Use This Method to Brainstorm More (and Better!) Blog Posts in Less Time

Something I’ve heard time and time again from bloggers is how they’re experiencing MAJOR writers block. Take Angie from Gluten Free Running — when I asked what some of your biggest blogging challenges were, she responded:

"Finding creative topics to write about!" 

How many of you have totally been there!? I know I have. 

But here's the good news: I’ve created a method that has virtually eliminated the head-pounding, fist-balling experience of sitting down in front of your computer screen and having that cursor laugh at you in the face. (Brilliant quote courtesy of The Famous Ashley Grant!)

But now that you know EXACTLY who your ideal reader is, this method will also help you brainstorm better topics that speak directly to her (or him), so you’ll never be left wondering if the posts you’re publishing are connecting with your readers. It’ll become automatic.

And you know what else? This method — when done in the way that I’ve laid out — will have you brainstorming an entire month's worth of content (or more) in less than a day. 

I call this The Blocking Method. Some people call it “batching” — it’s where you perform similar tasks in batches in order to complete more of that task at once.

So for me, my Blocking time looks like this:

Once a month: brainstorm all content for the following three months
Once a month: schedule content
Once a week: produce content

That’s it.

(Sneak peek: next week we’ll talk about how social media fits into this mix, but I’m also only scheduling social media for marketing purposes once a week!)

I mean, how much would your life change if you knew that you could brainstorm every post you needed for the next three months in a single day, then sit down at your computer already knowing what you were going to write about?

Every. Single. Time.

Of course, there are some of you that use your real-time, real life experiences as fodder for your blog, but you can still use this method to brainstorm past moments that you might want to share in the future, too.

So let’s get into how this shakes out.

 

The Blocking Method

Want to know the secret to creating content — or anything, really — more efficiently and with an increased level of focus? It’s not magic, but it is the same method that billionaire CEOs, life hackers, and yours truly use. 

It’s performing tasks in blocks of time. 

Let’s take a look at your current workflow:

You sit down at your computer, check email, check the news and your social media feeds, maybe you get up to grab some coffee before you finally settle in to start on your Big Blog Post of the day.

But you hear a ding from your email so you switch over to that and start to reply, but with it being the first thing in the morning, your husband/kids/dog starts to demand attention.

You handle whatever things are going on in your home, send the kids off to get ready for school before switching back to your Big Blog Post.

But — whoops — you forgot to finish replying to that email you started so you head back on over there to wrap that up. 

Your coffee is finally kicking in and you realize you forgot to post to your blog's social media accounts this morning. You’ve got drop offs coming up in a few minutes, so rather than finishing up your social media posts you had started, you simply browse Pinterest and reply to a few tweets to burn time.

Your Big Blog Post pops back into your mind but it’ll have to wait until after you do drop offs and go to the grocery store 

Seeing a pattern here? 

Without a solid structure, your schedule can get whack real fast, leaving your Awesome Blog Posts unfinished. Your mind is scattered, and when you actually do sit down to do the important stuff, you’re distracted by all the other dings and bings and updates and calls. 

I don’t know if you guys remember Susan Powter (Google it), but it’s time to stop the insanity. 

Performing your tasks in blocks of time allows your mind to focus 100% on the job in front of you and get more done in less time. 

What you’ll be doing in this lesson is learning how scheduling your content in tasks over a course of a few hours or an entire day can cut down the total time you’re spending on these to-dos. This leaves more time for your family. On marketing your blog. On coming up with brilliant new ideas and pitches for brands. 

 

The Exercise

This is a glimpse into the way that I brainstorm content once a month. 

Instead of spending each morning banging your head against the wall trying to come up with ideas (which will significantly increase the time you’re taking to actually create content), take a half a day (or about four hours) to plan out every single piece of content you expect to produce in the next 30, 60, even 90 days. Lock yourself in a room and throw yourself into this creative process and you will come up with some amazing ideas. 

Don't get me wrong — creating must-read, unmissable, bookmark-worthy content takes woooooorrk, y’all. But the good news is, it gets WAY easier the more you do it. 

Yes, you’ll fumble around in the dark and totally question whether you’re making a fool of yourself, but it will get easier. I promise. 

Time Required: 4 Hours
Tools Needed: Pen and paper, laptop, Internet connection, music, snacks, quiet space to work, a Federal holiday calendar 

First, get a calendar. You know, a real one with national holidays on it. With your ideal reader in mind, highlight all the holidays that affect you and your blog's topic for the next 30, 60, or 90 days, or however long you’re planning for.

Think about all the stuff you may want to talk about on your blog. Let the holidays and events inspire you. 

Then, check out the following websites, and do the same for the more “unique and weird” holidays.

Days of the Year 
Holiday Insights
Time and Date

You might think these are pointless, but you should be prepared for things like #SuperheroDay (National Superhero Day, April 28th), #MayThe4thBeWithYou (Star Wars Day, May 4th),  #DonutDay (National Donut Day, June 5th), and #CatDay (National Cat Day, October 29th) to trend on social media because THEY DO.

