When I first started writing, I hated outlining
It just seemed like a huge waste of time to me.
When I sit down to work, I want to get to the important stuff – writing.
Not spend hours making some elaborate mind-map of an article idea.
But there’s a reason every accomplished writer talks about how important outlining is to the writing process.
Because it is.
So, begrudgingly, I started to outline my articles before writing them.
And there’s no doubt about it. Whenever I take the time to outline, the quality of my article goes up. And I can write and publish so much faster.
So, as much as I hate outlining, I know first-hand how important it is.
But there’s a part of me that still wants to skip it though.
There are days where I tell myself I don’t have the time. That I should just sit down and start writing instead of spending time outlining.
So to force myself to outline, there are 3 things I do to make sure I have plenty of time to do it.
- Give outlining its own dedicated time slot.
- Get away from the computer.
- Use a timer.
give outlining its own dedicated time slot
One of the reasons I used to struggle with outlining was because I didn’t start outlining an article until a few minutes before I was going to write it.
After a lot of banging my head against the wall, I realized that’s a bad idea.
It’s way easier to outline when it has its own dedicated time block.
Then you can focus on just that single task. You’re not thinking about what you’re going to write when you’re outlining. You’re just outlining.
And it makes writing your article a lot easier too.
Separating outlining from writing gives your brain time to think and come up with ideas about what to write.
I usually outline articles the day before, then let my subconscious work on it in the background while I’m doing other stuff.
I’ll come up with ideas while I’m at the gym or on a walk. A lot of times I’ll write an entire article in my head based on an outline I wrote the day before.
Then when it comes time to write the article, it’s practically finished.
I fly through the writing part because I have an outline in front of me and my brain has been working on piecing it together for the last 24 hours.
So don’t just whip up an outline right before you start writing an article. Have a separate, dedicated time to outline. Take a break. Then write the article later.
Get away from your computer when you outline
Just because you’re building an online business, doesn’t mean you have to do all your work at your computer.
Outlining is something that’s so much easier when you get away from your computer to do it.
Why? Because there are too many distractions at your computer.
Between email, social media and all the other internet rabbit holes, you’re fighting a losing battle when you try to outline an article at your computer.
With all those distractions, it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re “doing research” when you’re really just procrastinating.
So get rid of all the digital distractions and go analog.
Old school pen and paper is the best way to limit your distractions so you can focus on your outline.
And get away from your desk too. A change of scenery kickstarts your creativity.
I get my best outlining done when I take only a pen and a notebook to a coffee shop and work from there.
Try getting out of the home/office and away from your computer when you outline. It’s so much easier to focus and get your outlining done quickly.
Use a timer to outline faster
One of the best things you can do for productivity is setting a deadline.
Having a deadline helps you get just about any task or project done quicker, including outlining.
Having a deadline forces you to block out distractions and focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.
If you only have 10 minutes to come up with an outline, you can’t waste time checking Twitter or “doing research”. You better be outlining.
Plus, a deadline helps you reduce outline bloat.
With some topics, it’s easy to keep adding more points to your outline. The more you think about the article, the more you want to include in it.
But having more points in your outline leads to long, bloated articles.
Setting a time constraint on your outlining gives you a finish line.
It stops you from continually adding more points every time you think of something else.
A deadline keeps your outline, and your article, from bloating out of control.
So set a timer when you outline. When the timer goes off, you’re done.
I’ve experimented with as little as 5 minutes, all the way up to 30 minutes.
For me, a block of 15-20 minutes works. That gives me enough time to get all my ideas down on paper while not being so much time that I can screw around.
The amount of time you give yourself isn’t important. Just the fact that you have a deadline will help you focus and keep your outline from bloating.
I get it, outlining is boring
And if you’re anything like me, you’d rather just skip it and get to the important stuff – writing.
But if you want to produce high quality articles on a regular basis, you need to make time to outline before you write.
Try giving outlining its own time slot. Getting away from your computer. And using a timer when you outline.