Some time ago I used to hear a lot about the mysterious Mind Mapping. I usually came across the term in my workplace, spoken by managers or people who desparately wanted to join management staff. Unfortunately they talked a lot about it without being able to share a single bit of their precious knowledge. Finally, I’ve decided to explore it myself and what I’ve found absolutely changed my way of thinking.
What is Mind Mapping?
First to say, Mind Mapping is nothing difficult, don’t be afraid. It’s not any sort of sophisticated psychological techniques, as some may think. By definition it’s an alternative method of taking notes. Alternative, in a way that it theoretically engages your both brain hemispheres instead of just one as in conventional note taking.
But I can see a little more here. To me, the whole brilliance of Mind Mapping lies in an ease of organizing and expressing your thoughts. It’s so simple, you don’t need any particular skills or tools, you just sit and make a map of whatever's in your head.
I’ve said that some may be scared by the term Mind Mapping. How do you map your mind anyway? And here’s the common misunderstanding. You don’t map your whole mind, you just map your thoughts around an idea or concept.
So how does this map look like?
Simply, it always starts with an idea or concept. I’ll assume that you work on paper. Just draw a picture representing the idea in the central point of your sheet of paper. You can also write the description of the idea there, but pictures tend to have better influence on your creativity.
Now I said that Mind Mapping is about mapping thoughts around an idea. Let’s do it. If you can think of any conclusions, problems, tasks and concepts related to the idea, draw the lines that go out from it (like the branches sprouting from the tree). The directions don’t really matter, let your imagination lead you.
These lines are your general thoughts, but they may be followed by others, or divided into smaller pieces. No problem. Just let your main ideas flow, extend them, divide them into more generic thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts will join back together, that’s absolutely ok. When you realize that something is missing just add another line, let your Mind Map live and reflect the flow of your thoughts.
When you’re done with all these lines think about adding more colors to your map. Maybe some ideas are more important than another? Maybe some can be decorated with particular pictures or symbols to reflect their participation in a special group? You’re only limited by your imagination here.
When drawing a Mind Map makes sense?
Theoretically, in every analysis, planning and note taking situation. But since I prefer practical approach, here’s a list of cases for which I have found that Mind Maps are especially useful:
- Analysis of a difficult concept (divide it into smaller, more managable, ideas)
- Planning (whether it is a commercial project scope, or my grocery shopping list)
- Organizing bits of information (I can group them, mark with graphics, link together, etc.)
- Developing an idea (Something crosses my mind and I try to mature it by visualization)
Try it yourself, maybe you’ll find more.
Does it always have to be colorful drawing on paper?
No. And that’s another beauty of it. There are tonnes of Mind Mapping software. There are websites that allow creating Mind Maps. There are dozens of possibilities.
Some say that making Mind Maps by hand keeps you more creative. Well, it may be true, but making them with your computer makes you many times faster and much more flexible. For me, time saving and flexibility wins with small amount of additional creativity.
Ok, I'll do Mind Maps for all I do now!
Don’t! That’s not the point. First, try it for yourself. Check what works for you and what doesn’t. You may like some aspects of it and some not. There are some things too easy to waste your energy on Mind Mapping them.
I use Mind Maps both at work and at home for stuff such as shopping lists, party planning, vacation planning, etc. But you may as well find it ridiculous. So again, try it for some time and then decide to which tasks it suits you best.
Arghh, that's too much work
If you’re really that busy, sure, don’t bother with some funny drawings. But think of the time and money wasted by forgetting stuff, under-planning and insufficient analysis. Well? If you don’t make these mistakes, probably Mind Mapping isn’t for you. But if you do, try making this funny drawing for a few times and check the results. You may save loads of time, especially using computer software instead of paper.
Mind Mapping is a simple, but effective technique that really boosts your creativity and thoughts organizing. Behind this complicated term lies nothing but a natural way of thoughts visualization. It lets you look outside of the barrier of plain notes, encourages you to further develop your ideas, plan your actions better and deeper analyze problems. All of that in a friendly, graphical form.
I believe that this technique is not universal. Everyone may find different advantages of it. Also. it’s impossible to explore it without trying. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be time or money consuming. There is a lot of free, good quality software available.
So try it yourself and I am sure you’ll become addicted to the vast possibilities of Mind Mapping as I am.