Mind Maps have been described as ‘The Swiss Army Knife for the Brain.’ There are countless uses. In this and the following posts I will list twenty-six from A to Z. Here are the first ten:
- Analyse a problem
The generative nature of a Mind Map lets you analyse a problem from a number of different angles. The more fully you understand a problem, the easier it is to see possible solutions. If you’re stumped where to start create six main branches for who, what, why, when, where and how to help stimulate ideas.
- Book summaries
When I read a good, factual book I will often create a Mind Map summary. Usually with a branch for each chapter. This means I can very quickly and easily review the contents and have a strong memory of the key ideas in future. When you commit things to memory it makes it much easier to learn related information by connecting and associating. It is a good idea to glue the Mind Map in the inside cover of the book so it can be unfurled to review.
- Creative thinking
If you need to come up with creative ideas, Mind Maps are the perfect tool. Hand drawn Mind Maps are best. Use lots of images to stimulate your imagination. As each idea triggers many more you can capture them all and keep going as long as you like. The key to really good ideas is generating a large number, exhausting the obvious and then picking the best.
- Decision making
Mind Maps let you explore all the factors influencing a decision. If you are faced with a binary choice, you can use a colour code for factors relating to ‘course of action A’ and a different colour for factors relating to ‘course of action B’. A third colour can be used for neutral information. Once you have added as much detail as you can, assign a points value to each factor. Total these up to give a quantitative measure. Choose the option with the higher score.
- Essay plans
Using a Mind Map to plan and structure an essay or report before you start writing leads to a better end result. You can see the overall structure making sure you keep focused on the question or topic without wandering off track. It also helps you audit your writing to make sure you haven’t missed anything important. Planning first reduces the need to edit or redraft.
- Finding solutions
Once you have analysed and defined a problem you can use a Mind Map to ‘Brain Storm’ solutions. (We sometimes use the alternative term ‘Brain Bloom’ as storms can be destructive but we are being creative) You can generate countless alternatives. To decide which ones to pursue and develop, assign a score to each based on ‘gut feel’ and ‘logic’. Once you’ve decided on your best solution move onto an Implementation Mind Map (see below)
- Goal setting
It is very important to set goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know you’ve arrived? Set big, audacious goals then break them into manageable steps. Make sure you schedule these sub-goals into your monthly / weekly plans. Napoleon Hill defined a goal as “a dream with a deadline.” If you leave the steps to be done ‘sometime’ or ‘when I get round to it’ the right time will never come. Mind Maps help you to clearly define your goals and, by seeing them in context, plan the steps to achieve them.
- Holiday plans
Mind Maps help you to choose a destination based on important criteria and make the most of your time when you’re there by capturing research on attractions or places of interest. A Mind Map can also help you to plan all the things you need to do to prepare, like applying for a visa, buying currency, arranging care for pets whilst away and what you need to pack.
- Implementing a project
Mind Maps aren’t just useful for coming up with lots of creative and occasionally unfeasible ideas. Once a course of action has been decided you can create an implementation plan with a Mind Map. This could include branches for Resources (human, physical and financial), Stake holders (and how to establish ‘buy in’), Risks, Project Milestones, Timescale, etc.
- Journal entries
A Mind Map is a good tool to create a diary or daily journal. Tony Buzan has a page for every day of the year in his ‘Universal Personal Organiser.’ If he is working alone he will create his own Mind Map record of activities and accomplishments. When lecturing, he will often ask one of the delegates to add their Mind Map. This creates a vivid and varied resource that can be reviewed to recollect the highlights of any year.
Let me know your favourite Mind Map Applications. More of mine in the next blog post.