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),
- 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.
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:
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?
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.
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?