You may believe that spending time getting organized takes time away from getting work done. Variations on this thought are sometimes common among creatives who pride themselves on thriving under chaotic conditions, or just aren’t inclined toward getting organized. The thinking goes that if one focuses on the work itself, everything else can be set aside, and things will somehow work out.
This is a dangerous belief. Failing to get organized leads to inefficiency, which leads to less productivity and ultimately less effective work. In fact, according to a CoSchedule survey, marketers who are organized are 397% more likely to report being successful.
According to that same survey, only 14% of respondents considered themselves Very Organized. An additional 51% say they’re Somewhat Organized, which is encouraging, yet suggests room for improvement.
But, how can marketing teams actually begin getting organized? Developing a clear marketing schedule for projects and campaigns is a good start. This can mean planning everything around a calendar, some sort of list, a kanban board, or whatever format helps your team work best (and as an aside, CoSchedule supports visualizing your work in all three of these ways).
In this post, you’ll learn:
- What goes into scheduling projects. From determining resource availability to actually managing the work.
- How to get your team on board with process change and getting organized. In case not everyone is willing to buy in right away, or abandon old ways of working.
- An effective way to plan and manage everything on your schedule. A step-by-step process for putting this advice into practice.
Plus, you’ll find a downloadable template to help you get started.
What Do We Mean By “Marketing Schedule”?
In simplest terms, a marketing schedule can be anything that’s used to track the following:
- Projects and campaigns your team will work on.
- Which team members will be responsible for each one.
- The deadlines and ship dates for deliverables.
Plus, it can also include any other information your team might find useful. This may vary depending on what you’re working on. Our template included in this post, then, is intended to be flexible in order to suit your own organizational needs.
There are a lot of reasons to use a schedule for all your content, too. Here’s a short list:
- Stress less. Working without a clear strategy sucks. It leaves team members frantically scrambling to produce directionless content at the last minute. Ultimately, this leaves everyone feeling exasperated and undermines success.
- Work more efficiently. When you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do in a day, you’re mentally free to focus on what matters. That leads to getting more done in less time.
- Increasing transparency across your team. Not knowing what the rest of your team is working on can lead to misunderstandings and frustration. Laying out all your projects in one shared space makes it easier for everyone to see what everyone else is doing (and plan projects accordingly).
It’s important to note we’re not talking about a public schedule of marketing events (like an event calendar, or something to that effect).
Some Tools to Consider Before You Start
Whether you’re looking for a tool, a scheduling process, or both, you’ll need capable software to do this right. And there are lots of different options available with different strengths and features to consider. Here are some different types that are out there:
- Paper Planners: These are great for keeping personal notes and projects. For marketing teams though, they may not be ideal.
- Spreadsheets: They’re not great, but they’re (mostly) free and they’re better than nothing. This is often where marketing teams will start.
- Dedicated software: Marketing organization software like CoSchedule or other general-purpose project management tools are the premium route.
Make Things Easy With This Downloadable Template
If you don’t have the budget for paid tools, or don’t want to build your own spreadsheet, you can use this template to get up and running right away. This post will explain how to use its different fields to map out a complete marketing schedule (and for when you’re ready to upgrade, it’ll also walk through how to use CoSchedule for this purpose).
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Step 1: Determine Projects to Place on Your Schedule
So, you've decided you’re ready to build out a complete marketing schedule for your content. The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out which projects need to go on your schedule. Start by listing out all your recurring project types.
Essentially, what we want to first establish is which recurring types of content do you know you’ll create regularly on an ongoing basis.
Once you have this figured out, start planning out the specific ideas for each content type you’ll create. This means developing a list of specific titles and working headlines for each piece.
Fill Your Schedule With an Effective Brainstorming Process
We’re big believers in group brainstorming here at CoSchedule. If you don’t have any specific ideas for content lined up yet, this quick process may help you change that. Here’s how our 30-minute three-step brainstorming process works:
- Have everyone on your team spend 10 minutes writing down ideas. Don’t worry if they’re good or not. Just get them down on paper.
