How many of us have struggled with a thought that is right there on the tip of our tongue, but we just can’t seem to describe it? What if our life depended on it? Or, to be less dramatic, what if our job depended on it? If pressed hard enough any of us can start blurting out ideas and thoughts. There may be no rhyme or reason to what we are saying, but in that stream of consciousness would most likely be some pretty excellent ideas.
That is the concept behind mind mapping. It allows you to take all of that creative thinking and harness it. Mind mapping organizes the thoughts in a visual manner from which you can draw conclusions, follow ideas and develop insights. According to Tony Buzan, the creator of mind mapping, a mind map “harnesses the full range of cortical skills—word, image, number, logic, rhythm, color and spatial awareness—in a single, uniquely powerful manner.”
With mind mapping, your only constraint is the size of your paper and your ability to draw. Add in a computer and one of the various mind mapping software systems available on the market, and you have an almost limitless ability to organize and categorize your thoughts. Some types of software incorporate features that work best for group brainstorming and collaboration; others are more simplistic and work best for individual use. These mind mapping systems provide a variety of shapes, branches, color, images, and figures. If you can imagine it, there is a mind mapping software that can do it.
So who uses mind mapping software? Pretty much can use the software for all sorts of planning and envisioning. The beauty of mind mapping software is that it is intuitive. It works just like our brains do. You anchor a circle in the center of your mind map and type in your main idea. As you think of key points related to that idea, the software allows you to develop branches that veer out like the spokes off a hub. The beauty of using the software is, if your thoughts head in the wrong direction, you can easily drag and paste your idea elsewhere or expand on a branch that has more merit. The software will allow your thoughts to expand as far as your mind needs it to.
5 Steps to Using Mind Mapping Software
There are many formats of mind mapping software available today. Some are desktop loaded, some work on your phone or tablet, and some work online. There are even new apps being developed which allow you to map your thoughts in the three dimensional virtual world using Augmented Technology. Each mind mapping software system has different features, and you should choose depending on what works well for you, but they do share the same common concepts. In working with mind mapping software, there are 5 key steps to developing a successful mind map.
- Create a central idea
- Add branches to your map
- Add keywords
- Color code your branches
- Include images
Step 1: Create a Central Idea
There is no limit to what you can use mind mapping for. You can develop a project plan, establish a budget, write a paper, or even develop a social media campaign. All you need is that central idea. What do you want to build upon? This central idea is the foundation for your mind map. This is your starting point to build your plan upon. You will start in the center of your map and branch your thoughts out from there.
With mind map software, you have unlimited space to branch your thoughts out in a variety of directions. You will start your central idea in the center of your map, but if your thoughts tend to lead you down one particular path, it is easy to focus down that path without the need to reposition your central idea. Many types of mind map software like MindVector, iMindMap, and iThoughts allow you to customize the look of your central idea. Personalizing your central idea helps to develop a deeper connection to that idea, anchoring your thoughts around your central idea. Remember that an image is worth a thousand words and using an image that is key to the central theme stimulates your imagination, keeps your mind map interesting, and keeps you focused on that central theme.
Step 2: Add Branches to Your Map
The next step to get your creative juices flowing is to add branches. The main branches from your central theme are your key themes. You can branch out from these themes with child branches as you think of ideas related to those themes. Connecting second and third level branches allows your mind to work naturally, jumping from one thought to another. Our brains work by association – think about how a smell or a taste can trigger a memory. The brain likes to link things together, so linking the branches creates the same structure in your map. Mind maps let you explore a theme in detail and skip over to another.
The beauty of mind map software is that you can continually add new branches and you’re not restricted to a few options. The structure of your Mind Map should flow naturally as you add more ideas and your brain freely draws new associations from the different concepts. Mind map software allows you to follow your brain, narrowing in on a key item and shrinking other items, as they don’t provide the results you are looking for. Almost all mind mapping software allows you to customize your branches, curving them, adjusting width and weight, or giving them fun geometric angles. This also helps to stimulate creativity, inspiring your brain to play with ideas and concepts.
Step 3: Add Keywords
Use single key words in your branches to give your mind map more power and flexibility. Using keywords triggers associations in your brain and allows you to recall a larger quantity of information. Each key word will then spark new ideas and thoughts in your brain. Don’t constrain yourself by adding additional words and phrases. For example, if you were to place the keyword “wedding” on one branch, you would be able to explore more of the different facets of the wedding than if you constrained it by using the phrase “wedding reception.” You could look at all of your options, possibly coming up with more creative options for the reception than if you had constrained yourself to just thinking about wedding receptions.
The beauty of mind mapping software is that you can create your mind map with key words yet add more detail of to the side in the notes section. If a particular keyword makes you think of a particular thought or phrase, many of mind map software systems have the ability to add in notes off to the side or through links that you can click on to read. Systems like Mindomo even allow you to link audio files.
Step 4: Color Code Your Branches
Colors are exciting to the brain and add energy to your map in order to help stimulate creativity. They also allow you to organize the branches of your thoughts. If you have a central theme you are following, you can follow it with the same or complementary colors. Color coding links the visual with the logical and helps your brain to more quickly analyze connections between thoughts. Mind mapping encourages your whole brain to work together by adding the creative, colorful side of your brain to the numerical, logical side. This helps to encourage your brain to work at its optimal level.
Mind mapping software allows you to create unlimited color codes. Perhaps you want to use all red tones for a theme that you find exciting or that you wish to follow. Mind map software allows you to try out new color options in order to add vibrancy and help to expand the capabilities of your mind map.
Step 5: Include Images
Images encapsulate so much more information than a single word, sentence or even an essay. They are processed instantly by the brain and act as visual stimuli to recall information. Images are universal. They aren’t tied to a particular language or educational level. They are universal. Adding images to your mind maps maximizes the powerful potential of imagery and helps to stimulate even more possibilities.
Imagery is where mind mapping software truly excels. You can browse the Internet for a variety of images or use the images provided within the software. You can draw pictures and scan and upload them. You can move the images around easily and create the best representation of your thoughts. If you choose to share your mind map with others, mind map software allows you to create presentations of your data using visuals that can be easily understood by any audience. Remember that each image is worth a thousand words. Imagine how many words you can include with just a few images.
Mind mapping software provides unlimited opportunities to boost the brain’s natural capabilities. By just following these simple five steps you can create either a simple plan for a website or a complex plan for a construction build project with multiple stakeholders. There is no limit to where your mind can take you with the tools available in mind mapping software.