How to Organize Your Content in a Spreadsheet: 7 Steps

You have a million great ideas for your blog or social media content. You jot them down on sticky notes, scrap papers, or your notepad thinking they're the best, only to lose track of them later. While you want somewhere to sort and plan them, you aren't quite ready to invest in another software. There's also the problem of wanting to share them with a coworker.

You wonder how you're ever going to get your content ideas happening.

Why not use a spreadsheet?

I know, it might sound pretty old school when there's plenty of great, new software out there, but hear me out.

Not only do you likely already have a spreadsheet software available to use, but you might also know how to use it already, and the same goes for your coworker. It can definitely help bridge the tech gap, especially when working with someone outside of marketing.

In this post I'll show you how to make a layout you can organize your content into in 7 steps. I've decided to keep the layout simple, but this is to get you started. Perhaps another time I can share a more complex version, or maybe I'll spare you. Regardless, here's how to create a simple spreadsheet layout that will help you sort your content ideas and start putting them into action.

 

Example content spreadsheet

 

1) Get Started.

Start with a blank sheet and fill in your titles. For this example, I have "type" meaning type of post, image, Facebook copy, Instagram copy, blog/ other copy, status, and notes. There's no correct way of organizing your sheet; it's what works for you. As you work with it, you'll likely think of more columns you want to add, or you might find you can combine or take some away.

 

Titles added to content spreadsheet

 

2) Select and freeze the top row.

Freezing the top row will keep your title at the top of the document as you scroll down. Do this by selecting the row, then "view" in your menu, and next "freeze." Choose "one row" to freeze only the top.

 

Freezing the rows of the content spreadsheet

 

3) Add a dropdown menu.

Next, you want to add your dropdown menu under "type." To do this, right-click the cell under the title to bring up the context menu. Select "data validation."

In the data validation panel, set your criteria to "list of items" and type the items you want to include in the field. Separate them with a comma.

In this example, I used social, blog, web, and other.

 

Adding a drop-down menu to the content spreadsheet

 

Now your drop-down menu will be there. Give it a click to test it out. Copy and paste it into multiple rows in the first column.

 

 

4) Add colour coding.

To add your colour coding, right-click all of column A and head down to "conditional formatting" in the context menu.

 

Adding colour coding to the content spreadsheet

 

Make sure the range says "A:A" so that it applies to the whole column and not one cell only. Under format rules and "format cell if..." there will be a drop-down menu. Select "text contains" and in the value field add the type you want to colour code.

You can give the entire cell colour by clicking the little paint bucket or you can give the text colour by clicking the A. Keep in mind it's best to keep it something that's easy to look at. Yellow on orange might be a bit tough to read.

 

Where to find conditional formatting

 

This is what it will look like colour-coded.

 

What the colour coding looks like in the spreadsheet

5) Repeat.

Next, you'll want to repeat the previous two steps to create the status column. This is where you'll mark your progress and / or communicate it with your team. For this example, I used to-do, in progress, drafted, complete, and posted. Other suggestions could be "please revise" or "for review" if the process involves proofreading.

 

What the content spreadsheet looks like with statuses

 

6) Add your work.

Now you can start filling in your ideas.

 

What the content spreadsheet looks like filled in

 

If you aren't familiar with how to insert images into Google Sheets, you select insert in your menu, images, and insert image in cell.

 

How to fill in the blanks

7) Filling in the blanks.

This step is optional, but you can do it to see if you like it better or not. If you aren't a fan of the blank spaces, you can use conditional formatting to fill the cells if they're empty.

 

Example content spreadsheet

 

Notes

You won't be able to pull a quality image from your spreadsheet later, so keep them all together in a folder where they're easy to find later. This column is more for reference. If you're collaborating with someone, they'll need access to the images folder as well.

Long-form content is best kept out of the cells of a spreadsheet as it will be difficult to format in spreadsheet software. If you're working alone you can have your drafts in an easy-to-find place on your computer. If working with someone else, you can add a link to a shared document.

Conclusion

Now that you've created your own content spreadsheet, it's time to take those content ideas from your sticky notes and start putting them into action. If you're new to content marketing, or you feel stuck on ideas, one place to look for inspiration is your customers. Are there any FAQs you can address in your content that might be helpful?

