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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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                          1 How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 2 15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included) 3 How to Make the Career Change You Need (The Complete Guide) 4 5 Signs You’re Ready for a Career Change 5 Think Your Work Sucks? 7 Ways to Deal with It

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                          Last Updated on March 25, 2020

                          How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

                          How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

                          Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

                          Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

                          Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

                          In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

                          How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

                          Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

                          Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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                          • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
                          • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
                          • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
                          • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

                          If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

                          After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

                          We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

                          Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

                          Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

                          One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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                          These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

                          40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

                          All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

                          For Changing a Job

                          1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
                          2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
                          3. Get a raise.
                          4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
                          5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
                          6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
                          7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
                          8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
                          9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
                          10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

                          For Switching Career Path

                          1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
                          2. Find a mentor.
                          3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
                          4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
                          5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
                          6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
                          7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
                          8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
                          9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
                          10. Create a financial plan.

                          For Getting a Promotion

                          1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
                          2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
                          3. Become a mentor.
                          4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
                          5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
                          6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
                          7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
                          8. Become a better communicator.
                          9. Find new ways to be a team player.
                          10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

                          For Acing a Job Interview

                          1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
                          2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
                          3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
                          4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
                          5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
                          6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
                          7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
                          8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
                          9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
                          10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

                          Career Goal Setting FAQs

                          I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

                          1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

                          If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

                          If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

                          How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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                          2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

                          Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

                          Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

                          Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

                          3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

                          You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

                          Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

                          4. Can I have several career goals?

                          It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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                          On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

                          For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

                          Summary

                          You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

                          • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
                          • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
                          • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
                          • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
                          • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

                          By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

                          More Tips About Setting Work Goals

                          Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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