Imagine it’s Christmas morning. You’ve sleepily made your way to the living room where there’s a hot cup of coffee waiting for you. You’re handed a gift and as you’re letting the wrapping paper fall to the ground, it hits you.
You forgot to take that perfect Christmas morning photo you needed for today’s Instagram post!
Now the living room is a mess and there’s no way the pristine photo you imagined is going to happen. Even worse, you’ve been yanked out the moment and now your mind is on followers, comments, and likes.
Instead of those magical Christmas morning tingles, you’re feeling some serious guilt. Both for not posting and for being on your phone.
Why don’t we just avoid that scenario this year?
I’ll be completely honest and tell you that my Instagram account is the last thing I want to be worried about on Christmas morning. I want to be present and able to focus on my family and the memories we’ll be creating, not freaking out about posting.
I love my Instagram followers, but I’m sure no one will fault me for saying that I love my family way more.
So, I’m planning ahead. And I want to help you plan ahead too because preparing your Instagram posts ahead of time is the only way to make sure you have the space to focus on the most important part of the holidays.
Today I’m sharing my Instagram planning process, from brainstorming to sitting back and relaxing. It’s here for you to follow step-by-step or make your own.
And there’s a free downloadable planner page I made just for you! Ready?
Step 1: Brainstorm
I do the bulk of my Instagram planning first thing on Monday morning and it always starts with a look at my calendar. I review the blog post I have scheduled for the week, any coffee dates or events I have coming up, and take special note of holidays.
This always leads to a long messy list of unorganized ideas, but that’s kinda the point. It’s much easier to plan from a messy list on paper than from a messy list in your head. And there’s more opportunity for new ideas and creativity when you get things on paper.
So, take a look at your calendar and jot down the post ideas that immediately come to mind. What events or promotional pieces do you want to make sure you include? And what kind of content would help you support and reinforce them?
Step 2: Plan!
Once I have some rough ideas down, it’s easy to point out a theme or thread that runs throughout the list. It’s usually related to or based on the blog post of the week, but sometimes it’s more about a special promotion or offer.
Choose your main idea for the week and highlight the things on your brainstorm list that align with it. Then, set some goals and intentions. So you want to drive traffic to a blog post, validate an idea, connect with other entrepreneurs, or pitch to your followers?
Use your theme and goals to prioritize your post ideas and draft your schedule. If you want to drive traffic to a blog post, for example, give blog-related posts more than one slot. You can post your title graphic, a couple of quotes, and some related images throughout the week.
If you’re a pen and paper person like me, you’ll love this printable Instagram Planner! It’s a cleaned and polished version of what I’ve been sketching on scratch paper for months now and I’ve included plenty of room for goal setting, hash tags, and your shot list!
Step 3: Batch
The next step is to gather and create the content you’re going to need. I find it easiest to start by collecting all the photos and images I already have and putting them in their own folder. I keep a dedicated album of potential Instagram photos and pull from there first.
Then, I take note of the gaps I need to fill and write a shot list from that. I create all the quote, title, and promotional graphics I need first and then schedule some time to take photos. Next, I make my final selections, edit them all at once, write captions, and choose hashtags.
The secret to batching is planning ahead. If you know exactly what images you’re going to need, you can create as many of them as possible ahead of time. After all, no one’s really gonna know the difference between a shot of your Christmas tree on December 25 and a shot of your tree on December 15.
Step 4: Schedule!
When your content is all done and created, the only thing left to do is schedule! I have to give Alexandrea Bailey a shoutout here. She helped me upgrade my horribly thrown-together scheduling system to Buffer and now I feel completely legit.
To use Buffer, sign up, connect your Instagram account, and download the mobile app. Upload your photos, copy or type in your captions and hashtags, and let Buffer choose the best time to post. If you prefer, you can also choose a custom time instead of Buffer’s suggested optimal times. You can have up to 10 posts scheduled at a time with the free version.
When it’s time to post, the mobile app will send you a notification, open the photo in Instagram, and copy your caption so you can just paste it and to go. No, it’s not completely automated. But I kind of like it that way. It gives me scheduled times throughout the day to check in, reply to comments and DMs, and do follow backs. Which helps keep my phone checking to a minimum because I know I already have set aside time to check in.
Step 5: Enjoy
It’s so nice to know your Instagram feed is taken care of for the week! No more freaking out about last minute posting, scrambling for content ideas, or checking your account every five minutes.
You’ll be able to unplug for hours at a time to enjoy the holiday without worrying about what you’re capturing and sharing. And this is a process you can take with you into the new year to make your Instagram posting more efficient.
Dearest, it’s totally possible to at least semi-unplug for the holidays! You’ve totally got this! Just don’t forget to download your free Instagram planner!