Ever have to put together an extended outline or table of contents and struggled to make it work? Yeah. Me, too. But I think I've found a much faster and easier way to produce one. And the funny thing is, I've had this tool in my kit for a long time. But it wasn't until the other day that I realized how useful it would be in this particular use.

It's called the Idea-Details©* and it looks like this:

I realized that if I used this little strategy for each topic, I could generate short descriptions in no time. (Note: You don't have to have all three types of details in each description, but you do want at least one, if not two, types of details).

Building a better outline

Here's the process we're using (yes, this is a work in progress. We at the drafting stage now):

  1. Determine topics
  2. Create Idea-Details for each
  3. Review each one with the team and make changes as necessary
  4. Research and draft items
  5. Review drafts and make changes as necessary
  6. Enjoy your completed document

I think you could skip step three if you've got a small team. We don't.

Quick and to-the-point

What's extra cool about this is that it's so fast and straightforward. And by forcing me to think about the most important thing for each topic and only 3-5 details per item, it keeps me focused on the ultimate consumer of the information. Always good.

* More uses for Idea-Details:

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Credit for the Idea-Details goes to my brilliant husband, Steve Peha. © 1995-2011 Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. Used by permission.