If you run a business or an organized group of any kind, you know how important it is to have the right systems and tools to help you keep things humming along. Whether you’re a list-lover, a spreadsheet wizard, or a visual virtuoso, when you find the tool that’s right for you, it feels like it was meant to be!
We asked our community of professional publishers to share their favorite tools for managing their content, their calendar, and even their team members. Today we’re sharing the five tools that came out on top to give you an insider’s look at how some of the very best in the industry manage their business for success!
Content planning tools are useful for:
- Scheduling your content creation, production, and promotion
- Breaking projects down into bite-sized tasks
- Tracking due dates and to-dos
- Managing team members like employees, contributors, and VAs
If you’re looking to get organized, check out these tools (each one has a free version you can try!) and discover what suits your working style. While we aren’t officially endorsing any of the following tools, they’ve been recommended by some of the most successful content creators on the internet, so this is a great place to start!
AdThrive publishers’ top 5 favorite tools for planning content are….
Notion offers blank canvas pages for directly writing and editing content or turning it into any number of formats, using customizable templates such as to-do lists, vision boards, advanced databases, and more.
You can add various elements into the page itself, interlink databases to see your project in a different view, and nest pages to have everything organized specifically for your project management and workflow needs.
Individuals can use Notion for free, and teams can test it out on a trial basis for the paid plans starting at $8 per month per team member.
“I currently use Notion after most recently switching from a combination of Trello and Airtable. For me, it’s the best of both but with greater functionality and flexibility.
With Notion, I have a master database of all of my content, ideas, stats, and seasonal plans. Because every piece of information can be interlinked and expanded upon with text, links, media, embeds, deadlines, checklists, and more, my workflow is much more efficient.
It’s the closest I’ve found to a second brain!”
— Melissa Will, Empress of Dirt
ClickUp helps you organize your workspace with wikis, folders, lists, tasks, and subtasks. The customizable platform can replace the many tools you’re already using like:
- Time tracking
- Goals and progress tracking
- Communication tools for team members
There’s a free plan, or your team can trial the paid plan starting at $5–9 per month per team member.
“I just started using ClickUp a few weeks ago and am OBSESSED. Still building out my full process, but I seriously love it more than any other system I’ve used.
Prior to this, I used Airtable for a few years (and will continue to use it as a content hub/spreadsheet), just not for nitty-gritty task management. I’ve also used Trello, Asana, and Basecamp in the past.
I really think it’s all about finding out what works best for you and your brain. I loved parts of Airtable but was continually frustrated with some limitations for calendaring and creating to-do lists. ClickUp solves those pain points for me.
Someone else might find ClickUp’s list/task/subtask system counterintuitive, and love a spreadsheet-based system. I’d suggest checking out a few of the top recommendations from AdThrive publishers and watching some short videos about them, or creating a free account and just playing around with the settings. Chances are one of them will click with you the most and then you’ll find yourself writing love letters to it in the future.”
— Elizabeth LaBau, Sugar Hero
Airtable offers a unique hybrid of databases and spreadsheets, so you can dynamically tailor your views by sorting, filtering, and grouping. You can also add automation, such as moving a completed task from one list to another when the status field is updated.
This tool includes the ability to add images and links, incorporate tags, assign tasks to team members, and more.
“I have found Airtable to be invaluable. I can keep everything for all sites in one spreadsheet and sort the views to show me each site alone, or see the entire content or social calendars so I can have a view of everything that needs to happen for all.
Also you can set up automations, so, for example if you change a status from draft to published, it could send a Slack message to your VA to notify them to run a social campaign.”
— Kimber Matherne, The Pinning Mama
Use Airtable’s “Essential features” plan for free, or trial the team tool starting at $10 per month per team member.
“I second Airtable! It’s like a spreadsheet and a database had a baby. I manage my entire business (3 websites) from Airtable — including content workflow, social media, team management, and more.”
— Christina Hitchcock, It is a Keeper
Asana helps you manage the hierarchy of projects and tasks within a workspace. Set up each project in your preferred view or format and then switch between views to see all the moving parts from different angles.
- Lists — see what needs to be done, who’s responsible, and priority level
- Boards — organize your project by defining each stage of work and move tasks down the “production line”
- Calendar — lay out your project tasks on a calendar view
- Timeline — map out everything in a workflow to see how it all connects together (this feature is available in the paid version)
“I’ve been using Asana (and it’s just me running things). I find it really helpful to give myself tasks, lists, keep on top of repetitive tasks, and even just a place to keep info so that I don’t have to search for it in the future. I love that I can create it once, set it to repeat everyday and I don’t have to remember what I was supposed to remember – it’s all there for me!”
— Leslie Simpson, KindergartenWorks
Try out Asana’s free basic plan for individuals or small teams of up to 15 people. Their paid plans start at $10.99 per month per user.
“I use Asana in both boards and to-do list formats. It has helped me keep things moving in phases and save running lists of references and ideas for later.”
— Dana Escamilla, Taste of Reality
And the most popular content planning tool, according to our publishers is… TRELLO!
This visual platform is based on a Kanban-style production system using three tiers: boards, lists, and cards.
- Boards give you an overall view for each individual project.
- Lists define each stage of work and where each task is at. For example, you can create one list for “To Do”, one list for “In Progress”, and one list for “Completed”.
- Cards show individual tasks broken down for the project and hold all the information for that task including due dates and reminders, attachments, labels, team member assignments, and more.
“I created a Trello board outlining my entire plan: pre-campaign, social media schedule, week by week plans, storyboard across all media, and follow up. I shared the link with my contact person, and she loved it. Using Trello’s labels, I’m able to post questions and delegate so my team can see what they need to do. This will be our central point online for planning, tweaking, and accountability.”
—Lisa Bedford, The Survival Mom
Trello promises to always offer a free option, and business class is $9.99–$12.50 per month, per user.
“Currently we have one primary Trello List (within a board) called “Articles Writing & Editing.” Within that list, we use one card to discuss different article ideas and use that card to discuss which ones we think merit writing. Once we decide that an article will be written on a specific topic, we create a separate card for each of the articles, populate the card with all the relevant information (i.e. search terms, reference links, images, etc.) then assign the person/people that will be working on / contributing to the article. All discussions/questions related to the content development of the article is done within its card.
We set a Due Date on the card — being the date we’d like to target for publication and/or the date of publication. People assigned on the card, and those who follow the card will get notified in advance of the due date/time, as a reminder.
When it’s time for review, the main writer/editor will move the card to a ”Need Final Review” list, then tag me to do a final review. If further editing is required, we discuss on the card as-needed. I will post an overview of all the edits I’ve made to the article and notify the writer so they can take those things into account when writing future articles.
Once the article is complete and published, we mark the card as complete, set the date/time of completion, then move the card to an “Articles Complete” list.”
— Mike @ Ask Andy About Clothes
AdThrive publishers’ other favorite planning tools:
No matter which tool you use, the important thing is having a plan!
Whichever tool resonates with how your brain and business work is the best tool for you. But the tool you choose will be most effective when you have a plan!
We’ve got you covered with a downloadable, printer-friendly 2021 calendar featuring monthly content trends and business tips for what to prep, promote, and plan ahead for.
With the right tool and a plan in place, you’re ready to do what you do best — create world-class content!
Not yet a part of our community, but looking to join a group of amazing elite publishers like the ones who recommended these tools? We’d love to chat with you and hear all about your site — drop us a note right here.