During a year of teaching WordPress in college and at workshops and training events, I may help a minimum of 300 people set up WordPress.com sites annually. As they add content to their site, filling in all the blanks, they often publish content not quite ready for prime time, capped with a note-to-self to “fix this later.”
Later doesn’t come fast enough when your site is visible to the public. I recommend that you set those types of posts as Drafts instead of leaving the content public, half-finished, and start using the Drafts feature in a more effective and powerful way.
In this blog exercise, I want to offer tips on how to use the Draft feature of WordPress and other web publishing platforms to help you fill in all those blanks and fix them before the world sees them. I also want to help you change the way you look at Drafts.
Drafts are interesting things. They are literally a list of posts you haven’t finished, yet they become nags, energy suckers, reminders of things left undone, evidence of your failure to finish or tendency towards procrastination, left undone until that “rainy day” arrives.
Let’s turn the concept of Drafts into a power tool on your site, especially as you prepare or revise your site for the public.
New Purpose for Drafts
The first thing you need to do on your site is check all your Pages, the pseudo-static web pages often required on websites, as well as ones we create to support our subject matter. Look for parts left undone or with placeholder text (“Fix this later” or “XXXXXXX” or “Add more here”) and complete the information or put the Page in Draft mode.
Consider the Pages in Draft mode as top of your task list.
If you have some posts you have published with placeholder “things to do” notes, dig those out of your site and complete them or put them into Drafts, adding to your To Do List.
Go through your Draft posts and complete any worth completing. If they need to stay as Drafts, leave them there, but set the publishing date into the future. The post will not publish as long as it remains a draft, but the date will hopefully nag you as a deadline.
If there are posts worth pitching, trash them. Some ideas were good in the moment but may not be worth following through on.
When your Draft list is cleaned up, it’s time to change your attitude towards them.
Here are some ideas to help you turn your Draft posts list into a powerful tool rather than a procrastination nag.
- To Do List: Instead of using Drafts for throw away posts and Pages, use them as a To Do List that must be checked off.
- Idea List: Treat your Drafts like an idea list. Write down as much of the idea as possible in rough draft, brain dump form to help you remember it when you come back to edit, clean it up, and finish it later.
- Drafts as Editorial Calendar: As an editorial calendar, WordPress Drafts work well. When a draft is created or modified, the date is displayed in the far right of the All Posts screen. Drafts are listed in reverse chronological order, allowing you to create a post order from the bottom up. The dates may be set in the future with the future posts feature, keeping you on track as to the date you expect to publish the post.
- Task Lists: A professional blogger friend keeps her tasks and plans in Draft Posts. She has them titled “Things to Do,” “Ideas,” and “Article Series.” She edits them to add new information and remove completed tasks, and update links to published posts, keeping everything inside WordPress. There are WordPress Plugins that will add task lists and checklists to the Administration Panels, but this technique serves her well.
- Drafts for Multiple Contributor Sites: I’ve talked to editors at multiple contributor sites that use WordPress Drafts to plan their publishing schedule and to keep fellow authors informed as to what each other is working on. Each author starts their project as an outline or rough draft with notes and sets a publishing date in the future. The post is saved as a Draft while they work on it, then they set it to publish in the future, at which time the editor may change the date and time if necessary. This avoids duplicate topics or helps the other writers find related story ideas as the site develops.
Your blog exercise today is to take another look at drafts in your site, be it WordPress or another content management system, and find a better way to use the Draft feature – a positive way – to keep you focused and on track.
Don’t let the Drafts haunt you. Make them work for you.
If you come up with some novel ways to use the Drafts feature, share it with us.