Like it or not, the internet loves lists. I suspect it’s because that’s a more formalized way to organize content. Easy to skim, easy to remember. But among those lists, the big ones, those after 50, or 77, or 100 items, are the most popular.
So far I wrote 4 “100 ways to” kind of list posts: 100 Ways To Live A Better Life, 100 Ways To Screw Up Your Life, 100 Ways To Improve Your Blog and 100 Things I Did In 2009. All of them got featured on delicious, stumbleupon, hackernews, reddit or other popular places on the internet.
They still bring in tons of traffic. No, I lied. They bring in hundreds of tons of traffic. Crafting such a list post is not an easy task. So I thought to put together 100 tips on how to write list posts. Especially giants like “100 Ways To…” Expect some disguised humor along more serious tips and, generally speaking, do take this list with a little bit of salt…
1. Become Immune To Rejection
List posts are cool. but list posts are also way too common nowadays. If you truly want to write a successful “100 ways to” post then prepare to face some rejection. Primarily, from yourself. Unconsciously, if you’re an experienced blogger, you hate lists. So work out this fear and start working.
2. Split It Into Smaller Tasks
Fundamental: work your list post in smaller steps, by writing every day several items. You’ll hopefully avoid some blocking episodes and you could also assess progress over several days (or weeks). After all, even a million dollars is made by adding 10 chunks of 100.000…
3. Use Mind Mapping
Start with some general notions about your list and take it from there. From my experience, after the mind map gets bigger than 30-40 branches, you need to transfer it on a text editor. But it gives you a pretty good start. I’m using MindMeister for that, it’s a pretty good tool.
4. Chose A Rich Topic
If you want to make a “100 ways of chopping potatoes” list post, chances are that you will never get to finish it. The topic is too narrow. It’s almost impossible to find 100 different ways to chop potatoes. Try to go for wider topics, like carrots (joking of course, now serious), blogging, motivation or inspiration.
5. Prepare To Read More
If you are going to write a “100 ways to” list post, you are also going to read it, adjust it, correct it and proof read it. Meaning you’re going to read much more than you’re used to. If you do try to write your list post without reading it after, the results may be totally unpredictable.
6. Write Short Explanations
Don’t go for a dry bullet list, take the time to write something for every item. But keep the explanation short. Like this one.
7. Flip A Coin
Whenever you hesitate to add another item to the list post, kill the suspense with a coin. Flip it fast, possibly while you’re smiling. If you win, add the item, if you lose, rephrase and still add the item. It’s a “100 ways to” list, goddamit, we need every frigging thing we can imagine, can’t afford playing stupid games with items and coins.
8. Link To Yourself
A “100 ways to” list post will surely bring in more traffic than a usual post. So, it’s a very good place to insert links to some of your most interesting articles. Just make sure the links actually have something in common with the main topic.
9. Be Patient
Don’t expect a “100 ways to” list to be baked in the same amount of time you spend for a regular blog post. It could take many days, or even weeks. The trick is to be patient here and don’t lose the magic final number (that would be the 100th tip) from your sight. It will pay off.
10. If You Write It, They Will Bookmark It
A “100 ways to” list post takes much longer to be read than a usual post. Initially, people will just bookmark it and never get back to it until the common fear of reading something for more than 15 seconds is gone. Some will never get back to read it (that fear is pretty nasty) but they will bookmark it for sure.
11. Start More Than One “100 ways to” List Post
Switching from one list post to another will be good for your focus. If the lists are on slightly different topics, it will be even better, because you will most likely avoid writer block totally by constantly challenging your creativity in different areas.
12. Make a Table Of Contents Out Of It
If at the current moment you have written more than 100 posts, have a good topic distribution and your list of “100 ways to” is close enough to what you’re usually writing, it will act also as a Table Of Contents of your blog, so link to yourself. The first links will get more visibility so think twice which items are you putting in the first third of your list post.
13. Brainstorm It
Let some of your friends or your colleagues in. Make it sound like fun and start writing down ideas. Brainstorming will not only give your more material but it will also have this decluttering effect on your mind. You’ll actually start to see more ideas and you’ll do that much faster. It’s like cleaning up your lenses.
