An Easy 3-Step Framework To Generate Writing Ideas From Your Calendar

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into 1 of the 10 biggest problems all writers face:

  • Distractions
  • Over-editing
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Self-confidence
  • Generating ideas
  • Impostor syndrome
  • Writing consistently
  • Finding time to write
  • Loose feedback loops

(And, of course, if you want to crush all 10 of these AND master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to show you a simple way of generating writing ideas with a technique called Calendar Mining.

We all have jam-packed calendars.

Our digital calendars have become an essential way of organizing our lives, keeping to our personal and professional commitments, and blocking time to make sure we make progress towards our goals, no matter how big or small. And if you’re a writer, you’re probably putting slots on your calendar to make sure you always have time to write (we call these “Sacred Hours”).

But what if you could use your calendar not just to keep yourself on track with your writing but also as a way of generating writing ideas?

We call this Calendar Mining.

How to use Calendar Mining to come up with writing ideas (which are hiding right under your nose)

Here’s how Calendar Mining works in 3 easy steps:

  • Step 1: Every morning when you sit down to write, pop open your calendar.
  • Step 2: Scan every entry from the day before and the day ahead
  • Step 3: For each entry, find what you could share about that would be:
  • Useful to you (meaning you gain something from writing about it)
  • Useful to one reader (meaning someone would benefit from reading it)

You should think of Calendar Mining as an atomic version of the 2-Year Test—except instead of two years, you’re looking at what you’ve done over the last two days.

And with this simple framework, you can come up with dozens of writing ideas.

For example, let’s take a look at a day in Dickie’s calendar:

On this day and the next, Dickie had a ton of items scheduled:

  • Sales meetings
  • An in-person podcast
  • Two hours of employee 1:1s
  • His morning priming routine
  • His morning mobility routine
  • Two hours of lifting and yoga
  • Each of his meals mapped out
  • A writing brainstorming session
  • His end-of-day reflection process
  • Time to FaceTime with his girlfriend
  • A scheduled block to listen to an audiobook
  • Time for reading and winding down to end the day

Now, you might be thinking: “Why would anyone be interested in what I have on my calendar?”

Because each of these “blocks” is ripe with potential frameworks, lessons, and breakdowns that you are already doing but just need to formalize and write up. Better yet, all of these might seem boring and dull to you, but they would actually be useful to other people trying to improve a particular area of their life or need a new way of thinking about an old problem.

It’s important to not discount the ideas you generate here because, as Derek Sivers memorably put it, what you share could be “obvious to you, amazing to others”.

Let’s take Dickie’s list as an example. Here’s what he could potentially write about:

  • 5 tips on how to integrate mobility exercises into your daily routine
  • How to run a sales meeting to reach the next quarter’s revenue targets
  • How to be the perfect guest on a podcast (and how to eliminate first-timer nerves)

There’s so much variety in the topics here, and if you look at your calendar, we guarantee you’ll find a wealth of ideas, too.

And you can do this at any stage of life and with whatever you fill your day with.

  • If you have time scheduled to train for your first 10km run, write about it
  • If you spend your evenings getting your kids ready for bed, write about it
  • If your calendar is packed with meetings to seal a client deal, write about what you’re learning

Again, all of this might seem obvious to you, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could help these people who are similar to you with what you know?

This isn’t the only reason to use Calendar Mining to generate ideas. It’s also a way of helping you become a better writer.

This is how Calendar Mining helps you become a better writer.

There are four main reasons why Calendar Mining helps you improve your skills as a writer:

Reason #1: It guarantees the writing is useful to you

The lens you should use here is: “Would I write about this if no one read it?”

If the answer is yes, you should write about it no matter what. This takes away the downside from any time invested in writing. Worst case, zero people read it but you better distill and clarify something for yourself, helping you to integrate these lessons and frameworks better into your life.

This is a massive win and an amazing upside of writing.

Reason #2: The content is written from a first-person perspective

The most memorable ideas are always supported by a personal story or example.

They make the content more relatable and more trustworthy. These stories also act as a doorway for readers to connect directly with your personal story. They will remember those details.

We call this the “Golden Intersection” and it can be nicely summarized like this:

Using Calendar Mining to find writing ideas ensures you pair the framework or lessons (the stuff that’s answering the reader's question) with something that will help the reader remember it in the future.

Reason #3: It helps you test new topics you could expand on in the future

How you structure your day and what you include on your calendar is decided by your current life needs and demands, shaped over years.

And since you’ve used these systems, frameworks, and lessons for years, they’ve become second nature to you. But writing about them downloads these onto paper (or social media), clarifies your thinking, and helps you test out new ideas with your audience. Then, you can listen for signal and see what your readers want, what they like, and any other questions they have.

And this is exactly how you build digital products—who knows, you might have a $100,000 product sitting on your calendar!

Reason #4: This unlocks a simpler writing style because you’re saying what happened rather than trying to “teach”

Writing about what’s on your calendar helps you frame the writing as “here’s what I’m doing” rather than “here’s what you should do.”

Think of it as like you’re having a conversation with someone who’s asked you about the topic. You’re answering their questions. And by answering their questions, you’re guiding the people just a few steps behind you. Nobody’s journey is the same, and nobody likes being told what they “should” do. Instead, this type of content encourages you to share your journey and let other people cherry-pick what they need from it and discard the rest.

And you’re more likely to build a more engaged audience with this strategy, too.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

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