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Clean Out Your List of Blog Post Ideas in a Blog Content Workshop

This post is by Steve of Do Something Cool. 

One of the first things I learned when I started blogging was to create a Word document to write down all my blog post ideas.  That way I could always find something to write about. 

After a few months, I had dozens of ideas and titles to work from.  Three years on, and that list has grown into the hundreds.

This seems to be common for bloggers.  We all have a long list of blog post topics.  Some bloggers I’ve talked to have over five hundred.  At some point though, you have to question the benefit behind having a list that long.

The overwhelming list

A few months ago I sat down to write a post, just like any other day.  I opened up my list to choose an idea and was struck by how long I’d let the list get.

I realized that most of those ideas were just being wasted.  I generally write about 400-500 words a day.  My blog posts are roughly 800-1000 words.  It would take me over a year to get through this list, and that doesn’t even include other ideas I would add throughout the year.

There are so many potential ideas I’m not using.

I decided to go through my list of blog post ideas and clear them out.  Think of it as a kind of spring cleaning.

Instead of writing 400-500 words, I sat down and typed 5000.  That’s ten times my normal amount for a day of writing.

As a result, I wrote enough to create six or seven blog posts.  All in one day!

Now I clean out my list of blog post ideas about once a month.  Usually, I block off about four or five hours of solid writing.  Often that means about 5000-6000 words in a day.  The last time I did this I wrote 10,000 words in one day, which was very challenging.

The number of posts you can get done this way is amazing.

Here’s what to do

It only takes a little preparation to clean out your list.  Set your date to write a couple of days in advance.  Make sure you can spend at least three hours writing.  It works best if you can write continuously; I’ve noticed my most productive time writing happens in the third hour.

A few days before you write, go through your blog post list and pull out about a dozen of those ideas.  For each of those posts, create a Word document.  Write the title at the top and create a general outline.  This should take about five minutes per post.  Also, as you go through your list, delete any ideas you have no interest in writing any more.

Create two folders on your desktop.  Put your unwritten posts with their outlines in the first one.  The second one is for all the ones you’ll finish as you write.  I named the first folder “Start Here” and the second one “Finished Posts”, but you can name them whatever you want.

When the day arrives to start writing, make sure to start right away so you have enough time to get as much writing done as possible.

It’s important to track your progress, so as soon as you start writing set a timer to go off in sixty minutes.  When it goes off, stop writing and count up all the words you’ve written to make sure you’re on the right track.  Then take a five-minute break to walk around a bit before getting back to writing.

Keep writing in sixty-minute chunks until you reach your word goal.  In my opinion, it’s best to set a high word goal.  The focus is to get as many words down as possible, so don’t spend too much time editing.  This day is about getting as many words down as you can so that you clear out your list. Edit later.

Also, keep in mind you don’t have to completely finish a post before moving on to the next one.  It’s about keeping the pace of your writing high to get through a lot of posts.  If one post isn’t working, move on to the next one.  It might just be an indication that the idea isn’t all that good.

Once you’ve written all you can on a post, save and move it from the first folder to the “Finished Posts” folder.  By the end of the day, this folder will be full of posts you’ve crossed off your list.

Your blog posts in the finished folder will be rough drafts so you’ll still need to edit and polish them later.  But now you’ll have a bunch of posts mostly ready to publish.  Plus, you’ll have several you can get ready to send off as guest posts.

You might be surprised what you can come up with when you clear out your list.  The last time I did some spring cleaning, I wrote about an idea I’d been sitting on for months.  After I finished it, I realized the potential behind it: that post turned out to be one of my more popular.  You just never know what will happen when you clean out that list once in a while!

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, personal growth and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest through his Facebook fan page and Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Danijela says:

    Exactly what I needed. I have an entire folder with different post ideas, and some of them are now outdated which means useless. This is probably why I am not looking at them any more even though I have some good ideas still waiting there. Time to do spring cleaning!!!

  2. Nuno Cabral says:

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree with Steve. Having a goal on the number of words is very stressful and could interfere with the flow of our writing.
    For me, when I have an idea, I like to put it at that exact moment in a draft, so when I come to it later, I can remember the main ideas.
    I like planing, but choosing a day to write may limit the creativity.

    The method that I described, works for me, but I believe that diferent people have diferent ways of working

  3. Great post steve. This is pretty timely for me, as I have a list of posts I am working on right now and I happen to be a really productive writing sort of a mood.

    How do you handle quality control though? Do you think that your posts are still as good as they could be if you write 10 in a day? I’ve done this myself (probably more like 5 or 6, but still) and I always worry that I have rushed it.