14. Play With Words
Start playing with the words. If it’s a list post about motivation, start writing down motivation synonyms. If it’s about entrepreneurship, start writing down synonyms for entrepreneurship. Seeing the same thing from different perspective will reveal new ideas. This technique is especially useful in the late stage, when you already had a lot of the items nailed down.
15. Call A Random Phone Number And Ask For Advice
Not to be repeated more than once per list. Chances that you will actually bump into the same person you called last time are incredibly high. If you can hide after a fat fingering mistake for the first one, doing the same thing twice will put you in a very favorable position to receive a police inquiry for harassment.
16. Try To Insert A Random, Not Related Item
But do it only while you’re working on it. If you let it slip into the real list post, sooner or later they’ll catch you. But having a ghost in your draft will make things so much interesting. I guarantee that from a certain level you won’t know for sure which one is the ghost and which one is the real one. Annoying, but funny. Somehow.
17. Re-read Your Past 100 List Posts
Not only as a source of inspiration, but especially useful to avoid repetition. 100 pieces of a puzzle is a big number and it’s pretty easy to get caught in a writing routine. Keeping an eye on your older list posts will raise your awareness and hopefully will also boost your self-esteem to the point that you’re actually finishing your current list post.
18. Be Useful
If your list post will hugely benefit the green little men from Mars and no one on Earth will find any immediate use for it, don’t expect to become popular. Getting in touch first with the green little men and nicely asking if they really need such a list will surely help. More than once, the answer will be that you need to be really useful.
19. Chop It Off
20. Read Other List Posts
Especially in completely different niches than yours. It will help remove your unconscious blocks and refresh your perspective. Ideas are everywhere, it’s your focus which is not trained enough to spot them.
21. Inhale. Exhale
I know you’re focused and you’re chasing that idea at full speed. That’s not a reason to forgot breathing.
22. Re-read Your 3rd Grade Diary
If you had one. Meeting a younger you is always enlightening, You have no idea how many things you forgot you know, how many dreams you had and how many skills you developed. If don’t had a journal in the 3rd grade maybe it’s time to start one now, isn’t it?
23. Knock On A Stranger’s Door
Risky. But fun. Try knocking at someone else’s door and ask for some advice. You may end up writing a list post about 100 ways to escape after knocking on a complete stranger’s door. That counts too, right?
24. Twitter Is Your Friend
Look for quotes, sayings, conversations or interesting links. Twitter has a fairly high noise to signal ratio, but with some patience you can still isolate a few ideas. Or, at least, you’ll procrastinate in a very trendy way.
25. Isolate From Distractions
Close the doors, the windows, the cell phone. Close the TV, the radio, close your eyes (just for a few seconds, to get in the mood) and your mouth. The only things still running should be your laptop and your brains. Now unleash your inspiration and start writing.
26. Let It Cook For A While
Don’t try to publish the list post immediately. Let it cook for a while. Re-read it in a few days. It’s not that you will make it better, that’s a pretty obvious effect. But you may get a few new ideas for some future “100 items” list posts too.
27. Establish A Reasonably High Daily Batch Of Items
Try to write at least 5 to 10 items per day. In my experience, if you write less than 5 per day you will actually kill the list post. The effort of re-reading your last days work will be higher than what you need for those 3 items. Establish a reasonably high batch and stick with it.
28. Sing A Song
Like in trying to remembering one, not just humming wordless. Your creative mind is highly associative, so every time you get it out of the comfort zone, it will bring up new connections. Now, what song was that? Humm, ta, ri, ra… yeah, I got it :-).
29. Be One Of Your Readers
Try to impersonate one of your readers. What exactly would somebody expect to read on your blog? What are his expectations? Wear his shoes for a few minutes. That will surely open a flow of new ideas. You write for them, in the end, not for you.
30. Watch The News
Use it for its reverse effect. I usually watch the news only to be completely turned off by all the violence, stupidity and shallowness that exudes from TV news nowadays. After a few minutes, I am so happy to return to my list post.
31. Play With Your Kids
If you have kids, of course. If not, observe some in the park. I am always amazed by how easily kids are creating new worlds around them. It seems that someway along the way we lost this ability.
32. Play Monopoly
Or any other game, as long as you’re playing it with your friends. When they lose, propose to exchange roles (as in you becoming the loser) if they can give you several ideas for your blog post. You’ll be surprised how many of your friends hate to lose at games.
