The brain is one of the most complex computing devices available to us and, as a result, there is usually an awful lot going on in our minds. Open yours up, and you’d discover a tangled spaghetti junction of thoughts, ideas, wants and desires.
It wouldn’t be pretty and nor is it particularly productive.
Unfortunately, few of us are blessed with eternal memories. We forget stuff and inadvertently allow brilliant ideas to fall into the far reaches of our minds, never to be seen again. As a result, we regularly and inadvertently do ourselves something of a disservice by not getting that stuff out of our brains and into some form of a visual plan.
That’s where mind maps come in. They are brilliant at helping improve personal productivity and untangling our thoughts.
But, before we get stuck into that, let’s answer a question I’m sure you’ve got on the tip of your tongue…
What is a mind map?
A mind map, quite simply, is a graphical representation of your thoughts. It is a great, creative way to map out your ideas and is a tool used by countless businesses and individuals to help realise concepts and make them a reality.
The premise of mind mapping is to structure information in a way that people can better comprehend, analyse and synthesise your ideas. Normally taking the form of a series of circled elements with interconnecting notes and references, mind maps are fantastic for helping you recall and add new ideas whenever inspiration strikes.
Mind maps, like every great idea, offer brilliance in simplicity. They are a no-frills approach to planning and are a joy to create, edit and present.
They’re not just a tool for business, though, as mind maps can be a brilliant way to improve your own personal productivity.
How to improve personal productivity with mind maps
If you’re sinking under the weight of your ever-growing to-do list and simply can’t see the wood for the trees, it is time to get mind mapping.
In this post, we’ve got some brilliant tips that will help you raise your productivity game and have fun while doing it.
1. Visualise your to-do list
A traditional to-do list is just that – a great big list of stuff you’ve got to do before the day is out. But that’s not particularly exciting, its it? By converting your to-do list into a mind map, you’ll have a much more engaging set of instructions from which to work.
Start by grabbing a large piece of paper and sketching out each to-do item. Circle each one and add notes about what makes them important and draw lines between the to-dos which are linked. You’ll quickly build a picture of your to-do items which is far more powerful than a simple list.
2. Take better notes
Have a look at the last bunch of notes you wrote during a recent meeting. We guarantee they’ll be a collection of half-completed, meaningless sentences and indecipherable quotes from others.
Mind mapping is a far more effective way to take notes. Meetings are rarely linear, so for each area of discussion, create a separate circle in your notebook and keep the notes relevant to that topic in that spot. When you come to review your notes later on, they’ll actually make sense!
3. Mind map your personal goals
Chances are you’ve got a number of personal goals you want to achieve, but they’re probably all rattling around in your head undefined and lacking structure. Again, it’s time for a mind map!
On your personal goal mind map, circle each goal and surround them with ideas about how they can be achieved and the ways in which you plan to tackle them. Add completion date targets and draw lines between goals that are linked. In no time, you’ll have a visual representation of everything you want to achieve and gain a greater chance of achieving them all.
4. Increase learning and information retention
In order to advance our careers and become the best we can be, it is essential we continue to learn. But learning can be counterintuitive if we don’t take the right steps to retain the wealth of information now available to us.
With a mind map, you can sketch out those gems of ideas, facts and influential pieces of advice and make it all digestible. A little bit like the to-do list described above, learning by simply listing things on a piece of paper isn’t efficient. Mind mapping enables you to visualise the stuff you’re digesting and, as a result, will help you retain the information (after all, that’s what learning is about, right?).
5. Dealing with information overload
Bookmarks, saved tweets, scraps of paper, those emails you need to read – there is simply so much information we’re expected to take in these days. If this feels somewhat familiar, there’s some good news: by mind mapping, you can deal effectively with information overload.
With a mind map, you can declutter the collection of thoughts and ideas you’ll generate when consuming all of this information. You can group, colour-code and categorise everything so that it is easy to refer back and act on the stuff that has inspired you.
Perhaps you’ve got a new decorating project that needs tackling or a fitness regime you need to undertake in order to ready yourself for that half marathon in six months’ time. Whatever you’re planning to achieve, you can make the process a whole lot easier by using a mind map.
Map out every constituent element of your plan so that you end up with bite-sized chunks you can analyse and act upon methodically. You’ll reach your goal quicker and will have left nothing to chance as a result.
7. Improving thinking
A good thinker will usually rely on mind mapping techniques to improve their thought process, and you can do the same. We’ve all sat there, staring into space thinking through our latest, world-conquering idea, but it soon gets lost amongst the muddle of our minds when we’re distracted.
Improve your thinking by mind mapping your thoughts and encapsulating particular areas of inspiration. Look for links between ideas. A visual representation of your mind is far easier to digest and come back to at a later date.
Mind mapping software
Above, we’ve referred consistently to ‘manual’ mind maps – i.e. those generated on a piece of paper – but if you’re partial to an app or two, you’ll be glad to hear that there are some brilliant mind mapping software tools out there.
Here’s a short list you can check out:
- IMindQ is available on virtually every platform you can think of and combines powerful mind mapping tools with the ability to quickly present them to friends and colleagues
- MindMapFree is quite possibly the simplest and quickest way to get into mind mapping. Just visit the website and get cracking, immediately and for free!
- MindNode is an Apple-only application, but has been selected as an ‘App Store Best’ due to its pick-up-and-play simplicity and ability to create beautiful mind maps
- Simple Mind Free for Mac and iOS is another free mind mapping tool which offers a paired-down experience that is very easy to get to grips with
We’ve hopefully convinced you that mind mapping can be an effective way to increase personal productivity, but if you’re still unsure, you can do a lot worse than give it a try. If you don’t fancy using the software above, the great thing about mind maps is that you can create them with just a pen and paper.
Mind mapping is fun, intuitive and the best way to un-jumble your mind. Go on – declutter that brain today!