- Then, spend 10 minutes reading those ideas aloud, and have everyone score them silently. Use a three-point scale, where three’s are the best ideas you absolutely need to create, two’s are average ideas that need work, and one’s are duds to be tossed out. Expect to see a mix of ideas that fall into all three buckets.
- Last, spend ten minutes discussing every idea that everyone agreed was a three. From these, choose the ideas you’ll actually execute on. Depending on how much content you typically produce, you can expect to generate a month’s worth of ideas this way (that’s typically the result we get, but your results may vary).
Once you have a list of awesome ideas, hold onto them. These are the content pieces you’ll use to kick off your organized marketing schedule.
Assign Projects to Team Members
Next, determine who will be creating each piece of content on your schedule. This means including everyone involved in seeing each project through from ideation to completion.
Possible team members could include:
- Project Managers
- And anyone else involved
Establish a Color-Coding Scheme
Color-coding your schedule makes it easier to tell projects apart at a glance. Assign one color to each type of project. For example, all your blog posts might be green, while videos could be orange, and so on. Alternatively, you might also want to color-code projects based on the teams or individuals they’re assigned to.
Step 2: Determine the Steps Required to Complete Each Project
If you have recurring project types you create on a regular basis, odds are you have pre-defined workflows for each project. If you don’t, it’s time to consider documenting checklists you can use to make sure every project on your schedule is completed thoroughly. This helps prevent wasting time to fix errors later and enables teams to work more efficiently and effectively.
Get out a text editor and lay out your steps like this:
Step 1: [INSERT STEP]
Step 2: [INSERT STEP]
Step 3: [INSERT STEP]
For a blog post, a hypothetical checklist might look like this:
Step 1: Find a target keyword
Step 2: Write 20 headline options
Step 3: Craft an outline
Step 4: Write your post
Step 5: Proofread / edit
Step 6: Schedule publish date
Simple stuff. To build your own checklists, ask yourself:
- Which steps do we usually follow to complete this task?
- Are there steps we could consider adding, to make this process more effective?
- Are there unnecessary steps we should remove to increase efficiency?
If you’ve never thought about this in detail before, you might discover you’re either missing key steps in your processes, or are wasting time on things you can eliminate. Either way, you can easily boost your productivity this way.
Why Are Checklists Important?
Checklists are essential for making your marketing schedule more useful. Planning projects ahead of time loses its value if those projects aren’t completed properly. Plus, if part of our goal is to increase efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring steps aren’t missed is crucial.
For more insight into the power of checklists, watch this video of Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto:
Step 3: Place Projects on Your Marketing Schedule
Now that you’ve got all your ducks in a row, it’s time to start dropping your content onto your marketing schedule.
Set (Realistic) Deadlines
Every project should have a clear and realistic deadline. But, how do you determine what a realistic deadline looks like? There’s a data-backed solution to help you figure out.
Start by roughly estimating the amount of time it usually takes you to complete a certain type of task or project. Set your first deadline accordingly. Then, track your actual time spent working on those types of projects over time.
You can do this by creating a time-tracking spreadsheet (like this simple free Google Drive spreadsheet) and a timer. You can either use a timer on your phone or the free desktop timer app Timer-Tab.com:
Eventually, you’ll start to see a pattern. Once you have about ten completed projects on your time sheet, calculate the average time it took to get from start to finish. You’ll now have a clear idea of how long a project should typically take.