I'm still working on getting more tutorials up that might help with content marketing. For now, if you're interested in reading some of my other posts, you can find them here.


Going Green: All or Nothing?

Helping our planet isn’t an all-or-nothing effort.

We might think one person can’t make a difference, but there’s a lot of value in small actions. Even if they aren’t all, they certainly aren’t nothing.

While those actions might not be perfect every time, it’s action nonetheless; especially when those efforts are combined with that of friends, neighbours, and communities.

It might seem impossible as individuals to tackle something as gigantic as deforestation, however, we can look to our everyday choices and habits to see where we can make adjustments.


To-Do List Inventory: How to

Oftentimes the best way to organize a space, cupboard, drawer etc. is to take everything out and put it back in again. As we go we take out any items that we don't need, don’t work, or simply don’t fit.

But what about our to-do lists? How do we account for the million things we have on our minds? Especially the items that get pushed to the back and forgotten. 

Much like anything else, we can take inventory of our to-do list too. Moreso we can use that inventory to sort and prioritize.

In this post, I'll go over how to create an inventory of your to-do list in hopes it will help you shake that feeling of overwhelm- and help you find a place to get started if you're feeling stuck.

1. List all of your to-dos

Start by making the items somewhat tangible by writing them down. Create a list of everything - excluding things you would do automatically such as everyday personal hygiene items and cleaning habits. For example, I might list "organize the hall closet," but not "wipe the kitchen counters" because I do that without thinking about it. Think of items you need to get done, that are going to move the needle - especially if they are things that keep getting forgotten.

Now isn't the time you're going to worry about what's a priority or when it needs to happen. You're making an exhaustive list. Like taking inventory. For some, this might feel like a warehouse of items, but it's not to be overwhelming or a competition.

Think of things that are top of mind, forgotten items, events or occasions that might be coming up - anything that you have to do goes on the list.

You might even find it’s somewhat like venting. Getting it all out in the open! Except instead of simply stating these things - we’re going to create a plan and tackle them.

2. Categorize your to-dos

Now that you have your to-dos listed out, don't simply start tackling in hopes to get it all done today (or even this week). It can be tempting to just pick one and go. First, let's organize.

Create four categories to start: backlog, delegate, project-specific, revisit.

Backlog is where all the items go that don’t have a due date, but you’d like to get done at some point. That doesn’t mean you can’t do them right away, it just means you haven’t “assigned” them to a specific time period yet. They live here so that you don’t forget them, but also so they aren’t nagging you.

Delegate is for items on your list that you could ask for help with whether it’s someone you live with, a friend, family member, or even hired help.

Project-specific is for items with the same goal to be backlogged together. It could also be for an event. This will help you create a to-do list around something specific and help you track progress.

Your revisit list gives your random items a place to go. This is for items that might distract from the other lists. Things that keep getting put off, you aren’t sure you want to do, or maybe aren’t important now, but you’d like to look into it later. Personally, I also write things here that kind of pop up and seem interesting, but I don’t want to let it distract me in the moment so I write it down to look into at a better time.

Rewrite each of your to-dos under the appropriate category. As you go, declutter. Scratch out any items you don’t want or really need to do. Be honest with yourself!

3. Plan your to-dos

Now it's time to do some planning. Categorizing your to-do list has also helped a little with prioritizing as you've decided to scratch out anything not worth doing, put items to come back to later on your revisit list, and you know to ask for help with items on your delegate list.

That leaves backlog and project-specific.

If you already have a planning method - pull items from your backlog and project-specific list that seem most important and prioritize them first. Pick a set amount each day and don't simply keep adding more. When you're done with your list, reward yourself by participating in a fun hobby or spending time with friends and family. It's likely that you will be more productive if you aren't feeling burnt out.

If you don't have a planning method or you're curious, I'll share mine. I have a post about weekly planning here, but the gist is to plan out your week in your day planner. Pull a set amount of items from your backlog and make a to-do list in the notes section of your planner. Include other things that you know need to be done as well.

