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How to Avoid Writing Boring Outlines using the IKEA Method

Posted By Guest Blogger 26th of May 2017 Creating Content 0 Comments

This is a guest contribution from LJ Sedgwick.

You’ve read all of the blogging advice. You know writing an outline helps keep your blog post to the point.

But try as you might, nothing’s happening. An empty page stares back at you. That blinking cursor is taunting you.

You want to teach your readers how to follow your processes. But they’re second nature to you. Trying to put them into a blog post seems impossible.

You know that you know everything you need for your post. But how do you get the ideas out of your brain and onto paper? How do you turn them into an outline?

Worry no more. We’re going to use the IKEA method to brain dump those ideas. Then we’ll assemble them into a solid blog post that will last for years to come.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

This blog post started out in that exact same way. It’s a process I’ve used for blog posts since 2009. It’s also a method I use in for writing fiction, and academic writing (much to the eternal annoyance of my Ph. D. supervisor).

So what’s the IKEA method, and how can it help you?

Step 1 – Dump all of the bits onto the floor.

What’s the first thing that you do when you get your IKEA flat pack home?

You tip all of the screws, bolts, and random Allen keys onto the floor.

We’ll start your blog post the same way. This is your brain dump. Set a timer and write everything you can about your topic. If it helps, write it in stream of consciousness.

That’s how this blog post started out.

No one ever has to see it but you. It’s how you’ll get to know all of the ideas you have to work with.

Step 2 – Group everything together by ‘type’.

In the IKEA method, this is the part where you’re matching the stuff on the floor with the instructions. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also count them before you put anything together.

You need to do the same thing with your blog post. Go through your notes and break up what you’ve written into chunks. Group your thoughts together by ‘type’.

Say you’re writing a post about how to make the transition from a day job to freelancing. This blog post is a chest of drawers in this metaphor.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

Put all of your thoughts about saving money and budgeting, ready for the transition, into one pile. That’s all of the parts you need for your first drawer.

Then you’ll put everything to do with time management into another pile. That’ll be your second drawer.

Rinse and repeat.

Like any IKEA assembly, you’ll always have parts left over that aren’t in the instructions. That’s okay. In my house, those extra odds and ends go into a drawer of random pieces, in case anything breaks later. Or sometimes they come in handy for completely unrelated DIY projects.

You should do the same. Open Evernote, Google Docs, Scrivener – whatever you write in. Copy and paste those ‘spare’ thoughts into a document. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Step 3 – Start assembling your individual elements

Go back to your piles of bits/thoughts. Most people follow the instructions. Not me. I put furniture together in a more freestyle fashion. So if you hate outlines, this will be your new best friend.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

 

Take a look at your first pile of furniture parts/thoughts. They’re already grouped together, so that gives you your subhead for that section.

Start editing those loose, stream of consciousness thoughts into coherent sentences. Move them around into logical paragraphs.

Turn that subhead into something descriptive, so scanners can easily skim your post. Make sure it signposts your content.

Imagine we’re building a chest of drawers. This newly edited paragraph is your first finished drawer.

Move onto the next pile of thoughts and do the same thing. You’ve already done the hard work and gotten the thoughts together. Now you have to turn them into readable content.

Once you’ve run out of piles, you’ve got the individually assembled parts of your post. Using the IKEA method, they’re the drawers you put together before you slot them into the empty chest.

But how are you going to build the chest to fit the drawers into?

Step 4 – Build the container for your other elements

Look at your subheads. What’s the most logical order for them to follow? This is going to be the key to writing the engaging blog post you want to write.

So in our day job-to-freelancing post, you won’t put a paragraph about marketing your new business before one about carving out time to build a portfolio.

Arrange (and re-arrange, if necessary) the subheads you’ve written into a post that flows nicely.

And there’s the chest.

Slide each of the drawers into place by pasting the right paragraphs under the right subheads.