33. Ride The Subway And Ask Everybody What Time Is It
The first 4-5 people will try to be honest with you and tell the exact time. But when the rest of them will see you asking the same question over and over, will want to know you why you’re doing it. That will force your mind to find some really, really creative answers.
34. Listen To A Completely Different Kind Of Music
If you’re into rock, go symphonic. If you’re into symphonic, go for country. If you’re country, go for pop. You got the idea, something completely out of your audible comfort zone. Don’t stop it until you find at least 10 new ideas. Which usually happens in the first 3 minutes.
35. Walk Barefoot Around Your House
Well, this may not bring you ideas about how to write a “100 ways to” list post, but it will cool you off for sure. Especially during winter.
36. Practice Your Lists
You can keep writing smaller lists just for keeping yourself pumped up. Small lists, but somehow related. For instance, I wrote a list of 7 Ways To Say No, followed by a list of 14 Ways To Say Yes. It’s much easier to start something bigger after that.
37. Try It In Different Languages
If you’re writing a list about cooking, look up the word “cooking” in a dictionary. In how many ways people are able to say “cooking” around the world? I bet in at least 120. Well, what stops you to find 100 ways to say it too?
38. Make A Plan
And what I mean by a plan is to establish a clear deadline and reachable milestones. Start with a target of 2 weeks, writing at least 5 new items each working day. In 20 days, you’ll have 100 items. That’s what I call a plan.
39. Set A Posting Frequency
In my experience, “100 ways to” lists are pretty time intensive. Not only for you, but for your readers too. So, I would never schedule more than 1 huge list each month. It’s not only taking a lot of energy, but it will also scare your readers away if you do it more often.
40. Chose A Topic You’re Comfortable With
Write about something you really know or heavily experienced lately. If you chose a spectacular topic, but you don’t have any idea what is all about in that niche, you won’t be able to deliver, even if you do all the research and planning in the world.
41. Brag About It
Talk to your friends about your intentions, tweet it or post it to your wall on Facebook. Up to the point you’re getting really uncomfortable with the potential feeling of rejection you’d get if you don’t put your arse to work and deliver that damn list.
42. Make A Challenge Out Of It
This is how I started, by being challenged by one of my blogger friends. First, it seemed impossible to write a 100 items list. The, it started to feel plausible. Then I started to work and it became real.
Write whatever comes to your mind, even if it’s not related to your list. Put it into bullets, to make it look like a list. And once you’re on a roll, writing on topic, just delete the garbage.
44. Go From A To B In 5 Steps
That’s a great exercise to fuel your creativity. Open a dictionary and pick word, let’s say word “A”. Write it down. Then open it again and pick word “B”. Write it down. Then make up a story to go from word “A” to word “B” in 5 steps. Here is a detailed post describing the process.
45. Break The Main Topic In Subtopics
If the topic allows that, try to break the list into chapters. I did it with my 100 Ways To Improve Your Blog list, where I split it into content, promotion, layout areas. It will speed up things considerably.
46. Keep It In A Fixed Form
Try to write a fixed number of words for each explanation. Although it seems more difficult, it actually forces you to maintain a writing discipline. Break it only when it helps the item being more visible, like item number 6.
47. Go For The Smallest Denominator
With this pompous title I only mean that you should break processes in smaller parts and write an item for each part. If what you think is: “be creative”, break it into specific techniques, like item number 44 or 46 in this very list. A generalist “Be creative” has no value in a list, go into details.
48. Be Honest With Yourself
If you can’t make a list of 100 items, that’s ok. Better be happy you tried and failed than to concoct a fake list which will be spotted instantly and make you more harm than good. The opposite is also true: if you honestly feel you can deliver, go all the way to the top.
49. Count To 100 In Your Head
It will make the whole task easier to understand and it will give you a bird-view of what are you are trying to accomplish. Provided you’re able to reach to 100 and don’t fall asleep, as I usually do, somewhere between 77 and 85. Your mileage may vary.
50. Celebrate The First Half
That would be number 50, if you didn’t get it ;-). Once you’re here, your job is half done. Praise this. Have a drink. Take a break. From now on, your number of finished items can only be greater than the number of items waiting to be finished. You’re almost there.
