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.

5 Responses to “A guide to mind mapping”

  1. Andreea Says:

    So, next meeting, i’m bringing my notebook and my markers :)
    Let’s see how it works!

  2. Ovidiu Negrean Says:

    I will sure give it a try! Sounds great!

    I am a computer addict, but I think you should always brainstorm in an analog environment.

  3. vladimir.oane Says:

    Analog is the way to go… for sure

  4. sparica Says:

    I started using mindmaps more than 10 years ago when I accidentally bumped into one of Tony Buzan’s books about mindmapping. Sometimes it felt a bit silly to carry around all that bright-colored markers and large sheets of paper … but hey, I didn’t mind, because mindmaps just worked for me! :) Not only did I remember stuff better, but my drawing skills improved, too (joke). Mindmaps are perfect for brainstorming, recall or alternative way of presenting some boring text ;) Now go and draw a mindmap or two ;)

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