Set Up Deadline Alerts
What happens if you forget to check your schedule and blow a deadline? Odds are, your boss will look something like this:
And you’ll feel something like this:
Avoid catastrophe! Use Google Calendar to set up an alert for each deadline. That way, you’ll get an email reminder to make sure you don’t forget. Start by clicking a time on your Google Calendar and give your project a name:
Then, click Edit Event to control how frequently you receive reminders. Adjust to your own preference:
Now, you won’t have an excuse for blowing that deadline. If you’re a CoSchedule user, you’ll receive email and in-app notifications to show you when deadlines are approaching. They're all visible upon logging in on your dashboard as well:
Now, Finally, Let’s Add Your Projects to Your Marketing Schedule
If you haven’t done so yet, download the marketing schedule template included in this blog post. Then, click the Marketing Schedule tab in the lower left:
Here’s what you’ll see in there:
At first, you’ll see a ton of columns. Let’s break down what each one is for:
- Title. Self-explanatory. This is your headline.
- Article Type: For a blog post or article, list the article type. Ex: How-To, News Announcement, etc.
- Image Type: If your post will include an infographic, image gallery, or other design-intensive graphic, list it here.
- Deadline: If it’s not done by this date, there had better be a good reason.
- Step In Process: Update your progress here. Ex: Ideation, Writing, Design, Editing, etc.
- Subject Matter Expert: If you’re depending on an internal subject matter expert to support and review your content for factual accuracy, include their name here.
- Designer: Who’s creating your graphics”
- Author: Who’s writing your content?
- Notes: Keep miscellaneous notes about your project here.
- In Edit Folder?: If this content is ready for editing, denote that in this column.
That’s it. You can start by filling in the Title field, and then updating your progress as you move along.
Next, let’s look under the Workflows tab:
Here’s what you’ll see next:
To complete this tab, edit the Project Type to reflect the types of content you create (blog posts, social campaigns, videos, etc). Then, fill in each field accordingly:
- Steps: List out each step to complete that project type.
- Hours: Include how much time each step should take (on average).
- Explanation: Write out a short description of what each step entails.
This will help you keep each project you create consistently on track.
Using Your Marketing Schedule Template
Now you know how to get your spreadsheet set up. The next step is to actually use it. Follow these steps to get the most out of it.
This sounds like a simple step, but it makes a big help when you want to look at your schedule and see what’s up fast. Use the Color Key section of your template to keep track of which colors you’re associating with which projects or team members:
Decide Who Will Own Your Schedule
There are a few approaches you can take here. You can either have everyone on your team add their own projects, or have one person in charge of adding updates and maintaining the document. There’s also a third option, where team leads can manage projects for their respective staff.
Stay Consistent By Making Organization a Habit
Tools only work as well as your ability to use them. Make it a habit to look at your schedule every day. Once you get into a routine of using a planning schedule, working productively will become something you just do, without having to think about it.
In order to build a habit successfully, it helps to understand how habits are developed. According to Duhigg, studies show that repeating processes enough times literally causes your brain to require less effort to complete that same task. To get yourself to keep doing that task, you’ll need to develop a cue to spark that action.
This could be sitting down at your desk first thing in the morning, or maybe pouring that first cup of coffee for the day. If you do something at the same time every day, or have something to cue the habitual response in your brain to perform that action (like getting coffee), you’ll start doing it without thinking about it.
Eventually, it’ll become a routine, and you’ll feel good about being organized. Your brain will then want to keep those positive vibes flowing, and so you’ll feel a sense of reward each time you use your schedule.
And, as author Charles Duhigg says in his book, The Power of Habit:
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”
So, be a champion. Use your marketing schedule.
Scheduling Projects and Campaigns with CoSchedule
CoSchedule is an extremely feature-rich marketing organization software suite for marketing teams. Part of that suite is the Marketing Calendar, which allows teams to plan, organize, and schedule every project on one calendar:
Now Plan Some Projects on Your Schedule
Now you’ve got everything you need to keep all your content and marketing projects planned and organized. That means you’ll be able to:
- Work with less stress.
- Hit all your deadlines consistently.
- Be a marketing rock star.
Sound good? Then stop wasting time and get started!
This blog post was originally published on April 26, 2017. It was updated and republished on April 25, 2019.