Have you ever felt overloaded with thoughts and ideas? Was it ever hard for you to start writing on a report, presentation or project because there was so much going on in your head?

Knowing how to make a mindmap gives you clarity, focus, creativity and helps you to convey a set of ideas more easily to other people. I often advise clients to develop their ideas in a mind map.

Be it their life vision, business ideas, or website wishes: what used to be an amorphous cloud of thoughts, questions and to do’s through creating the mindmap becomes a beautiful and energizing set of ideas and their relationships.

It may require some exercise, but soon you’ll be drawing mindmaps for everything. All my ideas, I pour in a mind map. Whether it is a vision for years or a site plan for the day: there is a mind map. It especially helps me to clear my mind when it’s overloaded with big and small ideas.

Why mind mapping in stead of a to do list?

The reason that mind mapping works so well is that the mind mapping process reflects our brain processes way better than linear lists do. Think about it: thoughts are never neatly categorized by your thought machine, are they? Details and guidelines, risk factors and pots of gold, they all come in the same minute, with the same sense of urgency. And just when you’re working out something BIG, occasionally there will be a little voice saying: “I need new shoelaces.”

For all those ‘entities’ there is space in the mindmapping process. Eventually, they will all settle in their rightful place.

Become an expertMy dear friend Tomas Libas is rapid learning coach.

In a recent workshop here in Thailand, he advised to always create a mind map when reading a book. This way, you can easily revisit the book anytime and in a glance get the essence of it.

Review your mind maps daily, then weekly, then monthly and yearly and everything you read, will stick.

How to create a mind map

This basic approach has been working wonders for me:

Sit down with an empty sheet of paper (or a few of them), a pen and colored pencils or crayons.

Close your eyes. Take a few slow breaths.

Now gently focus your concentration on the subject of your mindmap.

Then, open your eyes, take the pen and start writing keywords.

Dump all your ideas, knowledge, tasks (depending on what your mind maps is about) from your brain onto paper. Use keywords. It may be criss-cross. You will categorize later, don’t worry about that now. Good or bad idea, important or unimportant, large or small, crazy or completely obvious, everything gets a spot. Just write down everything that comes to mind.

It’s like popping popcorn

Have you ever popped popcorn (in a pan or in the microwave oven)? Have you noticed how the speed at which the corn kernels pop first increases, until there’s a blast, and then it slows down?

Mindmapping feels the same. You will notice that at first you’ll be searching a bit, preparing the brain for the release to come. Finding the ‘way in’.

Probably within one or a few minutes, you will be writing fast, because there is so much ‘stuff’ (from the brightest insight to the smallest nagging thought) occupying space in your mind that wants to come out. This will build up to the ‘popcorn blast’.

Finally, you will slow down. The rate at which new ideas surface, will decrease. You will know when you are ready. Take a minute to enjoy the spaciousness of your mind at ease…. Ahhhhh.

Now, it’s time for the next step.

In a moment, you’ll circle the words that are related with the same color. First, take a moment to look at your paper and take up the words that are there.

You will start to see how some of them belong together in groups. So now, grab your crayons and start circling, using one color for each group.

This is the part where new insights often emerge as well! For example, you may find a whole new source of solutions to your problem.

Tennis-mindmapFinished with coloring? Grab a new sheet of paper, put your subject in the center and from the center, draw branches. give each color its own branch. If a group is subdivided, make a smaller branch. You may also doodle and get all artsy with it, if you like. When you finish, you have a colorful and inspiring image instead of a boring list like any other.

New links and fresh ideas
In workshops, I have facilitated groups of people in mindmapping together. That is a magical process where new things arise that previously didn’t. This happens also if you make a mind map just for yourself: you will start to see connections that you had not put first. Insights and epiphanies will arise, and you and your project can go into flow.

Many people use a mind map when they give a presentation. It’s easier to remember your presentation and improvisation comes more naturally when using a mindmap. The one that is shown above, for example, would be great if you wanted to teach people the basics of tennis.

In the Inspired Web Presence Program, one of the many things we cover is how you can use the mindmapping process to create awesome, inspiring blog posts or a the outline of an ebook, for example. Learn more.

This blog post is an adaptation of my earlier post on mindmapping on my Dutch website: In1DagOnline.nl.