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How to Use a Mind Map to Organize Your Life

How to Use a Mind Map to Organize Your Life

To say I’m a big fan of mind mapping would be a massive understatement. In fact, I use mind maps every day, both for professional and personal purposes. More than that, if it wasn’t for mind mapping, I wouldn’t be able to get anything done during my workday.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, mind mapping is a practice of mapping out your thoughts around a specific topic or range of topics. The modern mind mapping concept was first brought to the public by Tony Buzan, an English author and educational consultant. And almost instantly, many people in the productivity education niche have started to push it as the best thing ever. Here’s why.

The problem of working in the 21st century

This “best thing ever” is not such a big over exaggeration, actually. One of the main problems we have to face as active people who want to achieve great things in their lives is that there are just too many tasks we can do every day, especially if we’re working for ourselves (as freelancers or business owners). Getting lost in the magnitude of possibilities is just more than easy.

If you’re a blogger or a freelance writer then doing your job requires activity in a number of different areas, for example:

  • writing (the obvious part),
  • networking,
  • social media,
  • editing and perfecting you articles/posts,
  • client management,
  • project management (as in managing your already-finished articles, posts, or chapters),
  • website management and launch,
  • invoicing and other financial stuff,
  • promotion and advertising, and/or
  • SEO and online presence.

Actually, I could probably go on and on with the above list but that’s not the point here. The point is to make it clear that for every profession or line of career out there, there really are tons of things one can place on a similar list. And managing them all is a big pain. Period.

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Now, this is where mind mapping comes into play.

The way mind mapping works

One of the intuitive approaches to organize our lives a little is to open up a Word document and create an outline with some bullet points, right?

Well, even though it’s popular, it’s not the most effective method. The main problem with it is that our thoughts are not laid out in bullet points. And when we attempt to convert them as such, we only end up with a lot of information being lost in the process.

Mind mapping, on the other hand, helps us follow the natural thought process. For instance, take a look at this example mind map:

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mind-map-time

    As you can see, the mind map focuses on time management in general. Even though it’s very graphic, it’s easy to point out its main elements. In the center, there’s a big clock with five main branches.

    The branches read: Mindset, Wasters, Process, Gain Time, Strategies. If you follow “Mindset” you’ll get to two more branches (child branches): Questions, Guidelines. If you follow “Questions” you arrive at the final set of branches with three questions to ask about time management.

    One of the main strengths of a mind map is that it’s very easy to find every individual piece of information. All you have to do is follow certain branches. For instance, if we take a look at the set of three questions mentioned above and then follow the branches back to the core, we can quickly notice that the questions relate to “Mindset” of time management. We can do the same with every other branch on the map.

    Adding more information is also very easy. You can create new branches or new leaves in any part of the existing structure.

    So, how do you actually use it to organize your life?

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    Tools

    Let’s start with the only mandatory element: the software tool that you’re going to use to create and manage your mind maps.

    Here’s what I recommend:

    • Get FreeMind, the best mind mapping tool around. It’s free and it runs on every major platform (Windows, Mac, even Linux).
    • Additionally, if you’re a heavy iPad user, get Mind Maister (if you want to be able to work with your mind maps on the go).

    FreeMind has a number of features but the three most crucial ones are simple keyboard shortcuts:

    • “Insert” – to insert a new child branch.
    • “Enter” – to insert a new sibling branch.
    • “Spacebar” – to expand or collapse the current branch.

    Apart from that, you can just type what you want included. Feel free to check out the other features to get even better efficiency (there are some icons, colors, different types of connections, etc.).

    Using mind maps

    Using mind maps for work is probably the most straightforward and easy to grasp application of mind mapping. Our work is usually a very structured activity all in itself, so introducing some more organization is a very intuitive process.

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    Some of the common elements of mind maps for work:

    • To-do lists of tasks.
    • Task archives (completed tasks).
    • Projects (a breakdown of individual parts of a given project).
    • Brainstorming session log.
    • Plans and action blueprints.
    • “Waiting for” log (a list of things you’re waiting for to receive from other people).
    • Resource lists (for instance, a list of “8 link building techniques for my site”).
    • Content organization (your article/post headline ideas).
    • Layouts for individual blog posts if you’re an active blogger, and many more.

    Don’t treat this like a comprehensive list of any sort, these are only examples. Mind mapping can be effectively used for anything you want and only your imagination is the limit.

    If you want to kick it up a notch, you can also use mind mapping for your personal life. For example, here’s a quick set of things I like to keep in my mind map:

    • A list of personal projects to do (like, “learn how to cook a steak”).
    • My workout log.
    • My dieting log.
    • My books-to-get list.

    If by any chance I failed to excite you about mind mapping then just let me ask you a favor. Give mind mapping a one-month test. Just pick one area of your work and try to improve on it with mind mapping.

    Then, if it doesn’t work after a month then you’re done with mind mapping for life, no regrets… although I seriously doubt it’ll happen.

    So, what do you think? Are you willing to give it a try?

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    Karol Krol

    Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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    Last Updated on March 23, 2021

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

    The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

    You need more than time management. You need energy management

    1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

    How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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    I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

    I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

    2. Determine your “peak hours”

    Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

    Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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    My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

    In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

    Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

    3. Block those high-energy hours

    Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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    Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

    If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

    That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

    There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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    Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

    Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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