A guide to mind mapping

I heard of mind mapping 3 years ago when it was a very fashionable buzz-word. Web 2.0 was at its peak and all the blogs were talking about it. Not to mention  there were some very appealing browser based mind mapping tools and some amazing desktop versions. I tried them all but somehow I never got hooked and got back to taking notes on pieces of paper. Some years passed, won Seedcamp, moved to London and I met a great team of designers who used mind-mapping techniques to lay ideas and structure them in a very attractive manner. I got hooked this time and now I use mind-mapping every day.

What is mind-mapping?

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing. According  to Wikipedia

So it’s a way to express your thoughts and ideas while using drawings, pictures, colors etc….  The concept of mind maps developed from the idea that traditional linear note taking methods stifle creative thought. By laying out ideas in a linear way (i.e., arranging concepts in a structured method) our minds are limited to left-brain thinking (logical, ordered, detail oriented). Mind mapping ostensibly encourages right-brain thinking (stream-of-consciousness, symbolic, ‘big picture’ oriented). Sounds silly but it’s freakin’ awesome. 

  1. You start with a pen and a blank sheet of paper by writing or drawing the idea you intend to develop.
  2. Draw the related subtopics around this central topic, connecting each of them to the center with a line.
  3. Repeat for sub-sub-topics and so on.

How do I use it?

If mind mapping is so great why did I stop using them years ago. From one simple reason: Software mind-mapping solutions don’t work. For me at least. And I think that if you are the type of person that’s used to a pen and a sheet of paper when you are thinking going offline is the way to do it. So what I do now is:

  • I use a pen and paper. And I strongly recommend having some colored pencils or markers to make your drawing more beautiful. It’s like the first grade I know… but bare with me.
  • I only use blank sheets of paper. I hate ruled notebooks but maybe this is just a matter of taste. Rules are for bullet lists not drawings :)
  • I got a notebook. With thick blank squared sheets of papers. Don’t get a small Moleskin notebook because you can not draw anything on them. A notebook is great because it can store all your drawings in one place. No more lost papers.
  • I draw things, I use colors etc… I am creative (I hate this word so much… but it works in this context)

Why is it working?

If you always scribble things on paper when you’re speaking with someone or when you’re thinking about something than you will love mind mapping. It just gives you a structure of putting your ideas to paper. There are some smart people out there with amazing semi-scientific explanations on why is this working. I came up with my own explanations. I think that having a method to draw and collect your ideas on paper gives you time to really think things through. You don’t need to jump to the next bullet…. but you take your time to draw a plane next to an idea about flying to a conference. I notice that I then have more ideas related to this because I am still thinking about it while a draw a silly plane. 

Also having a notebook with all your drawings in one one place allows me to go back to a brain-storming session that I had weeks ago. Without a notebook to hold them all together I would’ve lost the papers  and even if that wouldn’t have happened understanding some bullets with no connection would’ve been impossible.

What to do with it?

Use it to:

  • Organize your thoughts
  • Take notes during a conference
  • Explore some ideas (brainstorming)
  • Research a subject

Give it a try.

Affiliate marketing in Romania

I think that with the economy going so bad spending money wisely is more important than ever. That’s why I was always attracted to affiliate marketing. Unfortunately In Romania there was never a real solution for the local e-commerce players. Until now.

2Parale was only an idea 6 months ago. Me, Lavinius and Radu were having a beer and discussing various niches in the market. And of course me and Lavinius started to talk about affiliate marketing. Beer was over… we got home etc… But in one month Radu calls us to show us his tool. “What tool?” we asked… “You know. The affiliate marketing thing”. He had built the whole thing in 4 weeks. I was blown away.

And after months of tweaking it he is officially lunching it to the public. It is an amazing step forward for the Romanian market but the tool is so great I can help thinking how it will work internationally.

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Once you’re lucky, twice you are good

Image by kyeung808 via Flickr

Tomorrow I am leaving for San Francisco. It is my first visit to the Mecca of web entrepreneurs: Silicon Valley. I am going of course to pitch to investors, to establish distribution deals etc. But I am also going to meet some of the biggest names in the industry.

And to prepare myself, to get into the right atmosphere I decided to read Sarah Lacy’s “Once you’re lucky, twice you are good”, a very romanced version of the Web 2.0 era. It is like the written version of “The pirates of Silicon Valley” (a movie about the birth of Apple and Microsoft that I really enjoyed). It might seem lame but trust me: for a geek (like me) that’s like reading Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

Unlike the books who try to tell the “real” story by portraying the main characters like ruthless mavericks who will do everything to hut the jackpot, this one is very lenient on them. You can tell that Sarah is a big fanboy of the Web scene in San Francisco, that she holds great respect for all the Valley’s entrepreneurs and she probably has a crush for Zuckerberg. She calls him “The phenomenon”. But I kinda expected that after I saw Sarah’s interview of Zuckerberg.

