How to Use Evernote, Instapaper, and Trello to Manage Your Blogging - for Free
The trifecta that will supercharge your online publishing without breaking the bank
If you currently have or are thinking about having a blog, and you are ready to do more than post something random approximately whenever you feel like it (which is likely to be almost never), then what you need are tools to help you organize, prioritize, and schedule your blog posts. I use these three:
Evernote — Evernote is an app that lets you take notes. Big deal, right? But here’s the kicker: it stores all your notes in the cloud and synchronizes them between all your devices, computers, and the web. You can also store photos and documents as attachments to your notes, organize notes into multiple notebooks, and even tag them for additional data tracking. Evernote is free for a very usable level of storage, and if you need extra oomph, upgrades are very reasonable.
Trello — Trello is an app that lets you organize ideas, concepts, or tasks into “cards” that are stacked vertically in one or more lists. Imagine a big board where you put rows of sticky notes in a bunch of columns. That’s basically Trello — only each “card” can be flipped around to store descriptive text, document attachments, images, checklists, and more. Trello is free at the base level, and you can do almost anything with it at the free level.
Instapaper — Instapaper is an app that lets you bookmark (“read later”) web pages and, well, read them later. It’s a great way to save stuff you run across so you can come back to it later to finish reading — or in our case, blog about. Instapaper is free to sign up for, but it’s really useful in a mobile context and the apps there will cost you around $4.
So how would you use Evernote, Instapaper, and Trello together, and more importantly, how does that help your blogging? Well, here’s what I do:
Create an Evernote notebook just for your blog
First of all, after you’ve installed Evernote on your device (or you’re using the web version), create a notebook called ”My Blog” (or the name of your current blog). Now, every time you get some thoughts about a particular topic, you find an inspiring photo (or take one), or you want to copy some text out of somewhere else for reference, create a note in your notebook. Sometimes I even use Evernote as my initial writing spot, and then later copy the blog text out of Evernote and into my blogging software (which happens to be my startup’s product, Mariposta).
Save cool online stuff in Instapaper
When you are on the web and you find something more interesting than cat photos (although I suppose your blog could be about cat photos!), you might want to blog about it. I “read later” all kinds of stuff, some things I don’t intend to blog about but some things I do. It’s useful to go back every week or two as a habit to cull through your Instapaper stream and pull out stuff that would be good to blog about. You could move those items to a special folder in Instapaper for tracking purposes, but what I do instead is create a card in Trello.
Manage your blogging schedule with Trello
Trello takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of the interface it’s pretty easy to use and pretty darn powerful. Once you’ve set up your Trello account, go ahead and create a board called My Blog (or the name of your current blog).
Next, create several lists, the first being “Misc. Topics”, and the next several being specific topics you know you want to blog about fairly often. For example, if you write a fashion blog, one list might be “elegant dresses” and another list might be “fashion shows”.
Now it’s time to brain dump. Start writing up a bunch of cards in each list — try thinking of them as headlines if possible, otherwise just put in a shorthand phrase for the card that will help you remember what that post should be about. Yes, each card basically represents a future “post” for your blog.
Finally, create a list on the end of the board (right-hand side most likely) called ”POSTED!” where you will drag ’n’ drop a card when you’ve published that post on your blog.
Congratulations, you have a bunch of topics and ideas put down on paper so to speak. Now you need to start putting some dates on them. Each card can have a “due date” which will them associate that card with a specific day and even a specific time of day (but all we really want is the day). Try setting up due dates so that you have at least a few weeks worth of posts at a frequency you think you can handle. You should probably pick a few different cards from a variety of topics, although one thing you might want to do is bunch a certain topic together for a particular week(s) for blogging continuity.
Now here’s the cool part. On the right-hand sidebar in Trello, click the big Menu button, then click Power-Ups. Click on Calendar, then click Enable. What does this do? This lets you see all your cards with due dates in a typical calendar format. You can actually drag them around to change the due dates, and you can even create new cards on specific dates right here in this view (just make sure you pick the right list when you do!).
Another thing I’ll do in Trello is find images on stock photography websites such as Shutterstock and upload an image on a card that I feel matches that post. That way I don’t have to worry about what image to use when I actually sit down to write a post.
The Evernote + Instapaper + Trello trifecta will take your blogging to new heights.
Blogging is hard. Keeping up with writing interesting stuff regularly over a long period of time can be a real challenge. But with the right tools and techniques in place, it can become easier. I’m pretty excited to be using this system now as I ramp up my blogging, and I hope it helps you as well.