If you’re building IKEA furniture, this is the point where you tighten all of the screws. So for your IKEA-built blog post, you’ll edit your sentences so that the post flows. One section should set up the next, and so on.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

Step 5 – Find the best spot for your new furniture/blog post

In your home, you’d find the best place for your new piece of furniture. For your blog post, you’re looking for the right context.

And that’s your introduction. Craft your intro so that it sets up the information that follows. Give your chest of drawers/blog post a final polish.

And hey presto! You’ve used the IKEA method of assembly to brain dump and edit your way to an engaging blog post!

The IKEA method will help bloggers who can’t get to grips with outlines

When I brain-dumped this post, I started out with 637 words. They weren’t necessarily in the right order, but the ideas were there.

It took just 15 minutes to get everything down that I wanted to say. And then it took another 15 minutes to turn it into a 1000 word post.

If you hate using outlines, turning your thoughts into a useful post is a lot easier by brain-dumping and editing than trying to write the perfect post from scratch.

Why not give it a go? Choose your topic/piece of furniture and get started. Let me know in the comments below how you get on!

LJ Sedgwick writes blog posts and copy for startups while drinking more coffee than is healthy. You can find her blog posts about content marketing at her website.

 

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.

  • Ooh, I love this analogy! I think the “brain dump” is a super way to start a blog post, and I’m absolutely with you on the importance of subheadings/subsections … and on how critical it is to get them in a logical order.

    We’re big fans of IKEA at chez Luke (and not just for the cheap sticky buns, the 50p ice creams and the free creche, though they’re all big draws ;-)) and we certainly have our share of allen keys and other random bits and pieces dotted around the house!

    • LJ Sedgwick

      I love the cinnamon rolls!

  • Jahanzeb Jks

    This is exactly what I’ve been doing
    I’ve started compiling blurbs on Onenote, to be used someday in a blog post (0=

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Get writing!

  • Hi LJ,

    Love this idea. And the brain dump.

    I write 14 to 30 guest posts weekly. I brain dump like made to get my outlines down cold, first building topics/titles then taking it from there. It is a keen way to add order to your mind. Because all lame or boring posts and outlines are created from a disorderly, hectic space and all the good ones are simply crafted from a more orderly, focused space.

    Typing is my fave step. I like grouping headers and then for longer posts, grouping within those groups to create a robust, thorough post. This orders my thoughts which orders the post which allows the post to flow more freely and easily.

    I’d add that to really make things pop you better outline each post. It is tough to write regularly if your thoughts are jumbled. That brain dump is the first step. From there though never skip that outlining step. I write posts – 600 word types – in 10 minutes based on the outline step. Weirdly enough, I often write posts in reverse. You’d think this mucks up the flow but quite the opposite. Some of these posts pop. OK all do LOL. Really though it is about finding what works for you and sticking with it but with an outline in hand you create the orderly mental environment for crafting a helpful, valuable, traffic driving post.

    As for IKEA I have not been to the local one in decades. But I do recall dumping stuff and looking at images – sans words of course – to work/piece things together.

    Fab post :)

    Ryan

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Thanks! I just find it’s easier to find the outline among the brain dump but I think that’s just how my brain works!

  • Great tips. It sounds sort of similar as to what I do.

    1. The first title is usually the idea that spawned my blog post. I keep notes of what kind of titles/topics I’d like to write about. Most of the time these ideas/titles come to me when I’m no where near a computer so I just make a note on my phone. I end up with an endless bank of blog ideas this way.
    2. Next I just start typing based of a mental image of how I’d like my post to go.
    3. I organize the content by sub-headings.
    4. One of the last things I do is write the intro. I do this because sometimes my posts end up nothing how I envisioned them. Coming up with an intro first holds me back creatively.
    5. Refurbish the title.

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Yeah, I often write the intro last!

  • M

    Great idea! I use this method and didnt know it was a great method!

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Hehe it’s nice to put a name on it!

  • Rosemary Richings

    As someone who hates outlines, just wanted to say that you have a really good way of planning out your posts. And that says a lot, because I really, really hate outlines.

