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How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

Traditionally, when you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you would create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion like this:

  • Intro to Visual Facilitation
    • Problem, Consequences, Solution, Benefits, Examples, Call to action
  • Structure
    • Why, What, How to, What If
  • Do It Myself?
    • Audio, Images, time-consuming, less expensive
  • Specialize Offering?
    • Built to Sell (Standard Product Offering), Options (Solving problems, Online calls, Dev projects)

This type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It obviously lacks in clarity. It also makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing.

You always have too much information to look at, and most often you only get a partial view of the information. It’s hard to zoom out, figuratively, and to see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected.

To See a Fuller Picture, Create a Mind Map

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to “dump your brain”, or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas before your eyes. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

    Image Credit: English Central

    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

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    Three Little Steps to Creating a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[1]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner.

      Step 2 : Add Branches of Related Ideas

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out next to it in the same way, using your pen.

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          You can always add more to it later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits”. Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Tactics to Make Mind Mapping Easy

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches. And so on.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

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              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                A branch after another, and the mind map is complete.

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. So here you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

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                      Idem for the next level. This is level 3. You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. No rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                          I recommend using a combination of the “Branch by Branch” and the “Free-Flow” strategies.

                          What I normally do is I add one branch at a time, and later on review the mind map and add elements in various places to finish it. I also sometimes build level 1 (the main branches) first, then use a “Branch by Branch” approach, and later finish the map in a “Free-Flow” manner.

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you.

                          Whenever You Get Stuck, Do Mind Mapping

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and have your thoughts organized.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on the phone and computer.

                          Reference

                          More by this author

                          Matt Tanguay

                          Matt is the CEO and Chief Visual Facilitator of Fluent Brain. He writes about problem solving techniques and tips to supercharge the brain.

                          How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps Master Your New Year’s Resolutions: The Ultimate Infographic How to Solve Your Problems Visually Using a Solution Map

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                          Last Updated on January 13, 2020

                          Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

                          Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

                          Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

                          Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

                          Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

                          Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

                          How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

                          The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

                          You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

                          Physical Signs

                          Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

                          It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

                          In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

                          Mental Signs

                          One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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                          I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

                          Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

                          • The tension in your neck
                          • Difficulties with sleeping
                          • Unable to concentrate
                          • High anxiety
                          • Depression

                          If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

                          Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

                          Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

                          The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

                          Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

                          Desire for an Increase of Salary

                          The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

                          At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

                          Overnight Decision

                          Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

                          Rejected for a Promotion

                          I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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                          Bored at Work

                          Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

                          A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

                          • How long have you worked in your career?
                          • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
                          • Do you receive recognition?
                          • Can you consider working in a new department?

                          If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

                          How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

                          I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

                          One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

                          It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

                          A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

                          You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

                          • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
                          • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
                          • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

                          How to Make a Career Change Successfully

                          The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

                          1. Write a Career Plan

                          A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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                          You can learn how to set your career plan here.

                          2. Weigh Your Options

                          If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

                          You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

                          3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

                          It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

                          A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

                          • Economic factors
                          • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
                          • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
                          • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
                          • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

                            A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

                            4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

                            A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

                            • What is required to be successful in the role?
                            • What certification or educational development is needed?
                            • What are the challenges of the role?
                            • Is there potential for career advancement?

                            A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

                            Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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                            5. Research Salary

                            Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

                            It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

                            6. Be Realistic

                            If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

                            For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

                            Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

                            7. Volunteer First

                            A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

                            Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

                            Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

                            8. Prepare Your Career Tools

                            I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

                            • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
                            • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
                            • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
                            • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

                            Bottom Line

                            It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

                            Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

                            More About Career Change

                            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                            Reference

                            [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
                            [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
                            [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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