In a previous post on Beating Writer’s Block, we briefly mentioned mindmapping as a way to get ideas out from our heads and onto paper. Today, we’ll revisit that topic and delve a bit deeper into mindmapping.
Many of us take notes in a linear fashion. Lists and outlines take us from one topic or idea to the next, and prose follows a similar linear flow. Even when freewriting, we can only go in one general direction, from left to right.
The problem, however, is that our brains don’t always work in a linear fashion. We often have several ideas floating around in our head, and how they fit together isn’t always evident. Mindmapping allows us to just dump everything we think of onto paper (or a screen), and organize the mess of ideas in a meaningful way afterwards.
How do I do it?
The root of a mindmap is your topic or main idea. Take a blank piece of paper, a whiteboard, or any medium you want. Write (or draw) your topic in the middle, and draw a circle around it.
With your main topic set, start jotting down other related ideas all over the page. You can write these ideas down, but that’s not the only way to do it. You can draw and color them, or you can paste photographs or graphics if you’d prefer. You’re also free to use as much (or as little) color as you’d like.
Every so often, use lines to connect them with the main topic or to the other ideas on the page. The idea is to get something that looks a bit like a tree, with branches radiating from your main topic, and smaller branches or twigs coming out of those branches.
Sometimes, however, what you get ends up looking less like a tree, and more like a tangled web. This is usually the case when you have ideas in one part of your mindmap that connect directly with other parts. Don’t worry – this works too. The point is for you (and others) to see how the different ideas you’ve presented connect and relate with each other.
When (or why) should I use a mindmap?
You can use a mindmap anytime you want – some people use mindmaps when taking notes during lectures. Since mindmaps usually fill whole pages, they tend to be more compact than linear notes, which tend to fill only one side of the page.
Many people (and I’m among them) use mindmaps to do brain dumps. We use mindmaps to get large amounts of information out of our heads, even if we see no obvious way to organize them. By getting everything out on paper, we can start drawing links between ideas, and organize them in a meaningful way.
Do I have to use paper when mindmapping?
It helps, but it’s not a requirement. The most important thing is to have a blank “canvas” on which to lay out all your ideas.
If you’re so inclined, you can use your computer, smartphone, or tablet to create mindmaps. You can simply draw it out in an image editor of your choice, or you can use a dedicated mindmapping software. Since I prefer pen and paper, I haven’t really gotten my hands dirty on any piece of mindmapping software. However, I’d like to try iMindMap someday, which, according to its product description “is the ONLY Mind Mapping app bearing the badge of approval from inventor of Mind Maps, Tony Buzan.”
Have you tried mindmapping?
This time, I’m asking you the questions. Why not try mindmapping yourself? If you’ve ever struggled with organizing ideas in your head, or expressing a jumble of thoughts, then mindmapping just might be the tool for you.
If you’ve already tried mindmapping, please tell us what you think. Does it work for you? If it does, can you share some tips that may help us with our mindmaps? If not, what stumbling blocks have you encountered? Maybe others around here can help you out.
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