Personally, I set about 7-10 weekly items as this is my personal list and I work full-time. Use that list to plan your day the night before or in the morning. Place any appointments on a proper day as soon as you hear about them (not on a sticky note in your wallet, purse, or drawer).

Plan your week and start tackling your list!

Conclusion

I hope you found this post helpful!

Remember, it's okay to ask for help if you're feeling overwhelmed and please make your goal to find balance - not simply see how much you can get done in a day.

Above I shared how to plan your week. Here's a link for how to do so daily.

I also sell printable planners on Etsy from $2 - $7.

 

 

 

 

 


You Don't Need to Buy a Bunch of Stuff to Work From Home

"Things you need to work from home."

  • new outfits
  • fancy desks, lamps, chairs
  • headphones that make you look like your not wearing headphones, but at the same time speakers, Bluetooth or otherwise
  • water bottles so that you don't have to get up as much
  • coffee mugs just because
  • special candles
  • gemstones
  • fancy pens - you shouldn't have to settle for just anything
  • fragrance diffusers
  • special lightbulbs
  • armchairs for thought moments
  • phone holders
  • office blankets
  • a hat - for video calls when your hair just isn't right
  • humidifiers
  • shoes to keep your feet clean?
  • capsules and extracts for focus
  • more water bottles
  • and let's not forget a handheld vacuum

These, and so much more, are the things you need to work from home according to social media and blog posts made note of around the internet.

Let's stop overcomplicating working from home. You don't need to buy a bunch of stuff in order to work from home comfortably.

Before making a purchase for your home office or workspace, ask yourself if whatever it is is going to add value to your workday in a meaningful way; or is it going to be used once or twice and be forgotten?

You don't need the latest AirPods to get the best out of your video calls.

You don't need new outfits to look your best on camera - wear what you would if seeing who you're meeting in person.

You don't need a bunch of new furniture - only an appropriate chair and a surface to work on.

Many of these things you likely already have around your home, or at least a suitable substitute. You don't need to pay top dollar for the bells and whistles and you certainly don't need them.

If it’s something you want, just be honest with yourself about it and make sure to shop with intention.


Weekly Planner: an Effective Way to Get Organized

Imagine someone who is so organized they don't need to write anything down. Not one task. Not one appointment. Their pen doesn't touch paper for a single detail or reminder.

That person isn't me.

And I image, dear reader, that person isn't you either.

Wouldn't it be boring to be completely perfect anyway?

With that said, before you whip out your pens and post its, napkins, or scrap papers - ask yourself:

  • Will I find this note later when I need it?
  • How many times before have I written something down only to empty my desk, drawer, backpack, wallet or purse in hopes I find it?
  • Isn't there a better way?

There is a better way, and I believe you can benefit from having a system to organize your week.

The Weekly Spread

The weekly spread is very much the same as your typical "week-at-a-glance" in a day planner, but with some extra tools to get you going. Here I'll guide you through using one.

To get started, I like to plan my task list for the week. First, I look at the previous week's list to see if there are any items that didn't get completed and move them forward. Second, I check my backlogs.

If you're unfamiliar with a backlog, it's a list of tasks that need to be done, but don't have a date assigned to them. For some people, it's a living document that just keeps growing. Personally, I have multiple, one for to-dos, one for things that aren't a priority, one for creative projects, one for house projects, and a completely separate one for work. However, that's another post.

Weekly tasks are much the same in that we know we want to do them this week, but haven't picked a day to get it done yet.

Take a look below to see what that looks like.

Like any other to-do list, I recommend choosing a manageable number of tasks and not continually adding items to your list as you complete them. To do so is like continually moving the goalposts.

Also, you're going to want to save room for other tasks that might come up as well as your daily tasks.

Daily Tasks

Daily tasks are ones you want to get done on a specific day that week. While my example below doesn't show a lot of space, it's done so intentionally as the idea is to only choose your top 5-7 tasks for that day (it can be less too).

Repetitive tasks like check emails and wipe the kitchen counters don't go here because they're automatic.