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Yeah, I’m not much of a fan!

  • Steve Frisbie

    So the question I have is, are you better off outlining and then breaking your post into sections, or outlining and then breaking your one post into separate posts so you have more directed but shorter content? Gotta admit, I have a tendency to ramble a bit in my posts and perhaps I’d be better off breaking it up.

    • LJ Sedgwick

      I tend to outline and then break into smaller chunks.

  • LJ Sedgwick

    Hope it helps!

  • I like this analogy! I think the “brain dump” is a better way to start a blog post, and I’m absolutely with you on the importance of subheadings/subsections … and on how critical it is to get them in a logical order.

    • LJ Sedgwick

      I like to think of them as a map to lead a reader through a post.

  • LJ, I love the tips here – easy to follow too. I love doing puzzles and this seems exactly like doing puzzles. Trying to figure out the topic first and then make a puzzle. I will surely try it on my next post LJ. I would love to write that much in that little timeframe.
    I tend to start with a title and then go from there. I may have to try to mix it up more. Thank you!

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Let me know how you get on!

  • Sarah Dew

    This is such a great analogy and by far the best method of how to write a post I’ve come across so far! I too love to mind dump and break my topic down into subheadings, the words flow so much easier when I just let myself free-write instead of trying to be too structured. My ideas for posts always come about when I’m walking or in the car so my phone is very handy for noting them down! Step 2 about grouping into type and Step 4 for getting it all into some sort of logical order are great tips – I shall be following this method from now on – thanks for sharing!

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Have you ever tried dictating your ideas and then transcribing them later?

      • Sarah Dew

        That’s a great idea…I’ve read about doing that during the writing process as a way of finding your voice and sounding more conversational but I’ve never thought of doing it when the ideas come to me – I shall have to give it a go – thank you so much :)

  • This is like a puzzle. I’m thinking of writing my thoughts/info in separate sentences rather than in paragraph form. After printing it off I can then cut them apart and rearrange as much as needed. Old school cut and paste.

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Never underestimate the power of cut-and-paste!

  • Thanks for the great post LJ. Step #3 is indeed my new best friend.

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Glad to hear it!

  • Hi LJ,

    Great write up and I love it how you referred it to Ikea. I actually just purchased a standing desk from Ikea and while I was reading this post, I could see the same steps I took to set up the desk.

    The first thing we did when we got home, was dump everything out onto the floor.

    I’ve never used outlines before and am not sure that I can start. I like your idea of just brain dumping everything. That’s kind of what I do when I write my blog posts.

    I just sit there and write, without thinking or editing. Then I walk away and come back a day or two later and I’ll proofread it and fix it up so it sounds good or add anything that I’ve missed.

    It doesn’t sound very professional or tactful, but this is what works for me. Maybe, I’ll implement a couple of your techniques to see if I can speed up my writing.

    One thing that has helped me improve my writing is by taking the time to write 1,000 words per day. While I am still not the greatest, I am a lot better than I was when I first started my blog.

    Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

    Have a great day :)

    Susan

    • LJ Sedgwick

      Yeah, building up a daily habit will improve your writing so quickly!

  • Thank You very Much, Its helps a lot

  • Rajesh Chandra Pandey

    @ljsedgwick:disqus
    Loved the way you drew an analogy. Sometimes such good posts keep you up moving when you feel stuck. When you have a procedure for your task nothing can stop you. It’s very nice till your creative nectar keeps oozing out but when the ‘block’ casts its spell procedure is what could carry you on. Thanks once again.

  • Ashok Kumar K R

    Great advice, editing matters a lot. How fast can someone edit the articles?

  • Thanks for sharing these tips on content writing. I’d like to implement these while writing newer business blogs.

  • Ruth Gibbs

    Superb tips mentioned in the article. It gives us a clear idea of writing necessary content to get better visitors to our blog. Thanks

  • Very nice method. Thanks for sharing.

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