Inertia is a powerful thing. It is what prevents us from getting started on anything. In its physical sense, it is the force that makes it harder to start moving than to keep going—the opposite of momentum.

We all know that one of the most difficult aspects of any project or initiative is getting started. It doesn’t matter whether it is a brand new project, or one that you have allowed to lapse and need to restart. Getting going is the issue—and this applies to thought leadership as much as anything else. You need to build up momentum, and that’s where a personal editorial calendar comes in. It turns out that a little planning can go a long way.

Why plan?

First of all, let’s explore what we mean by a personal editorial calendar. It is a plan setting out what you are going to prepare, publish, and post over the next few weeks or months, and where you are going to do that. How long it lasts, and the precise level of detail that it contains, is a matter of personal preference. 

Why would you plan ahead like this? It allows you to build momentum behind your thought leadership efforts. This is better for you, and also for your audience. It also takes some of the pain out of it. You can plan easier options for times that you know will be busy, and prepare in advance during quieter periods. You can also tailor your thought leadership to the season or time of year, thinking ahead to ensure that you focus on your audience’s priorities. 

Most importantly, planning ahead allows you to build a narrative arc to your thought leadership work. Over time, you can build the story, and get your key messages across. Of course you can always vary what you are doing to respond to current events—but you have a clear picture of the broad thrust of your work. This will allow you to see clearly how and when to respond to ad hoc events, and when to leave them well alone because they are outside your expertise.

Getting your calendar off the ground

Where do you start with an editorial calendar? Here are our top five tips.

  1. Define your goals and desired outcomes

Your first priority should be to consider what success will look like for you. What are you aiming to achieve with your thought leadership? This can vary quite significantly—and will affect your content, your channel choice, and the frequency with which you post. For some people, growing their network is key. Others will be aiming to use external thought leadership to save time on internal briefings.

  1. Plot your existing fixed commitments

Make sure that your editorial calendar contains all your existing fixed commitments. These should include holidays, known deadlines, events and any big projects. Be realistic about what you are going to be able to achieve around these times. It is unlikely that you will have the time and/or energy to think about thought leadership and market conversations while you are in the middle of a tricky project with tight deadlines.  

  1. Pick your channels to match both your audience and your availability

To be fully effective, you will need to be present on at least two channels other than email. But which ones? Channel choice is a topic in itself. Briefly, you need to prioritise channels where your audience spends more time. However, also consider the nature of each channel. Weekly engagement works on LinkedIn, but you probably need to be on Twitter every day.

  1. Think about both content and format (what and how)

What you say is key, but how you say it also matters. This choice also has implications for your time and energy. A comment on LinkedIn takes just a few minutes to prepare (on top of reading a post or two). Preparing your own conversation starter will take longer, whether it’s an article or a 30-second video. Make sure that you will have enough time to develop your chosen content, and build that into your calendar.

  1. Be disciplined

Take your editorial calendar seriously. Put in the time upfront to make sure that it’s helpful—and then use it. Taking 10 minutes at the end of each month or quarter to review what worked, and what you need to change, is a key part of the process.