Mind-mapping has a wide variety of uses. It can be used for almost anything, from making grocery lists to taking notes at a seminar to planning a website to outlining a book. It’s simple to learn. Plus, there are many web and phone applications now so that you can mind-map without pen and paper.
Mind mapping is a little bit different than standard outlining. For me, it helps in generating and capturing ideas more quickly and it really helps me edit out extraneous thoughts. It’s less formal of course, but you can easily use mind maps to create formal outlines should you need to do so.
To illustrate how mind mapping works, let’s suppose we're writing an article on doing laundry. Here is a mind map I created on doing laundry .
I used Free Mind to create this mind map, which is a mind-mapping program you can download for free. There are many programs available for mind-mapping and all work in similar ways and most have tutorials to help you figure out how to create your mind maps.
I started by putting the main topic “doing laundry” in the center of the mind map. Then, as I thought of things that would need to be included, I added them as “children” to the main idea. Mind-maps work on a child/parent system. The main idea is the “parent” and the supporting ideas are “children”. Children may have other children—i.e., supporting ideas for each paragraph or sub-topic.
Once I had all the ideas on the mind-map, I re-ordered them (the software makes it easy to move the ideas around) and then numbered them. Neither is necessary, but makes it quite easy to not only write the article in a logical order, but it helps with titling (i.e., I could now title this article “Six Simple Steps to Doing Your Laundry”, whereas before I did the mind-map, I really couldn’t tell you how many steps are involved in doing laundry.)
Creating mind maps for your articles and blog posts also makes it easier to re-purpose your content. Rather than editing an already-written article, you can edit the mind map to suit your newer purpose (a new client, new target market, new publication, etc.) and then quickly write new content.
In addition to using mind-mapping for articles and blog posts, I use it to create presentations. Doing a mind-map helps me clarify my presentation and it is easy to use the mind map to create supporting documents or visual aids, such as handouts or slide presentations.
Once you learn how to use mind-mapping, you will find it useful for so many things. Back to the grocery lists: Mind-mapping a grocery list means you can group “produce” items together, whereas with a list, you might find yourself already through the produce section before noticing you had tomatoes at the bottom of the list. You can even mind-map your daily schedule or to-do list, which can help you schedule your time more productively.
I learned to mind map with this very simple book. It's easy to read and learn how to mind-map. Here's my review of How to Mind Map.