For a lot of businesses, content calendars are an essential tool for ensuring that blogs and social media channels are kept up to date and full of great content. So as a small business owner, I willing to bet you’ve tried, or considered trying to create a content calendar of your own. I myself am a strong advocate for content calendars in general, but I know from years of experience that they don’t work for everyone.

There’s a growing group of people who’ve tried using a content calendar for their small business and have found it doesn’t work. The structure leaves them panicking and uninspired, trying to write high-quality content under the pressure of calendar deadlines.

A planner showing a calendar page with a few notes

Fortunately, there is another way. The calendar is self-imposed! You can just get rid of it.

Freedom from the confines of a calendar offers the opportunity for you to flex your writing muscles and learn new things about your own line of business. Instead of a list of publishing deadlines and cross-posting schedules, all you need is a simple three-step process.

Three essential habits for content creation

1. Ideas

Coming up with one promising idea for a piece of content, on a deadline, gets really challenging after the first few weeks. Instead try coming up with a few ideas for content every day, and looking back over them later to select the best ones.

Keep a note on your phone of all your potential ideas – or in the back of your notebook or diary, or even in your wallet. Add to it whenever you think of something new, or when you see or read something which inspires you, even if it’s only part of an idea.

Set yourself a target of adding to it every day. Even Saturdays. Even Sundays. It’ll take you three seconds, I promise. It doesn’t have to be a great idea, or even a particularly good one, just get something written down.

Need inspiration? Try our free Content Ideation worksheets.

2. Writing

The next habit you need to learn is to write without editing as you go. Writing and editing are totally separate parts of the process. So, take advantage of this, and use your first draft to dump everything out of your brain and into writing, and see what direction it takes you. This will help you figure out how many items to put in your list, or where you need to do more research around an aspect of your topic. Add in notes to yourself or asterisks to remind you to come back to an idea and do more with it later.

And, yes these are habits we’re talking about, so you need to make this a regular thing. Take a realistic look at your working schedule and see what time you can dedicate to writing each week. For example, you could decide always to draft blog posts for an hour on a Tuesday afternoon. You might get through a few short first drafts in that time, selecting things from your bank of topics. Or you might just focus on one post. The point is to write, without second guessing yourself or disrupting the development of your ideas.

3. Editing

Now you’ve got the hang of coming up with ideas, and developing good ones into first drafts. Well done!
The final stage of the process is editing. You have to work on your editing skills if you want to have a feed that’s full of great content. The whole point of ditching the content calendar is to give yourself the freedom to publish only content that you’re really proud of. Editing is what you do to create that content.

After some time has passed, come back to your drafts folder and look through your content-in-waiting. Choose one item that you think has potential today. Go through it with a fine-toothed comb and weed out half-baked ideas, vague assertions, weak language, and excessively long sentences. Put in headings and bullet points. Figure out what images you’ll need to go with your content and how you want them to be displayed.

Consider the volume as well. Is there actually enough to say about this topic on its own, or should you combine it with another post? Or maybe the post is getting really long with several sections and sub-sections – it might be easier to split the content into a series of posts linked together on the same topic.

As before, take a realistic look at your week and figure out when you’ll have the time, on a regular basis, to work on editing your work. Because the goal of editing is to polish up all those initial thoughts you had at first, it often takes more time than writing the first draft. You might manage two or three first drafts in an hour, but only edit one in the same length of time.

Take that as a good thing, however. Having to select which drafts to develop further will mean you’re continuing to whittle down your ideas until you’re just publishing the very best.

Content creation targets

It’s advisable, when adopting these habits, to consider creating a weekly or monthly target for each one. Decide for the period how many ideas you want to come up with, how many drafts you want to write, and how many articles you want to edit.

As for publishing? Set yourself a standard, like a rating of out 10, to help you decide when you’re ready to post. 80% or 90% awesome is high enough to keep quality up, without being an impossible target. These three steps are what will get you there.

Focus on ideas, writing and editing, and let the posting worry about itself.

What to do when your content calendar isn’t working
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