Some examples in the home setting are:

  • appointments
  • errands
  • tasks that aren't routine
  • bill due dates
  • events and occasions
  • reminders

In the workplace setting some examples are:

  • meetings and appointments
  • tasks that aren't routine
  • due date reminders
  • general reminders
  • events and occasions

If you do have a really full day and need to get down to the specifics of calls to make, reminders, and appointments here's an example of a daily layout that can be used alongside your weekly spread.

Sometimes it helps when we break larger tasks into smaller ones!

Notes, Menu, Goals, and Blank List

The notes section in a weekly spread is exactly that. I recommend having one. It's an excellent place for you to put ideas and reminders that don't really fit anywhere else. If you use sticky notes, it's a great place to put them so you can find them again and give yourself more space to write.

I find it handy to have a menu on hand when planning the day so that dinner can be planned as well. Having the goals here as well simplifies things rather than having to flip to another page. It also allows goals to be adjusted weekly.

The blank list with no title is for any extra list that might be needed. I also added it as a place for others who are using it to track things or add lists that are unique to them.

All of them are filled out in my example below.

Things to consider

In creating your own day planner you can be as creative as you want with your weekly spread. However, when I used to draw mine and I'd add cute doodles, I'd get lazy with it after a bit. In my opinion, it's better to have a simple layout that works for you. Which makes my next point a lot easier. It's best to draw or print your weekly layouts in advance so that you can write in appointments and reminders for later.

A monthly layout comes in handy for occasions and events as well.

Conclusion

I hope you've found my post on weekly planning helpful! Personally, I found getting away from traditional day planners and following this method have helped me feel a little less "busy."

Keep in mind when planning your week, the idea isn't to cram as many projects, tasks, and chores in there as you can. The goal should be to find a balance. Get things done and have some time to sit back, take part in a good hobby, or get in some recreation.

Happy planning!

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If you are interested in checking out my printable planner layout bundle that includes the daily, weekly, monthly layouts, as well as a backlog - here's the link.

You might also like my post on budget inspiration for your monthly planner.


DIY Upcycled Pen Cup

I know a new pen cup isn't a huge purchase. There are some fairly decent-looking ones on sale at the office supply store for as low as a dollar. However, when you can turn it into a DIY project and make some, why not? You may already have what you need at home.

A while ago, I made some from some old tea tins. At the time I was really into trying new teas and didn't quite feel right putting the lovely tins into the recycle bin so I saved them for later. Most were silver and I had some copper ones as well.

Any tin will work for this as long as it's sturdy enough to not tip over.

DIY pen cup

How to make your own

To make your own, peel off the label and wash all the residue from the glue off before decorating. I spray painted some of mine, but I can picture many different ways to decorate these such as wrapping in colourful tape, paper, twine, fabric, or ribbon. You could even have fun with glitter or stencils - be as creative as you want!

If you are wondering how to spray paint them, once your tin is clean, make sure it's dry and sand it with steel wool or fine-grit sandpaper. It doesn't have to be too much. Simpy scuff it a little to give the paint something to stick to. Remove any dust with a damp cloth and make sure it's completely dry again before spraying. Make sure to follow the safety and use instructions according to your can of paint.

The spray paint should be specific to metal if using a metal can. Again, check the back of your spray can to make sure it works on the surface you're painting.

Note on choosing colours

When I made these I had black and gold paint I needed for a few other projects. The paint cans went a long way, so I suggest if you aren't using paint that's leftover from another project to pick a colour you don't mind using later to prevent waste.

I'm happy I went with more neutral colours when I made these as my home office has changed a few times since, but I've found a place for them each time. Since I started working from home, I organized most of my sewing, art, and craft supplies into my closet, but have kept these out paintbrushes, markers, and all.

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*Make sure to wear proper personal protective equipment and take safety precautions for all DIY projects. If you aren't sure, please research beforehand.


Weekly Menu Planning

If you're like me, you still haven't figured out how to cook "whatever" or "I don't care.”

It’s not a place to be ordered from either.

What I do know - in that fifteen minutes spent going through every kitchen cupboard, or going back and forth with your spouse, maybe both, dinner could have been well underway.

It all comes down to a bit of planning ahead.

