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How to Avoid Writing Boring Outlines using the IKEA Method

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.

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.

 

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