What Is a Mind Map?

There are so many circumstances in our day-to-day lives that we need to brainstorm to solve a problem or come up with an idea. For many of us, though, this process is difficult and doesn’t come naturally. That’s where making a mind map can help.

Instead of simply jotting down a list of notes or ideas, mind mapping helps you to visualize those ideas in a much more creative and engaging way. In fact, mind mapping actually mimics the way your brain works when you’re trying to come up with an idea or a solution to a problem. As a result, using a mind map as a learning tool, a way to collaborate with coworkers, or even to help you make a decision can be much more effective than a numbered list and can even help you to achieve your goals.

How to Create a Mind Map

One of the great things about making a mind map is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can make it as minimal or artistic as you like—whatever helps you to tap into your creativity and reach your end goal. Generally speaking, here are a few simple steps to get you started:

  1. Write or draw your main idea or problem. This is typically what you’re trying to solve, or a simple starting point for your mind map. For example, if you want to create a social media campaign for an optometrist, you might place “eye doctor” at the center of your mind map

  2. Add primary branches that stem from your central idea. You can create as many branches as you want, but remember, the more you have, the more creative your ideas will get. Using the eye doctor example from above, your branches might be keywords like “vision,” “glasses,” “contacts,” and “eye exam.”

  3. Add secondary branches that stem from your primary branches. For example, stemming from “glasses,” you might write “sunglasses,” “bifocals,” and “reading glasses.”

  4. Add a third branch. Although you can include as many or as few branches as you want, it’s best to at least try three. That way, your ideas have a chance to stem farther away from your central idea. For example, if you branch off of “sunglasses,” you might think of words like “beach,” “sunshine,” and “summer.” As you can see, these words are very different from the ones you started with.

Just like you can be as creative as you want with the terms or drawings that you include, there is also a variety of media that you can use for your mind map. You can, of course, use a piece of paper and a pencil, but you can also get much more creative. Try a white board if you’re collaborating with a group, or even computer software that allows you to make and share a virtual mind map.

There is also now exciting new technology like Mind Map AR that allows you to create a 3D mind map, making the process even more creative and interactive.

The Benefits of Mind Mapping

The beauty of mind mapping is that its uses truly are endless. Whether you’re teaching a class, brainstorming at work, putting together a presentation, budgeting, or planning a wedding, knowing how to mind map can come in handy. Just some of the reasons why this method is more effective than making a list or simply thinking out loud are:

  • Visualization. Research has shown that visualizing your goals can actually help you to achieve them faster. In fact, one study published in Neuropyschologica found that people who visualized themselves working out without actually performing the exercises saw a significant improvement in their muscle mass over time. In this way, mind mapping can help you to visualize your goals and therefore stay on track along the way to achieving them, whether it’s a weight loss goal or even buying your dream home.

  • Collaboration. Working with others is a great way to brainstorm, but organizing everyone’s thoughts and ideas can be difficult. Mind mapping, on the other hand, doesn’t use a hierarchical numbering system like lists do, so this can be a great tool to use when working in a group to ensure that everyone is able to share their ideas.

  • Boosting your creativity. It’s often a challenge to come up with fresh ideas, especially when you feel you’ve exhausted all of your options. Mind mapping can help by forcing your brain to think in new, creative ways to come up with ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. The example of making the connection between an eye doctor and the beach, for instance, shows how mind mapping can help you think outside the box.

  • Improving your productivity. If you ever find yourself putting off a daunting project just because you’re not quite sure where to start, mind mapping can help you dig in. It’s also a great tool for getting organized so that you can get more work done without being busier.

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