Recently I instagrammed a mind map of an in-progress blog post. The comments surprised me: quite a few people didn’t know what a mind map was or how to use one.
I shouldn’t have been surprised: a few years ago I didn’t know about mind maps, but discovering what they were and how to use them was a godsend to my non-linear brain. I use mind maps primarily for writing but occasionally for planning, problem solving, and brain dumping. Mind maps are my go-to tool for conjuring order out of my jumbled thoughts. I could never draw up an outline from scratch, but it’s much easier to do so after I’ve made a mind map.
What is a mind map?
A mind map is a tool for representing ideas and concepts in diagram form. They’re especially useful for visual types and non-linear thinkers.
The mind map is especially useful for generating ideas, uncovering associations, and organizing information.
A mind map differs from a regular brain dump or a list in that a mind map’s information is organized. However, unlike an outline, which is rigid and linear, a mind map is flexible. That flexibility makes a mind map is a great starting point for collecting ideas.
Mind maps are frequently used for organized brainstorming—to generate and capture lots of ideas on a given topic in a quick and efficient manner. It’s an easy way to get an overview of a large subject. A mind map takes advantage of the brain’s propensity to work by association, uncovering connections you didn’t know were there.
How to make a mind map
These 7 rules are from Tony Buzan, who coined the phrase “mind map” back in the 60s.
- Start in the centre of a blank page turned sideways.
- Use an image or picture for your central idea.
- Use colors throughout.
- Connect your main branches to the central image and connect your second- and third-level branches to the first and second levels, etc.
- Make your branches curved rather than straight-lined.
- Use one key word per line.
- Use images throughout.
I gave these rules a try when I first began experimenting with mind maps. Now I break them freely, bending the tool to suit my purposes (and whatever pen colors I happen to have handy at the time).
How to use mind maps
There are countless ways to use mind maps. These are my favorite:
• Brain dump: getting my scattered thoughts out of my head and down on paper.
• Big projects: to help categorize ideas and create objectives and timelines.
• Long-term planning: for work, for life, for my family.
• To-do lists: to capture and prioritize entries.
• Writing projects: for everything from a blog post to a novel. I frequently use mind maps to turn a blog post idea into an outline; they’re indispensable for literary matchmaking.
• Problem solving, from should we buy this house to where should we go on vacation to what is up with our kid?
• Curriculum planning for our homeschool.
Do you use mind maps? I’d love to hear how and why in comments.