Getting in on these trends is a great way to participate in the conversations that are already happening online. 

Then check out today's bonus sheet — the Editorial 1-Sheet that lists even more events and holidays pro bloggers (and magazine editors!) use to generate ideas. (You can only get this in the email so sign up now!)

After you’ve checked all these sites and your federal calendar, and have highlighted all of the dates that can possibly relate to your blog, it’s time to get to brainstorming. 

 

The Brainstorm

My favorite way to get past an idea blockage is with some wine (surprise!) and a big ‘ol nasty brain dump. It’s like free association and stream of consciousness thinking, but without all the wacky new age connotations that come with it. 

Now that you’ve identified the holidays and seasonal topics you want to surround, start brainstorming. Grab a timer and set it for 20 minutes, and just completely go at it by writing every idea that pops into your head, one holiday, event, or season at a time.

DO NOT EDIT YOURSELF at this point.

No idea gets erased, nothing goes in the trash. Nothing gets crossed off. Blog posts, videos, photos, podcasts, all of it. Wine may need to be involved (as I mentioned), so be sure to stock up. 

Never delete ideas. Nuggets of good ideas are hiding everywhere. Even inside big steaming piles of doodoo. 

Once your 20 minutes are up, take a break and repeat or move on to the next holiday, season, or event on your list. Keep going until you have a handful of ideas for every single date you’ve highlighted. Here's an example if I had a paleo dessert blog: 

National Donut Day
Paleo donut recipes
3 ingredient banana donuts
Where donuts came from
Cream-stuffed donut holes
Churro donuts
Donuts from around the world 

Once you’ve wrung every idea from your brain, take a break. Get up, stretch, down some water, go to the bathroom, do a few push-ups, whatever you need to do to get the blood moving, because we’re about to go into round two. 

Taking a look at your ideas list, create two piles or columns: one for the ideas that don’t quite make sense yet (I call this the "Parking Lot"), and another pile or column of ideas you want to expand on immediately. Why do we do this? I want you to make tangible progress quickly so you don’t get bummed (or burned) out. 

So in the Expand on Immediately pile, start fleshing out your ideas a bit more. Start outlining your post right now so that when it comes time to actually write it, you won’t draw a blank and forget where you were going. It could be as simple as one or two sentences indicating what you want the post to be about. 

Parking Lot
Cream-stuffed donut holes
Donuts from around the world
Churro donuts

National Donut Day
Paleo donut recipes
- Story about how my grandma used to make donuts and why I miss them
- How I still make them at home with a paleo twist
- My recipe  

3 ingredient banana donuts
- Step-by-step tutorial 

Where donuts came from
- History of donuts
- Were they always round?

 

Make sense? Make sure your ideas are authentic to you in some way and you’re not just writing something for a bizarre holiday because you love pizza (National Pizza Day, November 12th). Weave your stories and experiences into your posts in order to make an emotional connection and make your post authentic to you. 

If you love organic gardening, for example, you may want to write a post about the best plants to give as gifts for Mother’s Day (because while you love flowers, a plant is something that lives on), how your favorite spot in the world is under your oak tree (for Arbor Day) or, a primer on the toxic plants you should keep out of your garden for National Dog Day (August 26th) and help keep Fido’s everywhere from biting the dust. 

Give these obvious ideas another sentence or two about what they should contain so you know you have a good starting point for later. 

If you’re getting frustrated (I know, it happens), get a change of scenery and take your brainstorm session off-site. Go to the park, the beach, hell, go take a solo overnighter somewhere close to home, anything to get a clear head and view of something other than the four walls you stare at on a daily basis. 

The final step of the braindump process is to now look at the topics you moved to your Parking Lot because they didn’t quite make sense before. Can you angle these ideas in a different way? Spend a little more time breaking them down. 

Keep the remainder of your brain dump ideas in a separate document for safe keeping. After a while, brainstorming will get a whole heck of a lot easier so you’ll be up for a good challenge on finding ways to make these ideas work. Like I said, don’t throw any ideas away. Ever. 

In the end, you'll have MORE than enough ideas to schedule out for the next few months, or keep in your Parking Lot for later. 

It's a good feeling to be prepared. 

 

Today's Action 


Today, I challenge you to plan your first big brainstorming session. Put it on your calendar, block it off, tell the hubs to take the kids that day, grab a Kit-Kat and a glass of wine and really settle in for this — the first of many mind-blowing and creative brainstorming sessions ahead.

Or, JUST DO THE BRAINSTORM NOW!

You’ve got TWO bonuses coming your way in today’s email — a cheat sheet for all the places and ways you can brainstorm AND a seasonal editorial calendar that the pros (and magazine editors!) use to plan their content.

These brainstorming tools WILL help you craft seasonally relevant posts based on trends, holidays and events. It’ll be a source of inspiration for you, I guarantee it.

If you haven't already, sign up for the Blog to Business Challenge and get all these freebies delivered to your inbox for FREE during the month of September. Click the button below to get started!