Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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:

Advertising

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?

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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?

    More by this author

    How to Stop Information Overload How to Steep a Perfect Cup of Tea Every Single Time 10-Email-Management-Skills 10 Email Management Skills Everyone Should Learn to Be More Productive How Not to Fall Into a Productivity Hole 11 Unique, Useful Tools for Freelancers That Make You More Productive

    Trending in Productivity

    1Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus 2How to Organize Your Thoughts: 3 Simple Steps to 10X Your Productivity 3How to Be Productive: 11 Ways to Be Productive and Happy at Once 4Top 10 Productivity Tips to Achieve More and Create Peace of Mind 5How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

    How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

    Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

    Why is multitasking a myth?

    The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

    Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

    You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

    Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

    We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

    Your brain on multi-tasking

    Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

    When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

    Advertising

    But I can juggle multiple tasks!

    You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

    For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

    Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

    Why multitasking is failing you

    Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

    Multitasking wastes your time.

    You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

    In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

    It makes you dumber.

    A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

    You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

    This is an emotional response.

    There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

    Advertising

    Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

    It’ll wear you out.

    When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

    We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

    How to stop multitasking and work productively

    Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

    In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

    Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

    1. Consciously change gears

    Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

    As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

    This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

    2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

    Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

    Advertising

    Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

    This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

    3. Set aside distractions

    Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

    If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

    Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

    Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

    4. Take care of yourself

    We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

    Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

    In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

    5. Take a break

    People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

    Advertising

    Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

    6. Make technology your ally

    Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

    Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

    The key to productivity: Focus

    Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

    Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

    If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

    How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Read Next