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May 20, 2008

How To Plan A Month’s Worth Of Posts In 30 Minutes Flat

Working to a monthly theme helps me to plan ahead – and planning ahead helps me to write with a greater sense of purpose.

I tried a new planning technique this month, using one of Chris Garrett’s productive blogging tips: using a mind map to generate ideas and topics for posts.  His suggestion was to brain-storm or mind map around the focus of your blog (starting with a circle in the middle, and working outwards).  I applied this to the theme of writing with purpose and started to doodle ideas.

Within 30  minutes (tops) I had 18 posts mapped out – more than enough for the month ahead, given that I don’t want to blog every day, and other things are bound to pop up as I go along.

I then ran through the list of topics and made some notes about the sort of posts they might turn into.  I haven’t done this before but it’s a natural extension of writing with a greater sense of purpose, and tying my blog writing more tightly into my coaching and business purpose (one of the key messages to come out of SobCon08).

My overall purpose is to help people realise the power of their words.  To convey my belief that our words count.

But I realised as I did this exercise that there are sub-plots going on in terms of my blog writing purpose:

  • To use a variety of methods to keep readers engaged and interested
  • To establish myself as a credible, authority blogger
  • To generate material that I can use for some books I’m working on
  • To create some audio content that I can transfer to courses I’m setting up
  • To have some posts that I can write quickly, without too much time and effort

Getting clear on those sub-plots helped me to plan the month ahead – working out what kind of material I was going to produce and why; how much time I was willing to put into it (or not) and why; how to discount some things that looked like ‘good ideas’ because they don’t fit into the bigger picture of what I’m trying to do.

I’m not claiming to have cracked it, but this is the most purposeful approach to planning the month ahead that I’ve tried so far.  I’ll let you know how it pans out, but meantime I thought you might be interested to see the results of the mind-mapping exercise:

The code at the bottom was how I mapped out the type of posts:

*material with a  shelf life – pillar content, or material to use in courses or books

W writing tips

A audio material

P popular and linking out – popular might be the wrong word here! I was thinking of posts that are more explicitly linked to blogging, that link to other bloggers and attract people back here

check: short and easy to write ( I think the "check" signals I want and need some more of them!)


What other methods could I use to plan my writing? Have you got any tried and tested techniques that have worked for you?

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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Comments

Joanna I think the smartest thing about what you did was stopping at your 18, and leaving some flow space. I can go a bit crazy with mind-mapping, with lines and colors going everywhere so it starts to look like abstract art rather than the tool it is meant to be.

Well done also with your focus within this process; those five bullet points you call your sub-plots may have been the best prize of all.

Interesting reflection Rosa - I guess those five points also served as the brake on the mind-mapping - I wasn't looking to identify all possible ideas, but to generate ideas that would fit within my overall blog objectives for the month.

And yes, you're right, those 5 bullet points are a prize :-)

Joanna

I tried it, unfortunately my topics was crossed out quickly - work related stuff is difficult :)

Rosa, part of the mindmap is to get an abstract art result. You can put them in GIMP, blur a bit, apply some effects and put on a canvas :)

Roland, I hope one day you can write whatever you want :-) Much more fun that way!

I think your comment to Rosa will make her laugh...

Joanna

Hey, congratulations on a great application of Chris's technique. I need to do that myself... :-\

I don't know why I've always sortof resisted mind mapping. Mental block or something, I guess - or maybe I just am naturally resistant to structure. But I did like his "calendar form". Think I'll try that one first.

That's a great technique, Joanna/Chris. Can it work if you don't have a monthly theme?

When I first learned mind mapping in the 80s, it was called "clustering." It works quite well as a tool, and after awhile you can just do it in your head.

I also like using lateral thinking, mainly because it is far more fun and freeing. I explain lateral thinking in relation to coming up with blog topics at:

http://spaceagesage.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/problem-solving-made-easier/

Wow, Joanna, is this ever a keeper. As I think about the variety of topics I have perhaps I could try this for a month... just to see how it fits my work.

Two tips I really like are:

check: short and easy to write ( I think the "check" signals I want and need some more of them!) Me, too!

To brainstorm the focus around the purpose of the blog is more targeted. In light of this, how do wedge in the little goodies neatly when you are tagged? This is where I have difficulty. How do you fit these into your list above?

Joanna, thanks for sharing this tip. I use mind mapping for strategy planning but only used it once for blog planning. When I did use it for the blog it was by far the best blog week I had. I calendared the posts in advance. Somehow I got off track and haven't been as faithful to this technique. Your post is a reminder for me to pull it together. Thanks!

I love mindmapping, Joanna, and it's a technique I'm keen to encourage my children to use. I sometimes find that my mind gets so full of ideas that I just have to pour them all out onto a piece of paper. I tried using Bubbl.us but that didn't work out so well for me:
http://www.bubbl.us/
Apparently, I need to mindmap oldstyle to get that feeling of release as I plot & plan all my grand schemes!

