Create an endless stream of blog ideas with an Editorial Calendar

Updated to Productivity on January 2, 2023.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

If you’re serious about blogging you need an Editorial Calendar.

In fact, in the last month I must have recommended this brilliant solution to no less than 9 people – proof enough, eh Watson?

Before I get to the machinations of this wonderful invention (hat tip to Stan Smith at for his version of this solution), let’s take a quick tour of the problem.

If you own a blog, well goodie for you. If you write meaningful, relevant, helpful content on a consistent basis (for the record: March 2013, August 2014 and then September 2015 is NOT consistent) even better.

Getting readers to your blog is no small feat. Once there, you have their attention – for at least twice a month they turn to you to learn and be inspired.

And if you think having an audience for your blog is no big deal, try getting that crowd to show up in a rented hotel room every week – good luck.

The problem is…eventually you will run out of ideas to write about.


Enter the Editorial Calendar.

How to build an Editorial Calendar

The Editorial Calendar is not so much a diarized list, as a shopping cart of possible topics to pick from every time you sit down to write.

The first step to creating your Editorial Calendar is to think small. Trying to talk about your main solution (like leadership) over and over will get old pretty quick. Instead, break your main solution into at least 6 sub-topics.

A friend of mine coaches people on fashion makeovers. As you might imagine, I know about as much about fashion as I do about nuclear fission, so let’s work with that example.

Thinking about questions your clients ask you, potential sub-topics for fashion make-over could be:

  • for your career
  • how to get started
  • mistakes to avoid
  • celebrities
  • for relationships
  • saving money

Try to choose sub-topics with lots of “meat”—the kind of you could write a whole speech about. Later in this process it might become clear that some of my examples are weak, but let’s run with them for now.

Next, we’ll dress these up with a variety of themes.

Adding themes

An easy way to kick-start your writing every week is to have themes matched with your sub-topics. Themes, like How-to, or Mistakes to Avoid, make your blog more interesting and feed the plot line.

Some successful themes include:

  • how-to (e.g. “7 ways to….”)
  • mistakes to avoid
  • trends (e.g. quote statistics)
  • failure/success stories
  • personal story
  • opinion
  • inspirational
  • controversy
  • book reviews
  • ask a question
  • predict the future
  • equipment review
  • blog review (e.g. review your favourite blogs)
  • video blog
  • product reviews
  • reader poll (insert a poll in your blog)

For my blog, I’ve been noticing that mistakes (see “15 mistakes you should never make on stage”) to avoid and how to make money (see “How to make money as an expert”) are always popular, but so are how-to themes (see “How to negotiate your speaking fees and get hired”.)

Build your matrix

Next, you need to create a spreadsheet to hold all the juicy topics for the future. I’ve become a big fan of Google Sheets for this – they’re easy to create and easy to share with our team.

Sample Editorial Calendar grid

Nothing fancy needed here – just list your sub-topics across the top and blog themes down the side.

Bingo! You have the start of an Editorial Calendar. Now it’s time to fill in the blanks.

Filling in the blanks

Before you do that, think about your ideal reader (some call them your “avatar”). What challenges do they want to get past? What have they enjoyed from you in the past? What part of your expertise do they seem to most value?

I like to set aside about 30 minutes at a time for this task – after that I start to run dry in the ideas funnel. My goal is to generate as many ideas as possible and jump around the matrix adding possible topics as the ideas come to me.

Just for fun I spent 20 minutes and partially filled in the sample Editorial Calendar (below). Forgive my ignorance about fashion – but I think you can see how this works (it’s actually sort of fun to brainstorm when you have the matrix to guide you, but I definitely ran out of things to say about fashion.)

Sample Editorial Calendar with blog topics

It’s a rare bird who can sit down and pull ideas out of thin air. I can’t.

My Editorial Calendar gives me the prompt to get started. I have a quick look, choose the topic I want to work on, and then start to outline my post. Check out some more tools for bloggers.

Sure, I still have to write the blog, but getting started just got a whole lot easier.