It’s entirely possible you’ve engaged in mind mapping without knowing it. If you’ve ever made a spider diagram, a spray diagram, or a simple brainstorm diagram, you were also mind mapping. But maybe you’re a list maker, and you’ve never created any kind of diagram to map out a task, project, or idea. Why change now? Because a mind map may help you be even more productive than a simple list will.
What Is a Mind Map?
Mind maps are basically visual representations of ideas and the relationships between them. But they don’t necessarily have to be abstract. A mind map can also help you organize large tasks and projects. To create a mind map, start with a blank sheet of paper and write the overarching idea or main project in the center of the sheet.
Then, think about all the other, smaller tasks that must be accomplished in order to support the completion of the main project. Draw lines branching out from the main idea, leading to the supporting ideas.
As you work, you may think of a third level of related ideas and tasks. And maybe a fourth, and so on. As you write down your ideas, you’ll begin to see what needs to be accomplished first in order to reach the goal in the center of the mind map.
At first glance, a mind map may seem like a messy way to go about organizing your tasks. But a mind map is much more than a to-do list, and if used well, it can actually improve your productivity in a few main areas of your life.
Improve Productivity at Work
Most likely, the mere mention of the word “productivity” makes you think of the workplace. Who doesn’t want to be more productive at work? During these times of economic tumult, businesses are seeking ways to increase productivity without increasing spending. One way businesses can do that is by tapping into their employees’ creativity and fostering the sharing of ideas. Encourage your employees to try mind mapping.
Sometimes, meetings turn into tangential discussions that don’t really yield direction or results. By reining in that creative energy and asking your employees to create mind maps, you can harness those ideas that might otherwise have been forgotten as soon as the meeting was over. If any of your employees telecommute, this may seem challenging. If that’s the case, consider trying mind mapping software. Some programs will integrate with other productivity tools such as project management software and online faxing, allowing you to share your mind maps with your coworkers and collaborate on solutions.
Improve Productivity at School
Nowhere is the fostering of creativity and ideas more important than in a teaching environment. Students seem to learn better in collaborative environments and when they’re encouraged to participate and share their own ideas rather than just have someone else’s ideas imposed upon them. Some topics and projects will require individual study, but creating a team-learning model that includes mind mapping can also go a long way to improving productivity and even retention.
Mind mapping can be used most practically in structuring ideas for assignments such as essays, research papers, and oral reports. Seeing how each idea relates to another will help maintain logical flow in both written and oral mediums. But writing out ideas and information also improves retention, so not only can mind maps improve productivity at school, they can help improve learning overall.
Improve Productivity at Home
You probably make lists at home pretty often. Grocery lists, chore lists, holiday gift lists—they come in handy for a lot of everyday household tasks. So why would you want to do something as complicated as make a mind map for anything at home when lists have been serving you just fine? Because they can help you fully consider large projects before you find yourself knee-deep in them.
For example, say you want to clean out your attic. You climb up there and just jump right into organizing everything. Your motivation will soon wane when you start seeing things pile up, and you haven’t made arrangements for any of it. If there’s large furniture that needs to be hauled away, maybe you could have rented a truck. Boxes and boxes of old clothes? Do you know where to donate them? Have you found things that could go into a yard sale? You may need a permit for that. Sitting down and creating a mind map first will help you organize your thoughts, so you can more quickly and easily identify and organize your trash and treasures.
Try using mind maps and see for yourself how they can improve your productivity. In addition to being organizational tools themselves, they may also help you begin to think more logically and strategically about tasks and projects, allowing you to work and communicate more efficiently. Next time a project seems complex and daunting, pull out the pen and paper and make a mind map. You may wonder how you ever did without it.