No, I'm not talking about meal planning or prepping. I'm talking about menu planning. This doesn't mean we have to become short-order cooks in our own kitchens. It's a lot like meal planning except that we don't commit to cooking a certain meal on a certain day of the week. Everyone eats the same thing where possible. The goal is to simply narrow down choices.

You're no longer asking "what do you want for dinner?" You're asking what would you like out of these options - knowing you have what you need in order to follow through.

This helps with four things: planning a grocery list, saving time around mealtime, reducing food waste, and sticking to your budget.

How to make a weekly menu

There really is no one size fits all solution to making a weekly menu. However, here are some suggestions on how to get started:

  1. Grab a pen and paper - or phone with a notes app if that's how you work best
  2. Look at what's currently in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. What needs to be used up? Are there any meals you can make from these or other ingredients you have? What are you missing?
  3. Next, grab some inspiration from your local flyers! Do you see anything on sale that you can incorporate? If you don't have flyers on hand - you can download a free app called Flipp
  4. Using your list of current ingredients, the flyer, and thinking about your household favourites, create your menu. Personally, I add seven meals to my list so that I can choose one for each day of the week
  5. Add any missing ingredients to your grocery list. Bring! is another free app I love! They have categories similar to the departments you'd find in your local grocery store. All you have to do is tap items to add them to your list - which can be shared with someone else.
  6. Put the menu somewhere visible so that you can see it. That way it's not lost or forgotten. If living with others, you can also put it somewhere central in the house where everyone can see it such as the fridge.
  7. When planning your day, choose what meal you'd like ahead of time in order to give yourself time to thaw, marinate, brine etc.

Here's an example using one of my printables (but any sheet of paper will do just fine of course!):

Other Tips

  • Plan meals where leftovers or extras can be used back to back - for example, BBQ chicken and the next day chicken fried rice
  • Prioritize meals with ingredients that are due to go bad sooner
  • Create a go-to list of your household favourites for inspiration. While this may seem trivial, it really helps when planning
  • Avoid including everyone in the process as it may end up taking longer than it needs to - it depends on the dynamic of the household of course. Personally, I run mine by my spouse once I've drafted it in case there are any objections, but I do the planning on my own
  • If needed you can include others by asking them to contribute to the favourites list so they don't feel their favourites will be left out

Conclusion

Using this method, you can tackle your menu for the week, your grocery list, and prevent food waste. It can also help your budget a great deal by reducing the urge to order takeout or making unplanned trips to the store (especially whilst hungry).

For those that like to plan all three meals ahead of time, here are a couple more examples of what that could look like:

Personally, I only put dinners on my menu, but I created this printable for those who like to do all three!

I hope you've found this helpful. Happy planning!

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If you'd like to check out my printable meal planner package on Etsy - here's the link.

You might also like my post on weekly planning - an effective way to get organized!


Meals for Your Planner: Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

I'm a little late to the game, but recently I discovered overnight oats. I love how convenient and versatile they are. Easy too. I thought it would be a good topic to share for those who are looking for a quick or inexpensive breakfast.

If you haven't made these before, don't hesitate when reading ingredients as I find, so far, I have been able to substitute or leave out certain ones. Really, as long as you have the oats and some kind of milk you're good.

Substituting Overnight Oats Ingredients

When I first started making them, I saw ingredients like chia seeds, Greek yogurt, muesli, and flaxseed - which aren't things I had on hand or buy regularly. However, the more I searched, I did end up finding some simpler recipes and established somewhat of a base I'm going to use for my oats going forward. I also noticed it's easy to substitute ingredients.

For example, the blueberry overnight oats recipe I was following one of the first times I made them called for Greek yogurt. I'd forgotten to add that to my shopping list when planning so I substituted some raspberry Activia and it did the trick! It doesn't have to be exact as long as you have a good feeling the flavours will go well together. I know there's a considerable price difference with Greek yogurt as well, but since it makes so many portions - I decided to get it.

Really, it all comes down to preference. With all that said, the other night I went searching for a simple apple cinnamon version. I couldn't find one that I loved, so I made up my own.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oats (rolled, old fashioned, large flake)
  • 1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/2 apple, chopped
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)*
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt

*Note: submerge the apples in a cup or so of cold water and add lemon juice to prevent browning.

