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Published on August 24, 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

      More by this author

      Carl Pullein

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

      How to Learn Effectively in the Age of Digital Distraction How to Become a Morning Person: 8 Steps to Kickstart How Mind Mapping Helps You to Brainstorm More Great Ideas How to Make Time Go Faster When You’re Having a Bad Time What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

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      Last Updated on September 24, 2020

      17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

      17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

      In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

      The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

      Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

      1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

      Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

      For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

      2. Use the Pareto Principle

      Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

      Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

      3. Make Stakes

      Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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      However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

      4. Record Yourself

      Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

      5. Join a Group

      There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

      6. Time Travel

      Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

      Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

      7. Be a Chameleon

      When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

      Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

      “Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

      Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

      8. Focus

      Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

      Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

      9. Visualize

      The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

      Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

      Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

      10. Find a Mentor

      Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

      Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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      If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

      11. Sleep on It

      Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

      Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

      12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

      Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

      His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

      Check out his video to find out more:

      13. Learn by Doing

      It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

      Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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      14. Complete Short Sprints

      Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

      One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

      15. Ditch the Distractions

      Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

      Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

      16. Use Nootropics

      Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

      Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

      Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

      17. Celebrate

      For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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      The Bottom Line

      Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

      More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

      Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

      Reference

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