51. Don’t Lose Focus
it’s very easy to be distracted and move your focus on other tasks. Don’t do it. Force yourself into making this list happening. Put a post it on your computer screen. Glue a piece of paper on the ceiling, so it would be the first thing you’ll see in the morning. Stay there.
52. Enjoy The Process
If you don’t find a way to actually take pleasure in writing this list, it would be extremely difficult. Feel good about what you write, feel relaxed and at ease. Try to visualize yourself as an A-list blogger if this will make things easier. Do whatever it takes to enjoy the process.
53. Bribe Yourself
Put small incentives at the end of a writing task to mark the victory. Don’t get them until you finish what you planned to. If there’s little or no motivation, maybe a plain and consistent bribe would act as an incentive. Think at something you just couldn’t resist ;-).
54. Bribe Others To Support You
Bring in some other people and promise you will do something for them if they’ll support you in any way you chose: from cheering up to forcing you. It’s surprising how many people you’ll find around, ready to help you for a small service from your part.
55. Start A Conversation About It
It may be on a forum, on other social media website or at the office. Don’t do a full brainstorming, just ask around other people about their opinion. That enough will bring you a lot of unexpected inspiration.
56. Write The Numbers First
Like empty placeholders for your items. It will help you visualize how many things you still have to write and give you a subtle sense of accomplishment. One by one, you’re getting there. Isn’t that wonderful? (Start this after you’re passed number 50, otherwise it can get pretty depressing).
57. Ask Your Boss For Advice
I don’t think you’ll get a meaningful answer, but it will make your adrenaline level go up for sure. Alternatively, if you don’t have a boss, you can try asking your spouse for the same advice. If you’re not married, well… why on Earth are you losing time writing stupid lists of “100 ways to”, when you should be out, partying?
58. Do It On The Road
Have a smartphone with you and stop whenever you seem to have an idea: write it down, email it to yourself, or just record it if your phone uses a voice recorder. On a side note, I do this on a regular basis to capture ideas for my blog posts.
59. Don’t Write Ideas On A Napkin
While you’re having a romantic dinner, for instance. Even if your brain is so excited that it seem to come up with a new idea every 10 seconds. It’s rude, totally disrespectful and extremely non-ecological. Use a phone instead.
60. Scrabble It
If you know scrabble, you know what I mean. If you don’t, go out and buy one, it’s pretty cheap and it will pay out well in the future. Even if you don’t come up with a decent list of items after you played some serious scrabble, at least you had a really good time.
61. Don’t Take It Too Serious
It will burn you out. A list of “100 ways to” is not an easy task (I have the feeling I said that before) but it’s not something impossible either. You’ll make till the end, so you’d better try to keep an open and light attitude. Even if the list won’t be spectacular, you still did it big time.
62. Journal While Writing It
Journaling in itself is a powerful self-discovery tool, so using it while you’re on a list of “100 ways to” seems pretty logical. What I noticed in my personal history is that the first 30-40 items are the most easy to write, while the last 10 are the most rewarding.
63. Start A Facebook Fan Page Before You Publish It
Just in case you hit big, you know. By the time you wake up from all that Digg or Delicious or StumbleUpon euphoria, somebody else may take your post name, start a group, do a few live workshops on the topic and even launch a book. You’ve been warned!
64. Make A Drawing Of It
This is not mind mapping, it’s drawing. One of the simplest creativity enhancement techniques: draw a representation of your object. In whatever form you want. Do it until your mental flow is unblocked and you can find at least 3-4 new ideas.
65. Don’t Fake It
Don’t mix various pieces of floating info from the internet hoping they will eventually glue together in a balanced product. Because they won’t. Write your list item by item, be inspired by others and creative, but don’t fake it. Generally speaking, faking is a huge waste of time.
66. Read Riddles
Two reasons: have fun and push your mind to think more and in unusual ways. I’m reading riddles every time I have a little bit of a block (fortunately, this is extremely rare) and every time works like a charm. What is black and white and read all over? Your “100 ways to” list, of course
67. Pick A Random Word, From A Random Page, From A Random Book
Close your eyes, pick a book, open it and put your finger on a random page. Ignore “and”, “or”, “to” and alike. See what you get. If you’re a normal, balanced and aware person, I bet you’re going to get just a… random word. Isn’t that wonderful? Now back to work on your list, you lazy player!
