How to Use Mind Maps to Be More Productive

The following is provided by guest blogger, Fred E. Miller, Master Mind Mapper.

Has this ever happened to you?

  • You make a list of business things that have to get done.
  • You think hard about the importance of each task in the list and try to prioritize items when making the list.

Then you start working on that task list. Suddenly you realize:

  • You left something out. So you go back and squeeze it in where you believe its priority should be.
  • Whoops! One item is a higher priority than several things above it so you scratch it out and move it in the list or draw an arrow to where you think it should go.
  • You end up with a messy, hard-to-read, and hard-to-use list.

Even if you’re using a word processing program for developing these lists; where cutting, pasting and moving text around is relatively easy, the process is not as efficient as it could be. Black text on a white background is also not very stimulating to our brains.

There is a better way – Mind Mapping!

The problem with making lists in a linear (list fashion) is that we’re trying to organize thoughts before we develop them. Unfortunately, our brains don’t work that way. We don’t always think of first things first.

Perhaps you’ve heard the terms left-brain and right-brain.

Left brain is usually associated with linear thinking. When we think about left brain people, engineers, programmers and accountants come to mind. Right-brained people are the creative types; graphic artists, designers, and salespeople. Neither is good or bad. We all use both sides, but usually have one that is dominant.

Mind Mapping is a visual, nonlinear, brainstorming tool that brings together the linear and creative halves of the brain and mimics the way we really think.

Here’s the procedure for Mind Mapping:

  1. The main subject is placed in the middle of the document.
  2. Sub-Topics (or, for the sake of this discussion, tasks) are then placed in the document in positions radiating from the center.
  3. Additional Sub-Topics (called ‘children’ in the world of Mind Mapping) can be added. They radiate from the Sub-Topics.
  4. Images can be added. We think in terms of images and associations. Those images will trigger additional images and your mind map will grow and grow.
  5. Add colors. Colors allow the grouping of tasks and help bring clarity to the main goal.

Example: One project might be to launch a new website. Tasks could include:

  • Review competitive websites and make notes
  • Ask for web designer referrals
  • Check those referrals
  • Brainstorm website contents/pages
  • Research shopping carts
  • Check their fees and usability

Lists are usually placed, in a linear fashion, on paper or in a computer document, in the portrait mode. Mind Mapping is done with the document in the landscape position. The portrait position is seen by our brains as a linear activity and won’t produce as many results.

The larger the surface to work on, the more ideas will be developed. This can also be done on poster board, a large white board, or computer screen. Fewer physical restrictions = more and better results! Sticky notes can be used on a large whiteboard and have the flexibility of being movable as priorities change and other ideas come to mind. Using a variety of colored sticky notes and colored markers can help group and prioritize ideas.

Mind Mapping software offers the most flexibility plus additional advantages over other Mind Mapping methods.

  • Tasks can be moved around according to priority.
  • Tasks can be easily grouped according to due date, interdependence, delegation, or by whatever commonality makes sense.
  • New tasks can be added, others deleted or modified, easily.
  • The tasks can be linked to URLs, documents, and other Mind Maps.
  • The entire map can be customized, as the user sees fit, with images and colors.

Going back to our example, below are images of a New Website Task List and a New Website Mind Map.

New Website Task List

Mind Mapping Outline

Mind Mapping Tasks

Which would be easier to expand upon?

Which would help generate more creative ideas and effective solutions?

For additional information:

I suggest Googling Mind Mapping software. Take advantage of the free trials offered.

Try Mind Mapping and I think you’ll agree that it is, “The Swiss Army Knife for the Brain!”

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