But it is a very entertaining book, especially if you want to understand how all the investors and entrepreneurs relate to each-other, who is behind the superstars like Mark Zuckerberg or Kevin Rose or why 99% of all the Web hits happen in the Valley. I really enjoyed it and I can hardly wait to personally meet some of the protagonists of the book.

PS: We will try to keep like a video journal. If we can make it we will post all the videos on uberVU blog.

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2 Movie Recommendations

I watched 2 amazing movies this weekend. Kinda weird cause lately I get so bored with all Hollywood major movies. How they call it ….. blockbusters !? Well…. Most of them suck big time. But here are some of the best movies I have seen this year:

Juno poster
Still don’t get it why some people rated this film as a comedy but I anyway was way… way better that I was expecting it to be. And the lead actress…. fabulous performance. Hope she gets an Oscar Award for it. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, it is about a 16 years old girl who discovers she is pregnant.
Curse of the Golden Flower poster

Curse of the Golden Flower
Chinese movie! If you enjoyed Hero and Fearless you will definitely appreciate this masterpiece. Complex plot, superb settings, great costumes, beautiful music….. all in all a very good movie. What I don’t get is why in Chinese movies all the good guys die at the end! Maybe I am too used to the American endings.

Amazing voice

Check out this Romanian girl. She has an extraordinary voice! I wonder how a talent like this doesn’t have a signed contract with a big label and Timbaland as a producer.

To all new Arrivals
If theres a God, be aware, I’m a man newly made.
My son lies here, and only of him, am I afraid.
As I gaze into that face, I perceive that which is true.
I created him, and we created you… in his image.

Lyrics from Faithless - To All New Arrivals

The not so original “The 4-Hour Workweek”

Have you read The 4-Hour Workweek? I did! And I found it to be quite a nice book to read. It has so many cool ideas about how to manage your time and life. I even recommended it to some of my friends and colleges.

But afterwards I watched a lecture by Randy Pausch (more about his CV and about dramatic experience he is passing through right now on Wikipedia) about Time Management. And all of Tim’s ideas were there….. all of them. But Randy’s seminar was in 1998….. 8 years before Tim’s book. Check it out:

If you have read The 4-Hour Workweek you may find some of the ideas a little bit familiar :

  • How to handle email
  • How to do less stuff
  • How to avoid interruptions and meetings
  • How to get more vacations
  • Low Information diet (don’t watch TV, read less etc)
  • Delegate as long as you can
  • Money are relative ….. to time
Don’t dance so fast…

This is a poem from the last chapter of Tim Ferriss’s “The 4 hour Workweek” that I really enjoyed:


Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won’t last.

Do you run through each day
On the fly?

When you ash How are you?
Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done,
do you lie in your bed

With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?

You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won’t last.

Ever told your child,
We’ll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die

Cause you never had time
To call and say, “Hi”?

You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower.

Hear the music
Before the song is over.

In sfarsit un TODO List care imi place

Todoist screenshotSunt un maniac al listelor, al sistemelor de tip GTD, un cititor fidel al blogurilor din domeniu etc. Iar cand vine vorba de liste le-am testat pe toate: Tadalist, Backpack, Voo2oo, Remember the Milk etc… Dar nici unul nu m-a satisfacut complet. Intr-o vreme m-am impacat destul de bine cu Remember The Milk. Avea niste optiuni interesante precum:

  • Integrarea buna cu Google Calendar
  • Posibilitatea de a asigna taguri pe fiecare task
  • Introducerea usoara de date

Ii lipseau insa multe lucruri pe care le-am regasit acum in Todoist precum:

  • Posibilitatea de a crea o structura ierarhica de proiecte (in toate softurile de mai sus nu exista posibilitatea de a face subproiecte)
  • Posibilitatea de a crea un task recursiv: care sa se repete o data pe luna sau in fecare vineri
  • O cautare mai desteapta

Nu are taguri, smartlists etc dar pot fi usor substituite prin niste notatii standard, precum (T) Task pentru telefon sau (E) Task pentru email. Cei care aplica GTD stiu despre ce vorbesc. Daca va intereseaza domeniul testati-l.