If you want to to create content that aligns with your marketing and business goals and delivers results, you know it takes time.
From blog posts and social media campaigns to content upgrades and email newsletters—you know your ideal reader can tell when you haven’t put enough thought and effort into it.
Creating quality content takes time you often don’t have enough of. Since you can’t make your day longer than 24 hours, it means you need to be more intentional about how you plan your time for content creation, editing, promotion, and more.
The good news? There are habits and processes you can develop to make the most out of your time. Let’s look at tools and strategies I’ve developed over the years to tackle these challenges!
1. Work from templates, not from scratch
When you’re creating a lot of the same type of content, you’ll notice you’re doing a lot of the same tasks over and over.
- Writing a blog post outline;
- Putting together podcast shownotes;
- Creating graphics for social media (in Canva, for example);
- Writing headlines;
- Sending outreach emails;
- Inviting new podcast guests.
If you’re creating everything from scratch every single time, you’re spending a lot of time and mental energy on something you’ve done dozens (if not hundreds) of times before.
Luckily, there’s a solution: templating. *sigh of relief*
I’d argue that almost everything you do on a recurring basis can be put into a template and save you hours of your time each month. So how do you get started with creating templates?
First, list all the pieces of content you create on a recurring basis. Think blog posts, videos, podcast episodes, newsletters.
For each of the types of content you listed, write down a list of assets you create. For example, a podcast episode may have an interview, an introduction and outro, shownotes, a couple different emails for guests, and various graphics.
Now, look through each of these assets. Is there a recurring theme? Is there a lot of the same stuff you keep rewriting/recreating every time? For example, it took me a while to notice I’ve been writing same things in my emails when booking podcast guests. Now, I’ve made templates that include an invitation and some initial ideas in the first email, and my Calendly link and a bullet list of interview-specific details go in the second one.
Another example is creating sets of social media graphics for specific types of content and platforms. In Canva, you can create folders for different categories of graphics. For example, I have folders for blog posts, content upgrades, and podcast episodes. Now, I easily create a set of graphics for social media in a couple of minutes.
If you do a lot of your work in Google Docs and want to work from templates, there’s a native Google Docs option that will let you do that!
To upload your own template, head to docs.google.com (while logged into your account), click on Template gallery, and upload your template. After that, you’ll be able to pick your template for every new piece of content instead of working from scratch.
2. Work ahead in batches
Batching goes hand in hand with templates. It’s essentially a process of doing a bunch of similar tasks at once as opposed to having them spread out over the entire month in shorter timeframes.
The reason batching works? It avoids task switching, which makes you take longer to get stuff done. When you batch, you don’t spend any time getting focused and “in the zone” every time you need to complete a task. Instead, you get a set of similar tasks done ahead of your deadline.
For example, I’m outlining this post along with two more posts. Once they’re all outlined, I’ll use my next writing-focused days just on writing (instead of researching, planning, and so on). This way, I’ll have content prepared and ready to go live on my blog for the upcoming month, as opposed to having to set aside four hours each week to write these posts and prepare them for publishing.
The second option would take half of my workday each week for three weeks, which would break the flow of my days and weeks.
Instead, batching this means I’ll spend one or two days writing these three posts, and then another hour or two to get everything else ready: social graphics, screenshots, social messages, adding links, and more. This way, I won’t have to open Canva a million times a month, just once; same goes for Buffer, Later, and everything else I use to get a piece of content published.
Makes sense, right?
Here’s how you can get started with batching.
Look at your weekly schedule and identify how much time per week you’re spending creating any kind of content, including content for social media.
Analyze how long it takes you to complete each task of that nature, and be realistic. If you schedule an hour for something, but it actually takes you two, be honest with yourself and write the actual time you need.
Look at how much time you spend per month for each of these content types. For example, you may see you spend three hours each week on blog posts which is around 12 hours a month, and you spend an hour each week on social media scheduling, which is about four hours a month.
Now, what if you batched this into 3-4 days in a row (or a week), instead of a little-at-a-time over a whole month?
For example, if two out of three hours you spend on blog posts goes on just writing, you can batch at least three posts in a day and write the first draft. And then the day after, you can edit them, and have another 3-4 hours left in your day to schedule social media for the month. And that’s it—you’re free from those tasks for another three weeks.
Look for those threads and look for ways to batch similar tasks together. I do this with my own content, my social media, client content, podcast interviews and post-production, and really anything I can. The payoff in my productivity is worth it!
3. Give each task a spot on your calendar
This is a really simple one, but it made so much difference for me once I started implementing it.
Once you define the batches you can work through, they need to get a spot on your calendar. If they don’t, other tasks will come that will fill up that calendar space. People will book you for meetings. You’ll get busy. When that happens, you won’t get any benefits of the batching process you defined.
For example, I add all my client work to my calendar before each new week starts. Because I track my time in Toggl, I can usually make a pretty good projection of how much time I need to block on my calendar. I can then streamline my research and writing instead of jumping back and forth between the two.
This also gives me a solid overview of the remaining time of my day I can use for calls, admin work, and other things that need to get done!
My only tip here is to give your content its much needed space on your calendar and block out designated time to make it happen.