Directions

  • Add oats and milk to a jar or container
  • Add greek yogurt
  • Add chopped apple
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and salt
  • Drizzle with syrup
  • Close the jar or container and place it in the fridge overnight
  • Give it a stir before eating

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Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy this recipe!

If you've had overnight oats before, what are some of your favourites?

Also, don't feel bad if your overnight oats aren't as pretty as the ones on Pinterest, mine aren't (see photo below). They'll still be tasty.

Overnight oats, apple cinnamon


Meals for Your Planner: Fried Beans with Cashews

Who says dinner needs to be difficult?

No one, that's who.

Fried beans and cashews is a crowd-pleaser, it's simple to make, and doesn't take much time.

For me, it's one of those recipes that has simply become measurable in handfuls and pinches. We all need some of those recipes in our repertoire! For this post, I added some approximate amounts for you to go by if you wish.

If you want a recipe that's more formal, Google fried beans with cashews and some recipes will come up. However, if you don't need things to be perfect you can use the lists below as a reference. Keep in mind that if you follow this one, it's more of a large side dish for two.

If you want to have it as the main course (I've done it) I would double the portions of cooking for two.

Ingredients

  • Two big handfuls of beans. If you have large hands - a little less. Be reasonable.
  • Enough olive oil to lightly coat the beans
  • A little bit of butter, maybe a teaspoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt - I just crank my salt grinder 5 times
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper - 15 cranks
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder**
  • Your palm-full of cashews per handful of beans***

Notes:

  • In place of garlic powder, you can use fresh cloves - try two*
  • In place of onion powder, I used to include a bit of red onion, but not everyone accepts them**
  • If you are out of cashews, try pepitas instead. I've done this. It's good.***

Directions

  • In the size of frying pan you need, warm the oil and melt the butter of medium heat
  • Put the beans in and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder* (thaw first if frozen)
  • Stir occasionally until they are starting to look cooked and add the cashews
  • Fry until they start to brown
  • Serve warm

Notes:

  • If using fresh garlic, cook for a minute in the oil before adding the beans
  • If using fresh onions add them with the cashews so they stay a bit crunchy

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This side pairs well with oven-roasted or baked potatoes as well as steak, pork chops, chicken, or sausage.


Day Planner: the Backlog

Some might refer to it as a "mind dump" and others a "backlog," myself included. Simply put, it's kind of like a master list of everything you know needs to be done - but don't let that idea scare you away!

Creating a Backlog

As overwhelming as it sounds, it can be helpful to write down every to-do in one place. Remember, it's somewhat like taking an inventory so that you can make a plan to get things done - and that plan isn't to get it all done at once.

Often when I've created a backlog there have been a few items that I can immediately cross off the list. These are things that I thought I would want to do or thought I should do, but really I've put them off. When I think about it honestly, I know they're not going to happen.

Sometimes we have to assess whether that suggested book, complex recipe, or even an invite to an event just isn't our thing, and that's okay!

Purpose of a backlog

Think of the backlog as a base list for all other to-do lists. It can be tempting to want to be productive and go through your backlog directly. Personally, I keep my backlog close by for when I'm planning my day, and my week. It's easily accessible when I need it so that I can move items over.

I treat my weekly notes section as a weekly backlog sometimes when I have a task that I'm not sure where to place, but I'd like to get it done that week. Daily, I pick around 5 - 7 tasks a day and work away at them. Those are what I focus on and I start with the higher priority items. Check one off, move to the next.

With all that said, continually adding to your to-do list is much like moving the goal post. By doing this we won't feel we got much done; possibly the opposite, that we have so much to do still.

The details

The details are really all about preference. Backlogs can be on paper or electronic. They can be ongoing, weekly, monthly, or even used on an as-needed basis when getting started with day planning, or getting caught up when tasks have piled.

The list doesn't need to be beautiful or categorized, but can be. It can also be specific to a project or contain everything that comes to mind. As I often mention with day planners and getting organized - you can be as creative, or not, as you want to be - as long as it helps you simplify and create less stress.

Happy planning!

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If you want to learn more about how to inventory your to-dos, I wrote a post about it here.