Creating a Web of Ideas: An Intro to Mind Maps
Every now and then I get an itch to redesign my personal website domain. Usually this gets spurred when I see some new eye catching web design and I go, "Oooh, shiny." and then wish I could apply more modern designs and graphics to my own home online. I end up breaking out graph paper and project cards and start listing new site structures and what things need to go into my site. Of course, every time I do this, I don't get any further than that. However, a few weeks ago, I saw yet another spiffy design, and out came the hipster. This time, instead of grabbing more than one card, I pulled a single card out and gave it a title. Then, I wrote down SOM (the nickname for my domain) and circled it. From there, I listed sections, tools, colors and anything else I wanted to put into my web space. I successfully created a mind map; the first one I've done since high school.
For the next three weeks, I'm going to discuss mind mapping and how you can apply it to almost every aspect of your life. This article briefly introduces the mind mapping concept, how to make one, and when to use them to get the most bang for your buck. Since I enjoy practical learning experiences, next week we'll go into the details of how you can use and create mind maps throughout an entire project from inception to publication. In the last installment I'll get into online and offline tools and some good book resources to help you jump-start mapping your life.
What is Mind mapping?
Mind mapping is a brainstorming technique that puts your thoughts onto paper in a highly unique and visual manner. It's fun, fast and can generate tons of ideas and connections in very little time. You start with a central word, or picture and branch out, letting your mind free-associate whatever images or other words that appear into your brain as you think about your topic. From there, other pictures or words get spawned, until you have a very cellular, web-like image. In as little as a 15 minutes you can generate up to 50 associations based off one image or word.
Visual mapping, in this way helps you to create more meaning out of the topic you're dealing with and expand your mind's ability to retain more information faster. Mind mapping been around for a very long time, some trace it back to Leonardo daVinci, but it wasn't until the late 1970's when Tony Buzan, "discovered and labeled the technique" and gave the structure for which a mind map can be created. He claims that mind mapping is more organic and natural and a "vastly superior method for taking notes." I know Doug sings of the praises of mapping, as this is one of his favorite brainstorming techniques. Honestly, while I love the idea of mind mapping, it's never really stuck for me. I remember in high school, in my creative writing class, being forced to make a mind map. It was hard. And tedious and I didn't really see the value. For me, creating a mind map only showed that I couldn't draw well and it seemed to slow me down in getting my thoughts out. These days, I'm finding that I want to make more and more of them and have been amazed at the growing amount of results they produce as well as their values. But enough dissertation, let's get into the meat of making one.
How to make a mind map?
First, you'll need a large piece of paper. Yes, I've managed to do small scale mapping with just a single index card but every book I've read recommends starting out with a large sheet of paper. You'll want to give yourself lots of space to explore your drawing style; in addition to making as many connections to your topic as you can. Some go as far to say you need a 11 x 17 piece of paper. That's a bit big for me and I know I can't easily fit it into my sling back bags. Therefore, choose the size that is best for you. You'll also want to have some colored pens or pencils (or crayons) nearby for when you're inspired to splash color on your map.
Before you even start writing or drawing on the paper, take a few minutes to think about what the map will be about. Do you want to create a map showing you how much you know about the US Government system, or what solutions to a problem you're facing at work could be? Thinking about what you want to do first helps lessen the intimidation factor of facing the blank page.
Once you've got your map's idea, grab a pen and push the paper into a landscape (horizontal) form and follow these steps:
- Write down the topic (limiting the words down as much as you can) in the middle of the paper. Scribble a picture of what it looks like if you want. Make it big so it stands out!
- Draw a branch coming from this word/image and extending into the whiteness of the page. This is a branch and it signifies a deep, personal connection to the topic.
- At the empty end of the line, add the word or thought that spurred the branch.
- Let your mind create a new association to this word. Follow the branch further out from the center until you cannot come up with anything else. Go back to the center and start branching out new words and thinking.
- Watch how your map morphs and progresses with each new thought or image or association. Smile and be amazed, you created that.
One Word. Attempt to use only one word at a time and keep them to key words, like tagging. These words, will be the ones you identify as meaningful and you won't forget them as easily as you would others.
Use colors. Our world isn't limited to black and white, so break out the colors. Draw color and let it help expand the meaning of your map.
Room to Wander. Allow your mind to wander. Don't worry if it comes up with weird or new thoughts that you'd never have considered an association before. Write it down! You are not going to be graded on this and no one has to see it. Sometimes, the best ideas come from the most oddball of ideas. Don't do your mind dis-service by locking it into "normal" constraints.
When to use it?
I think what first turned me off on mind mapping way back when, was that I couldn't visualize how to apply this technique. We were told to do it, and I did... but there was never any discussion on what it could do, or where to use it. Therefore, I want to share with you a quick list of ways that you can use mapping in your every day life.
- Map your yearly goals. Everyone has resolutions at the beginning of the year. Why not make a mind map of yours. You can visually display it at home to remind yourself of the things you want to achieve.
- Map out your day. Instead of writing down a long list of to-dos, map out your day according to errands, meetings, activities, dining, etc.
- Project Planning. We'll get into this more next week but you can use a mind map (or several) to map out the success of your next project at work.
- Map out your feelings. You can make a map of how you feel and why. This could help you examine why you're depressed on certain days and what you can do to help yourself feel better.
- Map a Book. Make book reports fun! Show, instead of tell, what you really got out of a book.
- Resume creation. Use a mind map to creatively generate new ideas for your resume, or allow the mind map format become the design to a resume. I'm actually thinking about trying this one out and seeing what professionals think of this format.
And the list can go on and on. But I think this gives you enough ideas to generate more ways to creatively apply mind maps to your own life. Next week, we'll continue to explore the uses of mind mapping by putting it to the test. We'll start a project and apply mind mapping to as much of a project process as we can do. Until then, get your planners ready to explore the mind mapping techniques as we apply them to a real life project. Got a good tip or two, or want to share your personal experiences with mind mapping? Feel free to share it in the comments below.
|Click book to purchase|
|Mapping Inner Space: Learning and Teaching Visual Mapping|
author: Nancy Margulies,Nusa Maal
ASIN or ISBN-10: 1569761388