    Sometimes on the other hand, I will take 2 or 3 days over a post, and I do think the result is better… But then, maybe the benefit of clearing out your ‘closet’ is worth a small drop in writing quality.

  4. Rahul says:

    A blogger really needs to post only updated info so he can grab more attention. The post is nice.

  5. Rashelle says:

    I regularly comb through my list of post ideas to weed out outdated or so-so ideas. I also put a little pressure on myself by tentatively scheduling publication dates for post ideas that I really want to tackle and then sit down to write them.

    Occasionally I’ll sit down and have a marathon writing session for posts, but I often find I come up with new ideas for posts as I’m writing! Whenever this happens, I quickly jot down the general idea of the post in a sentence or two and return to my original work. If the urge for new ideas becomes that great, I just sit down and churn out brief post outlines. This process seems to work for me.

  6. se7en says:

    This is amazing… I have dozens and dozens of ideas … and dare I say they are scattered about in moleskins and desktop folders… and I never get to them I always think of fresh ideas on the day. But this is a fantastic way to create a buffer of finished posts… I love it!!! I may have to send my hubs out with the kids for a couple of hours, gather some potential posts and write till they are finished… so worth it!!!

  7. ivica says:

    Another excellent (free) tools for collecting and sorting bloggers ideas (in the cloud) is Trello: https://trello.com/.

    The biggest benefit for using this incredible tool is that you have access to your “pool” of bloggers ideas on any device, any time with possible right access giving to your blogger’s team. By using Trello you can better organize your blogging ideas thus reducing needed preparation activities time – the ultimate efficiency.

  8. Simon Dodd says:

    Nice one Steve!

    I had never even thought of writing a list of topics to blog about so now I know to do that as well as how to clear it out when it gets massive!! I have always written notes in my phone when I am out for things to blog about or ideas to put into my business but I then completely forget to organize them when I get home. I think it may be time to reorganize Evernote and get a blog posts category going in there! :)

    Thanks again for the great post!

  9. Shan says:

    Great ideas. Thank you.

    blessings,
    Shan
    The How to Guru

  10. Christina says:

    What a great idea! Just a few days ago, I was looking at my list of blogging ideas- up to about 50 now- and wondering how I would ever get through it. There are times when sitting down and just cranking out a lot of content works well for me. Then I can always edit, expand and perfect later. Since for me, the hard part is often just getting started, this might be a great solution!

  11. I’ve started a similar process to the one described on this post a few weeks ago. It was one of my New Year’s resolutions: do not to let my list of blog post ideas pile up. As a part-time blogger, the more organised I am, the bigger the chances that my blog will have a new post. The main difference is that I use Evernote instead of Word. It has been working quite well so far.

  12. Steve,

    To me, this is simply substituting one problem for another. You turn your ideas lost into posts, but now you have a long list of back logged posts to publish.

    How do you clear this new, long list? By publishing of course! But you’re not going to publish 10 posts (or even close to that number) a day.

    I think the real problem is hacking out mediocre ideas and being honest about which post ideas are truly great.

    Most people have a problem generating ideas, but when they find that comes easier, they realize their new problem is generating a high quality list of awesome ideas. I’d prefer to see a “stress test” type way of determining if something is truly great. I have my own system for this, but I feel most don’t.

    Cheers!

  13. Matt Brennan says:

    Totally agreed. It’s great to create a list like this, but you have to keep it well organized. An excellent tool!

  14. Jason Boyd says:

    Thank you so much for this tip. I’ve just started seriously blogging. I tend to write very long posts, as it applies best to my niche IMO. But my list of ideas has started to grow to a length that I have found it hard to organize and knock out, so instead I’ve just tried to come up with new content. My list became more daunting than coming up with something from scratch! This kind of organization will really help me focus and capitalize on my existing, good ideas. Thanks again!

  15. Lee A says:

    Thank you for the Blog! Everything I see and hear sparks a blog idea for me, but getting something usable and meaningful has been a long time challenge for me. I am going to give it a shot and see how it goes.

  16. Sajjad Ali says:

    Creating content and thinking about innovative ideas is the hardest job for any blogger..!! But let’s see if this can help in organizing the content better it’s worth a try

  17. Nikki says:

    When I first started as a freelance writer, I’d be under ridiculous amounts of stress when I gave myself a goal for words written in a day. But it wasn’t until I’d gotten my feet wet in a variety of topics that I realized something.

    The only time I was at a loss for words to put on paper was when I didn’t care much for the topic. I love learning so I’m usually able to get into any subject. But when I’m uninterested, I get “writer’s block.”

    Now that I’m running my own blog, ideas comes to me all day. I keep a note taking app running on my phone to catch them all. When Igive myself word count goals now, I have no problem reaching them.