media posts, for people who might not be on my email list.

Example of my typical content planning:

Example of content planning and scheduling for my blog

 

REPEAT!

That’s a very simplified version of my content planning and scheduling for my blog, newsletter and related promotional social media!

WHY should you plan your content?

The main reasons you should plan your content marketing are:

First, you will eliminate the stress of always feeling like you should be more to communicate with your ideal audience. Once you set up some sort of system, you can rest easy that you have a plan to make it happen.

Second, planning makes it easier for your team (admin, designer, web person) to support you. If you have your content planned out, then you can enlist the support of your team to potentially help with research, images, posts and scheduling, etc.  Heck, you may even be able to delegate the whole process. Many hands will make light work, especially when they are working with your new schedule.

Lastly, your audience will love, expect and come to rely on your regularly shared insights and expertise with your blog and newsletter delivery. With consistent content, you’ll become the teacher, adviser and coach constantly engaging and delighting your clients with valuable information that further establishes you as an expert in your field. 

HOW do you create your content plan?

First, decide what kind of content will you be creating, curating and sharing? – For some, it’s easier to think about what they want to say, share, teach, or promote. For example, you might have a series of “how-to” videos, timely tips blog posts, a project portfolio or seasonal promotion or campaign with a countdown. If you are stuck, I often tell clients to think about the top 10 questions that they get asked by their clients.

Related Reading: Blogging When You Hate to Write

Second, establish when will you be posting and sharing your content – While it’s important to consider how frequent your audience wants to hear from you, it’s equally if not more important to answer the question – how often can you/your team reliably and consistently deliver?

While many “experts” advise that weekly is the ideal frequency to stay in touch with your tribe, I advise starting with what feels like a manageable schedule. You are much better off to commit to a monthly schedule and consistently deliver for a year, than to dive into a weekly commitment and peter out after 2 months.

NINJA TIP – Batch your content if you can

Instead of writing a new blog every time you have one scheduled, consider writing them in batches. Why not bang out 3-4 blog posts then you would be done for the month or the quarter depending on your frequency.

The same can be said for social media content. You should consider posting at least a week’s worth of your social media in advance. This is particularly good for evergreen and/or promotional posts that aren’t tied to news and trending ideas. If you can schedule the bulk of your

SUPER NINJA TIP – Schedule your content

Most of your online marketing platforms like WordPress, MailChimp, Facebook and/or third party apps, like Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial, and CoSchedule all have super helpful scheduling features so you don’t feel tied to your computer when you need to post.

If you can plan and schedule your online content, it will become part of your business activities, instead of an afterthought that never happens.Click To Tweet

 

Sign up below to get your own free Content Calendar from me:

 

Please share in the comments below what your favorite tips, tricks and tools are for optimum blog and social media content planning. Or connect with me if you need some help planning your content calendar. Now get planning!