If you missed my last post, A Swiss Army Knife for Your Brain, what you’re about to read may not make much sense. Previously, I gave a shout-out to Tony Buzan for his big idea: Mind Mapping. I attempted to outline why it is a tool that you may want to explore. Today, assuming you want to give it a try, I’ll lay out a few ideas to help you get started.

Here are a few of the traditional guidelines that make mind maps powerful.

A central image – Start every map by drawing a picture in the center of the page that represents your question, problem, opportunity or big idea. When planning for birthday party for a five-year old, you may want to draw a cake with 5 candles.

Radiant design – Once you’ve got your central image, begin to capture the ideas that flow from that central image. And then again from those ideas, radiate out further. In the birthday party example, you may have identified theme, cost, guests, location and food as the main branches. Next, begin to explore each of these, but remember, you don’t have to do them in any particular order or sequence. Let the ideas flow.

One word per line – This is a discipline to capture the essence of an idea. Not the entire idea. This keeps your map readable and forces you to use precise language. If more detail is needed, that can radiate from a previous word/image. In the birthday example, theme may lead you to circus. Beyond that you may want to put clown on one line, pony on one line, games on one line.

The use of color – Color stimulates the right side of your brain. If your objective is recall, color will make this much easier. Also, color can be used to help organize your map. Different sections can be color coded to assist in grouping ideas.

The use of images – Like color, images stimulate the right side of your brain. Even more so because when you create a mind map, you draw the pictures yourself.

Connectivity of ideas – Just like the big ideas connect to the smaller ones through the lines on your map, you can also show connections between ideas. In the birthday party example, you could draw a line between cost and guests to remind you that the number of guests needs to be linked to your budget.

Multiple drafts – If I’m going to use a mind map to do a presentation, I usually do three drafts: One to create the presentation, one to make it look presentable (in one color) and a final version in which I add color. If you are an artist, you may be able to compress the process.

A final word on mind mapping. You don’t have to be an artist to do this. Unless you choose to use your map to make a presentation, no one ever needs to see it. Think of it as part of your personal preparation process – behind the curtain – if that makes you feel better about trying it.

Here’s my final encouragement to you – try it. Try it to make notes, or to help you memorize some important information, or just to generate ideas. I believe it’s a tool that will serve you well. Have fun![GLS_Shield]

If you’ll send me one of your mind maps, I’ll post some of them in the future.

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.