By Thomas Clifford published October 13, 2010 Est Read Time: 4 min

4 Steps to Zap Article Chaos (Now and Forever)

I admit it.
I had article chaos.
Yup.

Ideas here.
Outlines there.
Half-baked articles everywhere.

Article chaos drove me nuts
I’d spend hours trying to come up with a finished article. I spent forever trying to locate an idea I had six months ago.

Then a goof-proof idea hit me
Why not create an article “funnel” from gathering ideas to publication?
So I did.

In 60 seconds (or less), you’ll save hours down the road.
And, yes, it’ll zap article chaos.
Forever.

First, exactly what is article chaos?
Article chaos is what happens when you have so many ideas, outlines and articles spread out everywhere you can’t even find what you’ve written. You have no idea what to do next with all this material. Worse, you might be sitting on a goldmine of content without realizing it.

Eliminating article chaos is easy
You can end the chaos by using four folders (either computer or paper) to store your writings. With this system, all your writings from conception to publication can be found– in a snap.

What are the four folders called?

  1. Ideas
  2. Outlines
  3. Articles from outlines
  4. Articles to publish

These folders act like a funnel
It starts with lots of ideas: your first folder.
The second folder narrows a few ideas into the outlining stage.
Those outlines become articles in the third folder.
The fourth folder moves your best articles into the publishing phase.

How to use the “Four Folder” System

Folder #1: Ideas

We get ideas all day long. As quickly as they come to us, they leave.

Let’s say you’re out shopping. You get an idea for an article. It’s a foggy idea but, hey, you know the gist of what you’re trying to say. Make a note and when you get home, put your note in your folder called, “Ideas.”

This folder can have one document or several documents. I prefer just one document with a running stream of ideas. Some ideas are working headlines, some ideas are just phrases and some ideas are a few sentences detailing an idea.

Your “Idea” folder is like your “idea playground.” The folder is filled with all the wild and random ideas that come to you over time. Some ideas will vanish. Some ideas will become outlines, then articles and even published articles.

Either way, it’s good to know you have one place where all your ideas are safely stored. Is your idea good enough to go to the next stage? Yes? Then let’s move it to “outlines.”

Folder #2: Outlines

Your “Outline” folder holds all your outlines.

When it comes time to writing an outline, go to your “Idea” folder and pick an idea you want to outline. Cut it out and paste it into this “Outline” folder.

This “Outline” folder can consist of just one document. Keep a running stream of outlines. If you prefer, you can have several documents dated by the month or some other system that works best for your needs.

Some outlines will turn into articles. Some won’t.

Folder #3: Articles from outlines

When it’s time to write an article, cut an outline and paste it into the “Articles from outlines” folder. This way, you can easily go back at a later time and polish any article for future publishing.

Each article should have its own document.

Folder #4: Articles to publish

This folder holds the cream of the crop. The “best of the best.” Call them what you will, you know these articles are worth sharing with the rest of the world.

Go through Folder #3 and sort the articles you want to polish up for publishing. Put them in this folder, Folder #4.

Now you’ve got motivation to get these gems out of your computer and into the hearts and minds of your readers.

But isn’t it easier just to have one folder called “Articles?”
Sure it’s easier having only one folder. You write something. You put it in a folder. How easy is that? You’re done and on your merry way.

But let’s say you’re writing outlines and articles on a regular basis. And let’s say you write anything from ideas to articles every day for three months. At the end of three months, you might have over 90 outlines and somewhere around 40-90 articles. Wow! That’s 140 to 180 documents to keep track of.

Imagine sorting through 140 to 180 items to find the one you want.
It’s easy to let your outline and article writings spread like weeds in your office or in your computer. You also know the dangers of throwing your hard work into one single folder.

Zapping article chaos is simple
Use your own version of the “four-folder” system. Or take this idea and modify it so it works for you.

Either way, having a system in place will help you zap article chaos. Forever.

Over to you.

  • What other techniques or strategies do you use to take an emerging idea through to publication?
  • What challenges do you face when structuring your ideas?

Author: Thomas Clifford

Thomas Clifford is a B2B content marketing writer and certified copywriter. He helps companies generate and nurture high quality leads through eNewsletters, blog articles and free special download reports. Tom has 25 years under his belt as an award-winning B2B filmmaker. He's produced hundreds of marketing-branding films and brings his street-level interviewing experience to every project. Tom is featured in the book “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business." He has also written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for FastCompany.com. You can follow Tom on Twitter at @ThomasClifford. His blog, "Humanizing Business Communications," is packed with new media business communication tips and writing strategies. His eBook "5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier" is free to new subscribers.

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