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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 July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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