Sticky-Note Brainstorming

I decided to blog about this topic because I got asked what this was when I posted a picture of it awhile ago. I did some digging on google and youtube, trying to find a good explanation of the process. I found this one post from Christian Parsons of Idea Drunk, that explains a pretty similar process to mine, but I couldn't find much else. So I thought I’d add my 2¢ to the mix. At the end I’ve included some links about how this can be used in a group setting

What is it?

It’s similar to mindmapping, which wikipedia  explains as:

“A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is hierarchical and shows relationships among pieces of the whole.[1] It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.”

It’s a way to visually represent and connect your thoughts and ideas.

It works well for a few reasons:

  • Sticky-notes are movable, you can re-organize at will

  • They are small, you have to be fairly concise

  • You can add new ideas or remove old ones whenever you like

I learned this technique in university. It can be used for research, planning, problem solving, idea generation, and probably many other tasks. If there is something you have to figure out, you can probably use sticky-note brainstorming to work on it.

Why I do it

I think on paper. I have to put words, thoughts, and ideas down in order to move on to the next thought. This helps me get my thoughts down as I go, very quickly. Often, I realize I have way more ideas than I thought I did, and that they’re all way easier to connect than I thought. It gives me a visual breakdown of the small steps I can take to build towards big changes, its makes goals seem achievable instead of like lofty pipedreams.

How I do it

I pick a problem to solve, and write a word or a concise phrase describing that on the first sticky note. The topic I worked on in photo above is Blogging. I put that sticky note at the top of my wall. I think very linearly, so mine goes in rows, but they can be placed however you want. In school, with a group, we put main topic in the center, and then people started branches out from there, slapping the sticky notes down into each group any which way.

My first level of sub-headings are Scheduling, and Topics. The best part of brainstorming like this is you can go back and add more topics at different levels whenever you feel like it.

Starting with Scheduling, my 3rd level sub-headings there were monthly, bi-monthly, weekly.

(And here is where you start to make it your own, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you.)

I decided that monthly, bi-monthly and weekly were scheduling goals for me. I want to increase my frequency of blogging each year for the next 2 years, so my next level of headings was 2016, 2017, 2018.

For 2016, I have been blogging my photo roundup monthly, and I also want to add on a monthly written piece for the rest of the year.

For 2017, I want to write bi-weekly. In order to make that less daunting/overwhelming, I decided on a list of general post ideas to help me keep up with that. So my posting guidelines are (Obviously I’m not limited to these, I’ll let myself write about whatever inspires me):

  • original written piece (like this one),

  • photo piece (maybe roundup style, or anything else photo related really)

  • share piece (something cool that I have read, or seen or experience that has impacted me, that I would like to share with the world)

For 2018 I’d like to be up to blogging weekly, so I’ve come up with more post ideas. They are:

  • opinion piece

  • share piece

  • tips & tricks

  • reflection piece

  • photo piece

Then, under these sections, I started a new section that breaks my post-writing process down into bite size steps. The steps are:

  1. General topic idea (come up with this as soon as previous post is live)

  2. Research & Outline (the week after posting)

  3. Draft 1: write, then type up and proof for myself

  4. Draft 2: re-write and the get it proofread by someone else (two days before posting)

  5. Final Draft: edit edit edit edit, polish.

  6. Let it sit overnight, then re-read it, and post

  7. REPEAT!

That’s the “scheduling” side of my brainstorming. And these are just ideas. They’re not set in stone. I can go back and re-arrange, change things, or add new stuff. If anything isn’t working for me, I can adjust it.

On the right side I brainstormed blogging topic ideas. Things I am passionate about and would like to write about. The main topics I currently have for ideas are:

  • anxiety/depression

  • photography

  • pets

  • social media

  • marketing

  • local places

  • philosophy

  • people

  • writing

  • travel

  • yoga

  • education

Under each of these I have more specific ideas for things to write about. For example under “local places” I have: businesses, parks, trails, camping, contemplation spaces, art, events, before & after.

These ideas are just specific enough to give me guidance and inspiration, but not limit me.

This group of stickies on my wall is now a great resource for me if I’m ever struggling to come up with an idea for what to blog about. It also gives me categories to organize my blog posts into.

Remember, I think very linearly, so this exact layout of stickies may not work for you when brainstorming. Do whatever feels comfortable and makes sense to you.

This style of brainstorming can be used to tackle any problem. Hate your job? Main topic “need a new job” then from there you could branch out to fantasy jobs, what I wanted to be as a kid, my skills, job hunting tasks, jobs I’m interested in…. Etc.

Doing brainstorming like this can help you realize and connect all your ideas, and help you breakdown insurmountable obstacles in bite size action items. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

A wall is built brick by brick. Progress is made by putting one foot in front of the other, over and over. So get building!



If you try this technique, let me know how it goes for you. Post a photo and tag me!

Instagram: @brianarmh
Twitter: @brihuether

Group Brainstorming links
Education World
Content Marketing Institute
Idea Sandbox