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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 June 18, 2019

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Making Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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