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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How Mind Mapping Helps You to Brainstorm More Great Ideas

How Mind Mapping Helps You to Brainstorm More Great Ideas

There are many ways to plan out projects, ideas, and plans. You could use a simple piece of paper, a digital planning tool, or you could use a mind map.

I first came across mind mapping when I was at school. One of my teachers showed us how to structure an essay, and his method was to create a mind map and develop arguments using the branches of the map, so you never lost sight of the question.

The next time I use mind maps extensively was when I began creating presentations in the early 2000s. As an English communication teacher teaching business executives in Korea to better communicate with their English speaking partners, I was not teaching vocabulary, grammar, and structure—my students already had that. I was teaching more about the culture of communication in the English speaking world.

I found mind maps allowed me to explore ideas and learning points before building the presentation. And since then, I have used mind maps to discover new ways of handling difficult problems, develop online courses, and plan out what I want to accomplish over the next twelve months and longer-term.

In this article, I want to show you how you can benefit from adding mind mapping to your productivity and planning tool kit.

How Does Mind Mapping Work?

Mind mapping works by giving you a visual means to brainstorm your ideas while, at the same time, giving you the foundations of a structure you can use once you have completed your mind map.

You start by writing down in the middle of a page what it is you want to answer. The best mind maps have a question as a title, although you do not have to use questions. The reason questions work best is because every time you look at your mind map, you engage your brain’s problem-solving abilities.

For example, you could ask the question, “What do I have to do to earn $1 million every year?”

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When you use a “what do I have to do to…” question, your brain begins searching for ways you can achieve whatever it is you are asking.

If you ask the question “how do I earn $1 million every year”, your brain is likely to give you unrealistic or unclear answers, such as becoming CEO of a global company, winning the lottery, or investing in high-risk stocks on the stock market.

Those answers do not tell you “how” you will do it; all it does is tell you “what” to do. You will still need to drill down further. What you want to do is fine-tune the question so the answers you get are things you can do that will take you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.

If you were to use a mind map to create a presentation, you could use the question, “what do I have to do to explain how to build a successful podcast to an audience who has never created a podcast?”.

This will engage your brain far better than asking “how to build a successful podcast” because it helps you remember who your audience is—which is a key part of the whole presentation experience—as well as remind you that you need to keep things basic.

Once you have spent time developing your mind map, you will have a list of ideas that you can use to build your project, goal, or presentation. It allows you to prioritize and organize your thoughts, so it is easier to move to the next step of doing whatever it is you want to do.

How Do You Create a Mind Map?

Knowing how mind mapping works is different from applying it. Here are the 4 steps of mind mapping and how you can apply it in your life.

1. Start With Your Question

Before you start, think about what it is you want to mind map about. If we take the example of presenting to an audience, ask yourself, “what exactly do I want to tell my audience?” and “What do I want them to leave knowing?”

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The clearer your question, the better answers you will get.

For example: “What do I have to do to explain how to build a successful podcast?” This is an excellent question because it will elicit some good points you can then develop into your presentation.

Once you know your question, write that down in the middle of the page.

Although I love technology, I still prefer to do this on paper, but you can use mind mapping software for this, too. It depends on how you like to work.

For many of the mind maps I create today, I use my iPad and Apple Notes to create mind maps. But for more in-depth, complex mind maps, my go-to is still pen and paper. There’s just something about having a few colored pens and a highlighter to sit down with and start brainstorming ideas.

2. Let Your Mind Go and Write Whatever Comes to Mind

    Once you have your question written down, let yourself go. Don’t try and edit yourself. No matter how crazy, wild, or stupid something may seem at first, get it down onto your mind map. You can remove ideas later.

    In these early stages, you want to brainstorm ideas. Editing yourself at this stage will not produce your best ideas. Out of what may seem a stupid idea could come the killer idea.

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    When I developed my Time Sector time management system, the original idea came to me while I was at the gym. As soon as I got home, I began a mind map of the original idea.

    The question I used was: “how do I build a time management system for the 21st century?” and I spent around two hours scribbling out all the ideas I had. There were all the things I knew about why people struggled with more traditional systems and what was needed for the way we work today.

    At the end of those two hours, I had a lot of points, ideas, and solutions. Many of which were silly, but everything I had been thinking about came out plus a lot more because ideas sparked other ideas.

    3. Leave It for a Few Days

    This part is an important step. After your initial brainstorm, leave it for a few days. You want to engage your subconscious mind to develop your thoughts and ideas.

    Unfortunately, your subconscious mind is slow. It analyzes, thinks, and connects new ideas to old experiences, and all that takes time. Giving yourself a few days will generate more ideas and expand others.

    After a few days, come back to your mind map and give yourself another hour or two with it. You will find you have a lot more ideas to add and you may also see ideas that don’t work—you can delete these if you wish, although I prefer to leave them just in case they spark more ideas later.

    After this session, you will have a lot of ideas, answers, and steps. The next stage is where you fine-tune these ideas and start to structure the next steps.

    4. Number Your Ideas by Importance

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      Whether you have been developing a project, a solution to an existing problem, or preparing a presentation, you now need to decide in what order you will move forward.

      If you have been developing a project, what needs to happen next to start the project? That’s number one.

      Go through your mind map and number all the points. If you were mind mapping a presentation, what order will you bring in your points? If you were developing a podcast, what needs to happen next? Perhaps it would be to begin writing a list of twenty topics.

