Map Your Mind

Have you ever had an idea lingering in the depth of your mind surfacing from time to time just only to sink again before you can get a proper grip on it? Have you ever felt lost in the piles of thoughts scattered like puzzle pieces and needed to be systematized before you can compile them in a coherent picture? Have you ever started a new article and experienced a severe case of writer’s block when you look at the blank page and aren’t able to squeeze out a word?

If at least one of those does ring a bell to you, there’s a solution to your mind napping: master mind mapping.

What is mind mapping?

Mind mapping is making a visual representation of an idea. A mind map looks like a tree diagram with a root concept surrounded by branches and sub-braches providing the bigger picture. They allow easily setting and tracing connections and distinguishing general issues from specific ones. Regular usage of mind mapping will train you to quickly grasp and memorize complicated information as well as develop better memory and concentration. If you always wanted to sharpen your creativity, train associative thinking, and uncork the flood of ideas, mind mapping is just the right thing for you.

Where to apply?

The practical use of mind mapping is enormous as there’s no sphere or industry where they cannot be applied. In regards of technical communication and information development, the value of mind mapping cannot be overestimated.

  1. Outline a document, blog post, or web site
    Usually, we stick to the linear way of outlining a document. Drawing the outline as a map allows presenting chapters non-sequentially and makes the connections between chapters and sub-chapters become more distinct. If you decide to review the existing outline with a mind map, you might end up reorganizing your document’s structure, as the linear order will not influence your vision anymore.
  2. Generate an idea
    Sometimes, we feel uninspired and stuck. Sometimes, we are pressured to generate ideas like a printing press. When you have to devise an idea but feel down, mind mapping is your best option as it stimulates creativity and thinking process. Adding colors and images will provoke flow of thought and definitely bring some element of entertainment.
  3. Simplify complex notions
    After having a long interview with an SME and then spending eternity on conveying it into a comprehensible topic, you may just try drawing a mind map of the received information. This would reveal the inner structure of a complex idea and help you better understand it. Then, writing it down for your reader will take next no time.
  4. Manage your tasks
    Mind mapping comes handy when it comes to visualize the scope of your project activities. Systematize and classify your tasks and set up priorities for them. If you are creating a mind map in a desktop or web application, you can attach files, notes, and checklists to your tasks. In that way, you get a clear picture of your achievements, and that, I might say, can be a sweet treat for your ego.
  5. Plan an event
    Image you were appointed a responsible person for planning a teambuilding. The easiest way would be to scribble a list that would include location, number of people, food, drinks, and more. How not to miss something important? Draw a mind map. After you complete it, you will have a clear vision to share and discuss with your teammates.

Actually, those are only a few ways of applying mind mapping in your professional life. But don’t limit using it at work only. Once you start practicing, you will be unable to revert to that dull old-fashioned lists and plain sentences. A huge advantage of mind mapping is that it unleashes your creativity and triggers the thinking processes.

Which tool to use?

Like proverbial Hamlet, the first question you have to ask is “to draw or not to draw?” The original toolset of mind mapping was a blank sheet of paper, pen, and colored pencils. But if we use apps to count our calories and steps, why not use an app to track the flow of our thoughts? The main difference between pen and device is the ease in changing the tree elements: after several alterations, and scratches, and corrections, your paper map will look messy and untidy. On the other hand, while having the wide range of features, applications may limit your creativity and sometimes just won’t do what you want from them. The decision depends on the circumstances. For a group mind map, you can also use whiteboard and markers or a wall and colorful pieces of paper.

If you decide to discard good old notepad and crayons, the modern mind mapping solutions provide a comprehensive range of map templates, allow inserting images and files, integrate with other applications such as MS Office, and export to numerous formats. I won’t dwell too much on overviewing the apps, just recommend a couple of them:

  • mindjet – an exhaustive set of mind mapping tools for brainstorming, business planning, event and project management, and enterprise collaboration. That powerful and feature-rich suite would cost you from $15 per month.
  • XMind – a flexible and functionally robust desktop tool with numerous templates, designs, and styles. The huge advantage is that the basic version of XMind is free.
  • Coggle – an easy-to-use web app that needs not your bank but Google account. Coggle is perfect for collaborative mind mapping as it saves editing history.

How to create a mind map?

Developing a mind map is as easy as writing down a list but much more interesting and entertaining. Afraid that mastering of mind mapping is more trouble than it’s worth? Don’t be. Just remember that repetition is a mother of learning and apply mind mapping whenever you can.
Just do it as follows:

  1. In the middle of a page, write down a root concept to be extended.
  2. Around the root, stem the related branches that are topics describing the main idea.
  3. Deepen the idea by sprouting “twigs” from the branches labeling the sub-topics.

Mind Mapping

The result would look like a tree. Then, you can beautify it with the tips below.

How to make it clear?

Below are several tips on how to make your mind map effective and valuable.

  • Trim your tree: add as many branches as needed to make the idea look exhaustive and snip them if you think that your thought train went a bit derailed. You can use the discarded branches to start new maps.
  • Stick to minimalism: use only one word to label the root, branches, and twigs. Your map will be clear and unambiguous.
  • Draw images: sketch a picture, or icon, or doodle to better illustrate the concept. You can even discard words in favor of images completely. The more visual your map is the better.
  • Use color-coding: indicate stems and connections between branches with different colors. But don’t spurt a rainbow as the abundance of color may keep attention from the content itself and make the whole map look cluttered.
  • Beware of size and space: make the most important labels biggest in size, and they will be spotted immediately. Also, add enough space between map elements, so that your map would not crammed.
  • Let your thoughts flow: don’t dwell on a branch too long, just add and add. If a branch appears difficult to elaborate, move to the next one.
  • Engage a colleague: remember that two heads are better that one. Working on a map with someone can reveal the sides of the idea that wouldn’t come to your mind if you worked on it completely by yourself.

Have you ever used mind mapping to manage your content? If not, would you give it a try? Let me know in comments!

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