Better Brainstorming Methods with Workflowy


July 27, 2021

As a writer, I often have to use brainstorming methods to find a topic, develop a thesis, create a headline, or come up with robust points for an article. My brainstorming sessions are often sporadic, much like the methods or tools I use to jot down ideas. But I’ve found that using Workflowy for problem-solving can be more permanent than sticky notes and more structured than Google docs. 

One of the unique benefits of bullet journaling in Workflowy is that not only is it a good place to record lists or tasks, but it is a flexible system for brainstorming. In fact, one of the main purposes for bullet journaling is simply to allow for stream-of-consciousness writing, such as rapid logging. There are three main ways to categorize brainstorming sessions, and each utilizes Workflowy in a unique way. 

The first way to approach brainstorming is to research the topic at hand (what do experts say about this topic?). When I start writing an article or thinking through ideas for hosting an event, or any other type of task that needs planning and some extra thought, I often will turn to Google, creative apps, or books that might help me on that topic. I’ll jot down the most important ideas, or sometimes in my research, I’ll think of another direction that I want to brainstorm. 

Workflowy can help organize research and brainstorming sessions. Simply create a new node (or two, or three!) for the topic you’re brainstorming, and jot down the source where you found your ideas. Then, under that bullet, record any observations, significant quotes (with a page number or link to cite if needed!), or further questions to explore. This makes each source easily collapsible and accessible.

Another way to brainstorm is to set a time limit on your research session and simply to jot down all the interesting ideas that come out of that time. Then, after the time is up, go back and organize each idea under different categories for easy access. While research may feel like cheating in a brainstorming session, it can often spur ideas and create new questions and directions to explore. 

A second way to brainstorm is in a group (what does my team say about this topic?). While this is ideal to do in person (and Workflowy makes it easy to keep minutes for such meetings), Workflowy maximizes the possibilities for virtual team brainstorming.

There are a few different options here. First, each team member can spend time individually brainstorming on the topic and then share the list across the team (under the share button, users can choose whether or not team members can edit the shared document). Then the team can view all of the brainstorming documents in “board” view to view them collectively. Alternatively, one person can create an agenda with brainstorming prompts, and the team can use the shared link to take turns jotting down their ideas, viewable by all. The point team member can then edit and organize all the ideas into action items, or create a separate document for the results.

Finally, Workflowy can help individuals with their own personal brainstorming sessions (what do I have to say about this topic?). Two common strategies that are easy to use with Workflowy are listing/bulleting and clustering. With bulleting, you can pick a different question or challenge you are facing and spend a set amount of time simply jotting down ideas under each question. 

Clustering is also a helpful technique: take all the random ideas generated from listing or bulleting and group them together under a category. Workflowy’s collapsible bullets make this much simpler. Armed with these tools, Workflowy users can make the best of their individual and team brainstorming sessions. 

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