68. Make A Twitter List
And add random people to it up to 100. It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes. Use the public timeline, not yours. Then read their tweets one by one, up to 100. If your list feels like what you just read, that means you still have work to do: just make another list.
69. Read The Comments On Your Blog
No, you’re not going to get some miraculous idea by reading your blog comments, but at least you’re going to realize that some people genuinely care about you. Even if their comments are angry, they do care about you. There’s still hope. Keep on writing.
70. Try To Do 100 Pushups
If you’re a normal, average person, you may stop around 30 or 35. That will show you what your brains endures while you’re stressing it so much with your list. But if you do all 100 pushups, it means you don’t really need to write a “100 ways to” list. You’re ok, chicks are going to dig you anyway.
71. Wear Sunglasses In Your Room For Half An Hour
Also wear some soft but solid clothes, just in case you’re going to hit some furniture. I guarantee you won’t have any significant breakthrough during this half an hour, but the second you’ll remove the sunglasses, everything will be enlightening. Seriously.
72. Call Your Ex
Tell him/her this is a matter of life and death and if he/she will help you just this time, you’re going to finally respect that restriction order. If he/she didn’t have the time to change phone number since your last “100 ways to” list, I guarantee this will work.
73. Call A Pizza Delivery Service
And tell them you’re on the roof, ready to jump, if you don’t get a free large pepperoni pizza in the next 30 minutes. This is what I call a win-win situation: you either get tons of brilliant ideas to go on with your life (pizza delivery boys are really good at that), either a free pizza.
74. Write 100 Different Names
That’s one of the simplest creativity exercises ever. Hint: you can go alphabetically and write a few names for each letter. Finishing such a list will somehow boost your confidence or at least make you believe that there really are “100 things” lists out there.
75. Train By Solving A Puzzle First
A 50 pieces puzzle will be enough for starters, but once you get good at it, start on 100 or 200 pieces. Seriously, writing a huge list post is very similar with solving a 100 pieces puzzle: you have the picture in your head, but it will take like forever to match all the pieces together.
76. Prepare A List Of Excuses
Like real life excuses for all the social events you’re going to miss and all the meetings you’ll never attend to, because you’re busy writing. Alternatively, you could start writing a “100 ways to excuse yourself when you’re late because you’re writing a ‘100 ways to’ list post” kind of list. Makes sense?
77. Think Lateral
If your list is going to have 100 items, you better make it THE list in that niche. So think outside of the box. Go lateral, go vertical or oblique if this is opening new perspectives on your topic. After all, you don’t want to make a silly list about how to write lists, right?
78. Solve A Problem With Your List
Your list must solve a real life problem, otherwise, no matter how well written is, how hilarious the description are or how good your SEO strategy is implemented, it will not live. It will not even take off. Solve a real problem. For instance, genuinely try to help people write huge lists.
79. Mix In Some Humor
Joking will always draw people in. Being funny and entertaining is a key element in making such a list popular. Even if your topic is serious, if you don’t mix some humor in, surprising your readers, the list will be dull and gloomy. Dull and gloomy does not sell. Humor sells.
80. Stop Asking Yourself: “Why 100?”
We don’t ask that. We take that for granted. For starters, 100 is a pretty cool number. Sounds round and unabridged. It exhales a sensation of purity and completeness. (See how I desperately try to concoct some reasons? That’s because there aren’t really any).
81. Meditate On It
If you practice meditation on a regular basis, this shouldn’t be difficult. If you don’t, try to empty your mind and focus only on the topic of the list. Don’t try to find answers or ideas, just focus on the topic. Breathe in, breathe out. And, by all means, try not to levitate, you have work to do!
82. Watch For Coincidences
This long writing process will span over a few days or weeks and I advise that during this time span you should be extremely aware of any coincidences occurring around. Follow them. You’ll be surprised to find out that there aren’t really any coincidences, there are only signs.
83. Think SEO
This is a very important step. Target your keywords and place them in the first third of your post. I don’t really know why the first third, but it seems to work. Now, can you count how many times I had “100 ways to” keywords in this post? Write the answer in the comments. 😉
84. Get A New Haircut
You’re going to be a completely different person after you finish this list. Literally. So change your look too. Your friends will never buy it and secretly think you just broke up with your girlfriend. Make that the beginning of a wonderful new list: “100 secret thoughts generated by a new haircut”.
