Ever heard of mind mapping? Maybe you learned about them in school as a technique for outlining essays or for taking notes. A mind map is a simple tool for brainstorming. Mind maps help you THINK BIG and get more done. Try using a mind map next time you’re faced with a big project.
A mind map is a visual tool to quickly brain dump and organize ideas based around a central topic or theme.
From the main topic, you simply fill in the map with related words, concepts, or images that form branches. All you need is paper and pencil to draw a mind map but there are more sophisticated software tools available, as well.
I discovered the concept of mind mapping as a Project Manager ten years ago. It’s an effective tool for high-level planning of complex systems. Think about all that needs to go into rolling out new software globally–people, programming, communications. Mind mapping is a good way to start brainstorming all the major components.
More recently, when I was faced with designing my next career move, I wrote about mind maps in my book, Layoff Reboot:
“The first thing you do is write down a central theme or idea. Next, write down related ideas, so they form branches off your central theme. Get these on paper in any order they come into your head. No editing—the idea is to get all your thoughts down and let your creativity flow. As you keep writing down ideas, you’ll even develop sub-branches. This keeps you brainstorming and captures all your thoughts on one page.”
Methods for capturing visual diagrams have been in use for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that British psychologist, Tony Buzan, popularized the notion of mind mapping. Today, mind mapping is used by businesses, students, researchers, and engineers to diagram visual information.
The beauty of mind mapping is that they allow us to dream a little. I find mind maps extremely useful when planning my books. As a writer, you may come up with a great idea, but you may not necessarily know exactly what to write about, or how to organize the book’s structure well.
Maybe your ideas need to be fleshed out. A mind map can be a great tool for doing just that. Take a look at the mind map I used during Layoff Reboot:
My central theme was “My Entrepreneur Experiment,” and from there I came up with branches that represented all my strong interests at the time. For example, I wanted to work on writing, updating my project management certification, work on my house, among other ideas.
With mind mapping, I’m able to think at a higher level–to see the big picture on one page. Had I sat down and tried to enter all this into a spreadsheet or a project plan, my results might not have been so good. Those are useful tools for certain tasks, but not for brainstorming. I’m a visual person, and a mind map helps me get into the flow of thinking creatively.
GET MORE DONE
You can apply mind maps to any kind of project. Whether you’re launching a new technology product like an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, or simply just planning a birthday party–mind maps can help.
Mind maps work so well because they make us brainstorm and get our ideas down on paper. I don’t know about you, but when I’m faced with having to come up with ideas, it’s a lot easier to roll out ideas in a free-form flow using paper and pen than to toil away at a spreadsheet. My thoughts just flow better.
Ever been part of a project team that rolled out a new program or a new way of doing things, only to have it bomb? How much of that was due to missing key elements? When a team takes time to mind map–to brainstorm what may go wrong–many times these awful launch experiences can be avoided.
Next time you need to plan a project at work, or even a personal project, try mind mapping to speed up your thinking and get your creative juices flowing!