I LOVE this kind of thinking! Will get a mindmap planned out for www.thecenturytreereader.com right away!
Thanks,
Susan Hilton

I used to teach mind mapping for media training -- and I never thought about applying it to my blog. Thanks for the wonderful idea! It's so nice to know you've got blogs done, and deadlines met.

Thanks again,
Jan Sokoloff Harness

Robert, I consider myself pretty resistant to structure too! Actually I don't find mind-mapping structured, especially when I do it freehand.

All you need is a circle in the middle, then a page big enough to doodle out the way and see what happens.

There's no 'right' way to do it - your mind will come up with the goods.

Worth a shot - you might be surprised at the new ideas you come up with

Joanna

Brad,yes, of course.

You could just pop some of your key words in the centre and doodle out the way; or perhaps try it with "words sell: June" in the middle and see what emerges...

As I said to Rosa it helped having some other sub-plots, so you might want to let your unconscious mind know what else to think about (eg one post on cartoons, a links post, a humour post, a serious post, some short easy to write posts etc)

Let me know how you get on, or if you need any help / prompts

Joanna

Hi Space Age Sage

I guess I could do it in my head, but on the page means I get a list I can work from too, and cross items off as I work through them during the month (two exercises for the price of one!)

Thanks for the link to the lateral thinking prompt post too

Joanna

Robyn, I guess have two answers on what to do with tags. One, I leave enough room for some things that occur to me or I want to add in 'for fun'. This list probably covers week-days only. I'm keeping weekends free just now, or for special projects like WILF...

The other would be to try and work tags into my themes. It's not always possible, but it is good fun if you can find a way to make a connection between them.

And then again, answer three: as a wise person said on my 'focus' post - it's useful to have lines round the edges... and then blur them :-)

Hope that helps

Joanna

PS Thinking about the *type* of post definitely helped me - to think about structure, time, style, energy, research as well as the topic.

Hi Karen

Glad you found this useful. I've used a calendar for a long time now, but haven't done the mind-mapping before - it definitely helped me to get things into perspective.

Will try it again next time... though no promises to stick rigidly to what appears at the start of the month!

Joanna

Amy, we are alike in so many ways :-)

Yes, mind-mapping helps me too, in stopping my ideas from bursting out of my head. And likewise, I've tried some software versions, but they're too slow or restrictive somehow compared to what you can do with pen and paper.

I loved seeing your kids' mind maps last week - and have been thinking about the wonderful projects they're dreaming up on the back of them!

Joanna

Susan, I'm glad you found it useful.

Thanks for stopping by

Joanna

Hi Jan

It's always fun to find new things we can apply to and learn from our blogs :-)

Thanks for stopping by

Joanna

Hi Joanna

I found this topic and your previous one on sense of purpose very inspiring.

I'm inspired (and I thought a bit about why I used that word and believe it does reflect how I feel) because although I've been using mindmaps for quite some time now they've been based more around strategy and are quite high level.

I've always known intuitively I could use the strategic topics to dig down deeper, but didn't actually put two and two together and come up with blog themes and topics.

You are so right about a sense of purpose and now I'm armed (or re-armed more like) with your timely insights it's time to take the next exit off the freeway to nowhere and use that renewed focus to move forward with confidence. So it's off to some more mindmapping!

As an aside, I too like to use pen and paper to mindmap. I then transfer it to my 'whiteboard' which is some clear plastic contact sheets I have put on my walls in my office. This way they are always in front of me and help me stay focused.

Cheers, Jan

Roland, Joanna was quite right; I came back and laughed so gleefully at what you’d written. Your quick wit has “gotten me” quite often in Twitter, and now here! I’m going to pull out the 35er box of Pentels I have for the next mind map I attempt, and when I’m done, write “For Roland, with nothing crossed out!” across the bottom, and hang it on my wall :)

To every visual thinker out there, get your arsenal of highlighters and colored pencils ready! At the rate Joanna is going here, we'll have to start mapping out our conversational threads... doodles with thumb-print people work quite nicely too! (And speech bubbles that have things like "blether" and "earywigging" in them, right Brad? Where would "swither" go Joanna?)

Jan, thanks for the feedback, you've quite made my morning!

Look forward to seeing where the mindmapping takes your blogging...

Best wishes

Joanna

I look forward to the pictures of the paintings of your artistic results on flickr Rosa! :-)

Joanna

Joanna, looks like this is a popular post, and for good reason! I'm going to give this a try, along with separating the different types of content I write. I'll have to think on that one, but this mind-map and the example you show have really turned another light-bulb on. So Thank You for that!

Rick

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