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Free Your Mind with XMind

Free Your Mind with XMind

Free Your Mind with XMind

    Mind-mapping is a popular tool for brainstorming ideas, outlining projects, and organizing information. While some people feel most comfortable mind-mapping with pencils or pens and paper, others enjoy the ease and accessibility of software-based mind-mapping, and there are a variety of tools designed to help make, share, and store mind-maps on your computer. Some, like MindManager and iMindMap are powerful, enterprise-level programs, with price tags to match; free programs like FreeMind don’t have the same features, but for daily use by individuals, they are quite powerful and capable tools. There are even a range on online mind-mapping tools like bubbl.us and Mind42.

    My new favorite mind-mapping tool is XMind, a free, open-source mind-mapping program with a useful (though limited) online component. XMind is incredibly easy to use, allowing you to make and share good-looking mind-maps (and flowcharts, outlines, org charts, and other visual representations of textual data) with a minimum of fuss.

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    Features

    XMind Logo

      XMind is a free download for Windows, Mac, or Linux computers. It is quite intuitive to use — for standard mind-maps, simply select a node, hit “Enter” to create a sibling node (one at the same “level”) or “Tab” to create a “child” node (one under whatever level you’re currently at). When you create a new node, just start typing to create a label, hit “Enter” when you’re done, and hit “Enter” or “Tab” to continue with a new node. If you want to edit or change the label on any node, just double-click it.

      A sidebar panel contains a hierarchical representation of your mind-map, for quick navigation, and below that formatting options to change both the appearance (font, colors, etc.) and the structure of your mind-map — you can switch “on-the-fly” from a standard bubble-map to an org-chart, fishbone chart, outline, or several other pre-configured layouts.

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      XMind is drag-and-drop enabled, too, so you can move nodes around in relation to each other. A set of limited drawing tools allows you to create secondary connections between items, or group them together.

      Nodes take more than just labels. You can attach external files, embed images, insert hyperlinks, and attach notes, all from the right-click menu or the standard menu bars.

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        Exporting and Sharing

        Once your mind=map is done, you can export it in a number of formats: images (bmp, jpeg, gif, and png are all supported), HTML, or text are available, as well as XMind’s own formats.

        XMind also includes an online web-based component where you can post your mind-maps for public viewing and sharing. Users can download any of the mind-maps in the public repository and import them into their own install of XMind. You can also embed mind-maps into your website.

        Unfortunately, private sharing is unavailable in the free version; if you want to use XMind to collaborate on sensitive topics, you will need to use the Pro version.

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        Pro features

        Other features lacking from XMind’s free version but available with a paid upgrade include new views — such as GANTT charts and a GTD todo item feature; a presentation view allowing users to show mind-maps in full-screen; the ability to record audio notes (useful for recording a lecture while mind-mapping your notes — notes are time-tied to the recording itself); and more export formats including PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and MindManager.

        The Pro version is not particularly affordable, unfortunately. In fact, the developers have chosen to license XMind Pro with a subscription model, which is quite unfortunate. To upgrade, expect to shell out $6.00 a month, or $49 a year. I realize that users are getting ongoing access to the web features, but I would much rather see a one-time fee for what is primarily a traditional, desktop-based piece of software.

        I’m also surprised to see that, with so many online mind-mapping apps out there, XMind has not make it possible to create, edit, and clone mind-maps using the online interface. The upload, share, download, and edit model now is hardly an effective way to collaborate — it would be easier just to email the files back and forth, and just as unsatisfactory. Hopefully XMind will continue to develop the online component to add true live collaboration in the near future.

        Conclusion

        Despite some small faults (which are really external to the program itself), XMind is a fine mind-mapping program. For individual users who don’t need to work collaboratively, XMind has all the features you should need, with a very low learning curve. It’s effective and even fun to use — and that’s key, because mind-mapping is all about transforming work into creative play in order to unleash your inner creativity. Longtime readers of this site know I have a somewhat conflicted relationship with mind-mapping, but with XMind, I was able to start producing really useful mind-maps in a matter of minutes.

        I highly recommend you try it out for yourself: XMind.

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        Last Updated on July 17, 2019

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        What happens in our heads when we set goals?

        Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

        Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

        According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

        Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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        Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

        Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

        The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

        Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

        So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

        Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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        One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

        Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

        Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

        The Neurology of Ownership

        Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

        In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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        But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

        This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

        Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

        The Upshot for Goal-Setters

        So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

        On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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        It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

        On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

        But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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        Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

        Reference

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