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If there’s one useful thing I learned during my three years of undergraduate studies (and there is just one), it’s how to cut corners while maintaining a high level of quality.

I became an expert at picking out relevant quotes and extracting useful information from textbooks without actually reading more than a couple of pages, happy to sacrifice grades in order to finish an essay quickly and get to the bar.

But then, one day, I stumbled across a little-known secret – brainstorming actually saves you time!

I’d been struggling to get my head around an essay topic, so I finally gave in to the lecturer’s suggestion and made a list of sub-topics and reference materials that would be useful for each of them. It took about 15 minutes, and by the time I was done I realised, to my delight, that the essay was pretty much written – all I had to do was ‘fill in the gaps’ to flesh out my arguments.

Not only had I saved time, but the quality was better than it ever could have been had I chosen to churn my way through from start to finish. I discovered that it’s simply not effective to develop a concept, argument or structure as you go along.

Now I always use brainstorming to organise my ideas before any piece of work I produce. Yes, including this blog post.

So, the moral of the story? Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. You just might be surprised at how much time you’ll save – and how much better your results will be.


Hungry for more great writing tips? Find out what makes a killer slogan or when it’s ok to use the passive voice.