4. Make your content library work for you
Do you have way too many drafts and versions of your content and assets that go with it? If you have drafts whose names end in _final, then _finalfinal, then _finalforreal, and you can never find what you need and when you need it, it means it’s time you set some rules to your content library.
When your content library is well-structured, follows the same naming convention for all the files and folders, and is updated regularly, you’ll never have to break your productive flow because of it again.
How to bring your content assets in order?
Find what works for you. I use Google Drive for all my content assets. Dropbox is a great alternative. I do all my writing in Google Docs and can’t imagine working from something that isn’t as easy to share as Docs are.
Put a structure in place. Different content types and platforms will probably require different folders. My folder for podcasts has a subfolder for each episode, which then has all the audio files, shownotes, and graphics. Folder with blog posts has a folder per post, each of which then has a text document and the accompanying graphics.
Whatever you define, stick with it. Keep a file structure that will let you use it automatically and without too much thinking.
Define a naming convention. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something you can easily search for and recognize. This can include the year, month, topic, format, or ideally some combination of these elements.
Review and clean up your files regularly! I’m guilty of having files pile up in my Downloads folder if I don’t save them in their designated place on the drive right away. I avoid this by quickly reviewing my files once a week to see if anything fell through the cracks.
5. Repurpose every piece of content you create
The best thing your content can do for you is to bring you reach, visibility, and conversions long after you’ve published it and paid attention to it.
How can you achieve this efficiently? With content repurposing. Repurposing is the action of taking a piece of content you’ve already created and adjusting it to a different platform and a new format.
Essentially everything I’ve learned about repurposing is thanks to the incredible Brittany Berger, a content marketing strategist and my number one resource when it comes to all things productivity.
I’ve interviewed her on the Content Love podcast in late 2017 and asked her all about her magical process of content repurposing, which is exactly why I’m able to now do some of my work more productively, and help you do the same.
You should plan to repurpose every single piece of your content. Instead of making this a separate process, you’ll spend the least amount of time getting the maximum results by planning to repurpose your content right as you’re creating it. Brittany even has a content repurposing planning worksheet you can use to do this!
You can use content you’ve published as a blog post as standalone native content on social media that doesn’t link to anything else—it just lives as an independent nugget of value on one of your social channels. For example, you can create a short video that covers key points of your blog post—but you don’t link to the blog post, you just let this video live on its own on your Facebook page.
You can repurpose long-form blog posts into email sequences, guest posts, and joint ventures like webinars. It all comes down to adjusting to the new platform and new audience you’re repurposing for.
6. Make tools your superpower
Finally, things like tools, apps, extensions and plugins are important to spend less time to get your content published and promoted. If there’s a tool that can help you get something done quicker and better and keep you more organized along the way, I say—go for it.
However, keep in mind: if your process is broken, no tool will help you. What I mean by this is that if you don’t have a workflow in place for everything in that goes on in content marketing, simply using a tool won’t make it happen.
For example: if you have no process in place to come up with topics for blog posts and people in charge of writing them, a content calendar tool won’t make it better. If that happens, you’ll just have a calendar that no one will bother looking at because there’s no one with that task on their own, personal calendar.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are some tools that I swear by and highly recommend you try out in your own content process.
Writing & editing
Google Docs shortcuts – If you’re using Google Docs for any writing, shortcuts will make your life simpler.
Hemingway (free) – Helps you simplify complex sentences and get to the core of your ideas faster!
My blog post checklist (free!) – A printable list of 25 essential steps that make sure my blog post will perform well every time.
Canva (free, paid plans available) – Great for creating graphics for blog posts and social media, with hundreds of templates you can work from.
Compressor.io (free) – An insanely great tool for compressing images into less space without pixelation, poor quality, etc.
Content calendar & process
Asana (free, paid plans available) – All of my project management, including my content calendar, client management, and everything else that needs to get done, lives in Asana. I’m forever grateful to Megan Minns, as well as Louise Henry, for creating courses that helped me learn everything so I can stay sane in project management.
CoSchedule (paid tool, free trial available) – Brilliant for marketing teams and/or businesses that outsource parts of the content creation process. I used to use CoSchedule, but once I learned how to manage my content with Asana, I fully switched to Asana as it’s a free tool.
ConvertKit (paid tool, free trial available) – My email marketing tool of choice, great if you’re a solo creator/business owner and want to connect with your audience, share your content, and build automations.
Constant Contact (paid tool, free trial available) – Great for larger teams that need more advanced features like advanced tracking, ecommerce integration, and more.
Later (free, paid plans available) – All my Instagram posts are scheduled through Later’s free plan. If I didn’t do it this way, I’d hardly stay consistent on Instagram!
Pretty Links – I use the Pretty Links plugin to shorten my links for podcast shownotes, so that I can use them in the actual episode and direct listeners to marijanakay.com/9, for example, instead of a long link.
Yoast SEO – Great for readability checks and adding meta descriptions.
CoSchedule’s Click to Tweet – Brilliant for adding tweetable nuggets in blog posts.
(Please note: some of the linked tools are affiliate links, meaning I’ll get a small commission if you choose a paid plan.)
That’s it—it’s your turn! What are you doing to be quicker and more efficient in your content marketing?
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Note: This post was originally published on January 22, 2018 and updated on May 3, 2020.