85. Drive Far Away From Home Until You Get Lost
When you’re sure you’re absolutely lost, get your GPS from the trunk and head back home. Now you know there are worse things out there than running out of ideas for your list. And don’t you dare starting a list about “100 ways to get lost”. Seriously, buddy, nobody wants to know that.
86. Fake A “100 Things” Shopping At The Supermarket
Go to the supermarket, pick 100 different things and put them in your trolley. You don’t have to really buy all 100 items, unless you really want to. This exercise is intended to make you understand you have virtually unlimited options, not to get you broke.
87. Try Guessing Names Of Totally Unknown People
Would that be a “Jane”? Hmm, nope, maybe “Angela”, looks more like an “Angela”. Never try to verify your assumptions, or prepare for this answer: “Get a life! I’m doing an exercise to write a “100 ways to” list?, that’s the worst pick up line I ever heard!”.
88. Clean Up Your Garage
Or, if you don’t have a garage, clean up your room. Or at least the shelves in your office. Shovel those receipts, old files, photos, notes, post-its and wrecked pens. Feels so much better than writing stupid items on a “100 ways to” list, isn’t it? Again, that’s another win-win: if not a huge list, at least a clean house.
89. Send An Email To Some Random Customer Service
Chose whatever business you like and then send an email to their customer service, asking for advice on how to write a “100 ways to” list post. Most of the answers will be automated, but once you get pass this, you’ll have the time of your life. I’m telling you.
90. Don’t Stop At Number 90
In my experience, number 90 is the most dangerous number to reach when you’re writing such a list. It’s only 10 items away from finish and the mirage of actually getting this done can easily get you off the track. Write something fast at your number 90 and then move on.
91. Walk 100 Steps On A Crowded Street
And I mean count those 100 steps. If you made it without restarting the counting, be assured you’re going to make that list too. Now try it again on a large public square, making a perfect circle, step 100 overlapping step 1. Now you should stop walking in circles and start writing.
92. Send Yourself 100 Emails
Containing the same question: “did you finished item number x?”. After each finished item on your list, delete one of the emails. If you really send yourself 100 emails, I bet you won’t face any difficulty at all in writing your list. It’s hard to send 100 emails to yourself… 😉
93. Name 100 Things You See From Your Window
Another unblocking exercise and a pretty effective one. No need to go up to 100 if you feel you’re pass the block. But it would be a pretty interesting task in any context. It will enlarge your perception and enhance your observation sense.
94. Blend Your Senses
Close your eyes, imagine a fruit and then try to feel its taste. Alternatively, put some music and imagine how each musical instrument will feel in your hand. It’s amazing how effective this is in fostering new ideas or perspectives.
95. Read Motivational/Inspirational Quotes
You have all this wisdom available, floating around, so why don’t just use it? If you don’t have your own quotes repository on file, do a Google search. Reading quotes is like having a sparring partner for your mind.
96. Work It Live
Like not in an offline editor, edit it in your wordpress dashboard and watch the preview every time you add a new item. I find it very motivating to watch the list growing and looking exactly as is going to be.
97. Be Proud Of It
The more you write, the closer you are to finish a great piece of work. Be proud of it. Even if it’s a simple “100 ways to” grow apples in your backyard, it will be useful for somebody. And you’re doing it right now. It’s not the regular blog post you do every day. It’s a huge list.
98. See The Items Like Chapters Of A Bigger Book
Be prepared to detail on all the items on your list. So make it consistent, ready to be developed into something bigger. I did it twice with my previous ones: 100 Ways To Improve Your Life and 100 Ways To Screw Up Your Life. Both lists grew into fully fledged books, available now on Amazon.com.
99. Anticipate The Celebration
The closer you get to the finish, the closer the final gala will be. Anticipate the reward. This time it’s not about the bribe, incentive or motivation. You’re almost done. You’re one tip away. You did it. Step back, take a deep breath and write the last one. And then go out to celebrate.
100. Don’t Give Up
Writing such a huge list is a very important challenge. It cannot be done in only one move, it takes persistence and dedication. But the benefits are huge. And I mean it. So, if you ever planned to start one, don’t stop until you actually publish it. In a few days, or in a few weeks. Just finish it.