Every YouTube video I publish begins with an idea – and as soon as I get an idea, it goes straight into Notion.
Once an idea is fleshed out enough for me to know I’m going to work on it, I’ll throw it into a database in Notion called Videos
I’ll record the name of the video, assign it to a writer (either me or someone on my team), I’ll give it a status, and if the video has a sponsor I’ll make sure that’s noted. When I approve and decide to move forward with an idea, it moves into the scheduling database. Usually, my team and I work from the calendar view:
At the start of each month, I'll have a Zoom call with the team to plan out what our content schedule is going to be. As the month progresses, of course, things tend to change around.
The single most important thing in my YouTube business is making sure our sponsored videos get out on time. So I’ll add them to my Sponsored Videos Schedule in Notion:
I have a series of templates I work through to help me plan it out fully, get it scripted, and bring it to publication. Here’s the template for a video I released a couple of months ago, about why I listen to podcasts at 2x their normal speed.
To get the process rolling, there is a field for ‘Writer’, who will be me, or perhaps one of my team members. Next, ‘Publish date’ is fairly flexible – unless, of course, it’s a sponsored video. The ‘Status’ field indicates where the idea is in the process of going from idea to publication. Under ‘Video Intention’, I classify what type of video it is. When it comes down to it, there are only three types of video on YouTube: videos designed to be ‘Discoverable’ to a new audience, ‘Community’ content to appeal to your existing audience, and ‘Sales’ videos to get someone to stop surfing around YouTube and click into something else. This would likely be a ‘Discoverable’ video, because I want people searching to happen upon it. The aim with Discoverable videos is simply to get the audience to watch until the end, and then get them to stick around to watch another video after that. In ranking videos and matching them for recommendation to potential viewers, the YouTube algorithm rewards video watch time and overall session watch time. For me, just knowing the video is Discoverable already puts me into the mindset that I need to make the video snappy – I need to present myself well, and not ramble too much. I also need to avoid inside jokes that only my existing viewers would get, because I have to appeal to any new audience this video might draw. Moving down the list, ‘Sponsor Date’ is a link to the Sponsored Video database.
Usually I insist that we generate at least ten to twenty potential titles for every single video. For example, that video about how I listen to things at 2x speed was eventually published to YouTube with the title, ‘One Simple Habit That Changed My LIfe’. You can see in Notion where we went through nine different titles in order to find the one that worked:
When we’re shooting the videos, we make a point of taking lots of photos for potential thumbnails. For this video, we went with a picture of me holding an AirPod, looking sultrily at the camera, and pouting a little bit.
The next section in the template is all about the story: it asks questions like ‘who is the character’ and ‘what do they want’ and ‘how are they transformed by the experience of finally getting it’. Answering these questions helps us ground the video in storytelling fundamentals before we write the script. We don't always fill it in (although we probably should, because I know it would make the videos better). But just having it there reminds us that we need to be mindful about the best way to tell the story.
I also keep Story Structures in each entry, in case I need help thinking about how to construct my script. I use a classic storytelling form called ‘The Hero’s Journey’ quite a bit. That narrative arc depicts a character who is living a particular status quo, but is suddenly forced to take action and enter into unfamiliar, uncharted territory. They must adapt and take action. Victory comes after some type of an inward realization occurs – at the end, the hero is the same person, but forever changed by the journey.