I’m as big a listmaker as they come. Can we all agree on that? I mean, I started a website about my love for lists, for Gosh sakes.
But sometimes, my brain is a jumble and listmaking doesn’t cut it.
For those times, I turn to mind mapping.
If you’re not familiar, I like the way this article describes it: A mind map is basically a diagram that connects information around a central subject. I think of it as a tree with several branches. Or a bush maybe. Depends.
I take the standard mind map one step further for my Penelope mind. I give it two sides.
The Left Side:
The left side is for the mind-map itself. You start with a main idea and then you begin to “branch off” into smaller, more narrow ideas from there.
The temptation is to get pretty or intricate or fussy with your mind map. My first instinct was to color-code it. BUT, I found that got in the way of the very thing that mind-mapping was supposed to be doing for me: helping my brain get itself down on paper.
I needed to remove every barrier and just write.
So my mode is to grab a good notebook and a comfortable pen and go to town.
This is an actual mind map I just did. In this case, I used it to make a decision. I’d been going round and round about what I want to do for my son’s 5th birthday. I hate parties and party planning, so this was tough.
Using the mind-map, I went over my options and then, within 90 seconds or so, I came to a decision. (Spoiler alert, my future includes a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Ugh.)
Notice, though, that my real-life mind map is MESSY. I did not make this pretty at all, not even for the camera. I just let myself scribble and try to keep up with my brain. Pretty is not the goal here, Penelopes. Pretty will get in your way.
Watch. (Beware it’ll start playing with a rockin’ beat, so hit Mute if the situation necessitates it. But also feel free to do some chair twerking if you feel the need.)
- Don’t edit yourself.
- Go fast.
- Allow your brain to go down the trails it wants to. Does it want to think broad? Or go narrowly all the way down a path?
- Don’t make judgments, let your brain lead.
Take a minute to look at your mind map in it’s complete state. Has it helped to gain any clarity? Are there paths you thought you might want to go down that are not as fruitful once you explored? Great, that’s why we do this. I want you to put an “X” through the paths you don’t intend to follow.
The Right Side:
Where you want to take action, you will use the right side of the page to create task lists, in your standard list form, to follow. I do this because my mind can’t “read” the mind map when I’m in execution mode. For that, I need a straight up, bullet-pointed list. That’s what we’re creating on this right side.
Here’s my group of execution-ready lists for the birthday part that I decided on in the video above. Again, not complete, this page is a work in process.
Think of it like this: left is “dump”, right is “go”. Dump and go, people, dump and go!
You can see that a mind map can be used for project planning, fleshing out an idea, or for a pro-con situation, such as deciding what I want to do for my son’s birthday party. I’ve used it for all those things to great affect. And, mind-mapping can be done alone or as a group.
And, it can be done on paper, or with a digital tool. I do most of my note-keeping and daily To Do-ing on paper, BUT, mind-mapping can also be done really well using some online tools. Digital options can be wonderful in work as a team, where multiple people can edit the mind map. It also makes it easy to share a PDF version. I know that XMind is the most popular digital tool of the trade, but I prefer to brainstorm using MindMeister. It’s prettier in a lot of ways and has some great functionality.
Interested? this article is a fantastic place to begin.
Getting our brain on paper brings clarity to planning, and purpose to execution, and it also creates some white space in your brain.
Which, if I know you, you’ll simply fill up again.
PS: I know you’ll ask, so I’ll tell you that the notebook I’m using in the video is my favorite one for this kind of large-scale work. It’s A4, roughly 8.5 x 11 and has grids, which grounds me on both the mind-mapping and the list-making sides. I have several Miquelrius notebooks and I love them all.