      Once you have all your ideas and points numbered, you can then move those to your to-do list manager, slide deck, or project plans and place them in the right order. You may find that as you begin working on your project, you change your order round. But by having an initial order from your mind map, you will at least have a place to start.

      Key Takeaways

      Mind mapping is a great tool to get a lot of jumbled and disorganized thoughts out of your mind and into the open and once there, you can easily organize these thoughts and ideas so that you can take the first steps to build something exceptional.

      Mind mapping is a great way to encourage your brain to develop ideas and brainstorm solutions to existing problems, create new product ideas, and build engaging presentations.

      Mind maps are a visual representation of your thoughts, and they encourage you to go deeper with your ideas, so they are thoroughly thought through and developed.

      More Articles About Mind Mapping

      Featured photo credit: airfocus via unsplash.com

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      Carl Pullein

      Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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      Last Updated on January 12, 2021

      The Power of Tapping into Your Hidden Creativity

      The Power of Tapping into Your Hidden Creativity

      Despite what you might have been taught — everyone can be creative.

      It’s too easy to think of creativity as just being reserved for musicians, artists and writers. In reality, creativity can be used in all jobs and in all areas of life.

      I’m referring to creative traits such as thinking outside the box, finding new solutions to old problems, and combining two ideas to invent a new one.

      For example, think of Henry Ford. He gave people automobiles, when at that time, they probably just wanted faster horses!

      And, then there is Elon Musk. He found a workable solution to the problem of congested roads in towns and cities — the Hyperloop! This is an underground tunnel system that is designed to connect major conurbations using clean, ultra-fast capsules that can carry passengers, cars and freight. In the case of cars — Musk envisages elevators taking the cars down to the tunnel system. Ingenious.

      As a final example, I want to tell you about Saltwater Brewery in Florida. They’ve created six-pack rings that are edible by marine life. So instead of the six-pack rings ending up in the ocean and killing sea creatures, these rings actually feed them. They’re made from the by-products of beer brewing, and contain either barley or wheat, and are not just safe for fish to eat — but humans can eat them too!

      Let’s turn now to see how improving your creativity can improve your life.

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      Creativity Will Improve Your Outlook

      As a Psychology Today article reveals, people who practice everyday creativity (like finding new ways to work, preparing meals and solving crosswords) share personality traits with those we regard as ‘genuinely’ creative, such as: artists, designers and musicians.[1]

      The shared traits include:

      • Curiosity
      • Drive
      • Open-mindedness
      • Persistence
      • Positivity

      Some studies also suggest that people who regularly indulge in creative pursuits are less judgmental and more flexible.

      It’s no wonder then, that there is a proven link between creativity and enhanced mental health (this could be due to creative thinkers’ superior problem-solving skills).[2]

      I hope I’ve said enough to convince you that exploring your creative side can improve your outlook on life.

      So what’s the best way to get creative? 

      Boost your confidence.

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      When you have ample self-confidence, you won’t be afraid to try new things and to break out of your comfort zone. Both of these things will put you in touch with your inner creative genie — who’s just waiting to work their magic on your behalf!

      But, how can you boost your confidence? 

      …by constantly facing and overcoming challenges.

      Creativity Will Increase Opportunities

      Creative individuals often notice more opportunities in life.

      How come?

      Because they’ve learned how to find a way to turn any obstacle into an opportunity by tackling it from another angle. They’re also more likely to SEE the opportunity in the first place, just by having an open mind; whereas someone who is not tapping into their creativity may miss these hidden opportunities. 

      For example, one of my friends recently lost his job as a senior administrator for an insurance company. He’d worked there for more than 10 years, and although he wasn’t excited by the job, it paid his bills.

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      When he was told that his job was to go, he was initially shocked and knocked off track. However, my friend is a resilient and creative soul, and within a few days, he’d formulated a plan to not only secure a new job, but also to make a positive change in his career. He did this by taking his administrator skills and his deep knowledge of finance and insurance and turning himself into a business consultant.

      It’s still early days for him, but he’s already secured several clients, and I predict his new career will be a happy and successful one.

      If you feel stuck in a rut, then try some (or all) of these things to break yourself free:

      • Get moving – yes, staying still is staying stuck; moving is getting unstuck!
      • Look for the positives – when you do this, you’ll open the door to opportunities.
      • Start small – you don’t necessarily need to make a big jump; instead, you can make small changes that create an unstoppable forward trend.

      Creativity Gives You Freedom to Mess Up

      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

      I love that quote, as it cleverly demonstrates that creativity is all about experimentation. And, experimentation often means making mistakes!

      If you’ve ever watched a graphic designer at work, you’ll notice one thing: they’re constantly changing things until they get the look and feel that they desire.

      That’s how most creative people work. They keep trying new and different things until they have that aha moment.

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      So how about you? 

      Are you currently afraid to try new things? Perhaps because you’re worried about losing face? 

      If you are, then you’re holding back your creative potential. To unleash it, I recommend throwing caution to the wind and pushing yourself through your self-created mental barriers.

      Once you’ve learned to have thoughts and ideas that are free from your current conditioning, then you’ll have learned the secret to living a creative life.

      We all have creativity within us. And, by adopting the suggestions above, you can tap into this hidden force for good. When you do that, your life will take on a new trajectory — one that leads to happiness, fulfillment and success.

      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psychology Today: Everyday Creativity
      [2] CNN: A Creative Life is a Healthy Life

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