Learn from my mistakes: The Importance of Separating Planning from Doing

If you know me, you know I produce quite a bit of content. If you don’t know, well, here’s what I do:

  1. I record and produce a daily podcast.
  2. I write a weekly newsletter.
  3. I write an article a week on this little site.
  4. I record and produce another podcast where I talk to interesting people.

Lots of my content is quite time-consuming to work on too: editing audio can be a slow process because when you want to edit it properly—like me—you have to listen to it at 1x speed, meaning if I record 2 hours of audio, I need to listen to 2 hours of audio.

Suffice to say, I make quite a bit of content.

Until recently, I’ve kind of just gritted my teeth and done it. “I do it to myself, nobody forces me to do all of this stuff”, I tell myself.

Slowly though, things started to drop off. The weekly newsletter turned into an occasional one, then a never one. My daily podcast was daily, most of the time. And my articles? Well, you’ll see on Medium here. I certainly wasn’t consistent.

I couldn’t carry on winging it

If I was to be consistent, that means 100% consistent (it’s not consistency otherwise), I needed to figure out a way to get this stuff done more efficiently. Simply stopping doing it all wasn’t an option, because I’m a stubborn bastard.

Stopping did cross my mind though, especially my podcast. Because I’ve been recording my podcast daily and editing it daily, I was spending pretty much an hour every day doing my podcast. Sometimes even longer. I had to work out a more efficient way to do it, so I went back to a concept I’d already been using, but had slipped out of the habit of.

Planning

Yes, there’s no massive secret here. I started planning.

In an effort to make my podcast more “spontaneous” and because I’d become lazy and demotivated, I’d stopped planning my podcast, my emails and my articles. I was completely winging it. I’d sit down every night after a day of work, and have to think of something to talk about. Every night. As you can imagine, I started to get bored of that, so I started planning again.

The important difference here from my first attempt at planning stuff was that I was literally creating a content calendar. Last time, I used a boring old spreadsheet. I made it look like a calendar by using the Trello power-up. It’d been a while since I’d used Trello, but it was perfect for this task.

My content calendar in Trello.

I spent time just thinking. I know, it’s a weird idea. I just sat down, and thought about the things I wanted to talk about, when I wanted to talk about it, and how things linked in with each other. If I spoke about design on this day, could I write an email newsletter that weekend about design too and refer people back to the other thing?

I planned out a couple of weeks, and immediately felt a weight lifted. Not only had a weight been lifted, but I was ready to do my podcast again. I was excited by it even.

The two biggest things I learned from planning my content (again)

  1. If you plan stuff in isolation—separate from production—you can see a strategic view of your content you just can’t see when you’re producing stuff. I saw links everywhere in my content. I wrote shownotes in advance of my episodes, and referenced back key episodes that linked to it. It increased listens and views on all of my other content. The only way I could see these links was because I was planning in isolation of the production.
  2. The planning is easier and the production is easier because you’ve planned it. I didn’t have to think about things to talk about, when I was going to talk about it, or even write any notes when I was in the mood to produce. I just sat down and produced. It was (and still is) glorious. It’s meant I’ve batched waaay more of my content.

Speaking of batching (or just doing)

Batching isn’t a new concept. It’s not even the only word used to describe this thing, and it’s an easy concept to understand. All it means is the process of making multiple things at the same time.

It’s a popular term in content production because it speeds things up massively and it’s just a trendy topic at the minute. If you can sit down and write 3 blog posts in a row, you can release them periodically over the next couple of weeks to an optimum schedule. No pressure to get things done when you need to at the last minute.

Once I’d planned my podcast, emails and articles, I got to work producing. Straight away, I started making 2 or 3 podcasts every time I sat down to record them.

I still haven’t quite got into the habit of writing 2 or 3 blog posts at the same time as I’m only just settling into the writing side, but I have the ability to do it because I’ve planned everything I’m going to talk about.

Learn from my mistakes: Things to think about before making your next blog, podcast, or any other thing

  1. The next time you’re thinking of making a blog, an email newsletter, a podcast, or anything else, think about your topics first.
  2. Write them all down. Stick them into a calendar. Visualise when things will go out.
  3. Separate the act of planning from the act of doing. Both tasks will be easier, and you’ll enjoy both more too. It’s a win-win.