Mind maps: an essential tool for entrepreneurs
My head often feels like it is going to explode with all the thoughts, ideas, projects, clients and tasks I have swirling around in there related to my business … and that’s before I add any thoughts about what I need to do for the kids, the pets, the household, my partner or me.
Personally I couldn’t get by without regularly doing some mind mapping to get these thoughts out of my head and onto the page. I talk about this tool all the time with my clients (don’t they know it) as it’s an easy way to bring clarity to any subject. So, I thought I would discuss it with you here today.
Life is messy. My brain is messy.
My thoughts aren’t structured into nice to-do lists with appropriately assigned headings and priorities. Instead I jump from idea to idea via associations and connections, all the while making decisions and trying to get tasks done. Given a multitude of options, I can rarely find the right answer by keeping them in my head. Instead, by getting them down on paper (or screen) I can look at all the possibilities which keep mushrooming as I explore the topic.
This is why day planners, numbered lists and calendars often hinder the expression of these ideas; processing and sorting thoughts into the right order or box often exhausts the mind. Instead, I like to get this information out of my head (quickly!) and onto a mind map, so I can make forward progress. Then go back to my day-planner or to-do list with the refined information.
What are mind maps?
Mind maps are a way to literally map out your thinking. The term “mind map” was coined by Tony Buzan in the 1970s (when he also outlined some mind mapping rules) but this visual way of organising information goes back centuries. Some people also call it “bubble mapping”, “spider diagramming” and my favourite: “idea sun bursting”!
The benefits of mind mapping for me are that it facilitates my understanding of a topic and enables me to make sense of it while recording it on a piece of paper. Once everything is out of my head I can then become more logical and convergent in my thinking by seeing the whole, acknowledging the context and making connections. This helps me to plan, make lists and get into action.
People use mind maps in many diverse ways, from brainstorming in meetings (great for many minds to come together in a non-linear way), to note taking, speech writing and studying for exams (the visual and spatial characteristics are great for memory-based learning). Personally, I use them for anything from strategising my marketing plan to writing this blog post. Sometimes I use them to plan my week, help a client set goals and plan a holiday — anything where you have a lot of thoughts that you need to sort out.
How do I mind map?
The Buzan technique has some real rules and principles, but I prefer this dead simple version:
- Rule number 1! Your mind map does not have to be a work of art. It is about you getting your ideas out of your head and onto a piece of paper — that’s the most important part. It’s just for you so it can be as messy as you want.
- Decide on a main topic (e.g. “Online marketing plan”), write it in the centre of your paper and draw a circle around it. This circle should be slightly larger than the other circles, which you’ll draw later.
- Look at your topic and write down the first thought that pops into your head. Anywhere on the paper. Circle it — this is a subtopic.
- Repeat Step 3 with all the ideas that flow from the main topic. If you have 8 subtopics, you will have 8 smaller circles or bubbles. Connect these circles back to the main topic with lines.
- Now you can branch off from each subtopic, and repeat the brainstorming process. What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you look at your first subtopic? Write it down near the subtopic circle. Draw your connecting branches.
Pretty soon you’ll have a map that looks like this work in progress:
If you enjoy illustration and lettering you might want to turn your mind map into something beautiful and eye-catching that uses icons and images (and coloured pens) to help provide emphasis and bring out your creativity. There is also a lot of mind mapping software for those who need to share their maps or if you prefer a screen to pen and paper.
For me mind maps are all about emptying my brain so I can see the whole idea, make the connections (many previously unseen) and move forward. Occasionally I just use them so I don’t have to keep carrying that idea in my brain — we all know that can be exhausting. So grab your favourite pen or a nice coloured texta and unleash your ideas onto an unsuspecting piece of paper!
I would love to hear about if you mind map and how you go about it. Also, if you would like any help sorting out all your thoughts around business and life, get in contact and I can arrange a few sessions.