Whether you are capturing requirements, writing a specification, giving a presentation or drawing up a contract, it is important to structure your thoughts so that your target audience easily understands them.
Key to this is grouping: Try and divide what you are working on into an easily manageable number of main themes – the ideal number is 3. Then create further similar sub-divisions within these themes until you have captured everything you want to have in your message, but in a structured way.
Think of a rough title for your message and enter into the top level of the template below.
Get down all your thoughts on a piece of paper and then see if you can find 3 or 4 main themes which jump out at you; Give each one a rough title and enter these into level 2 of the template.
Choose a colour for each theme. Go back through your list of thoughts and allocate each one to a particular theme by highlighting it in that theme’s colour.
Go through each theme one by one, look at the number of thoughts you have allocated. If this is only 3 or 4 then proceed to give these rough titles and enter these in the template at level 3. For a larger number you will need to repeat steps 3 and 4 to create sub-themes and possibly sub-sub-themes etc. until you have fully structured your message.
Review your structured message. Remove any thoughts or themes which do not reinforce your main message. Then refine the titles for the themes and sub-themes.
You now have a clear and structured message which can be presented in a format of your choice.