Mind Mapping Strategies for Thinking through and Accomplishing Tasks

Creating a map of your thoughts is simple and fun. It will help you generate ideas, expand your creative awareness and clear away mental blocks. When too many thoughts are racing around your head you need a way to unload. Do you have a great idea you want to explore? Making a visual map can solve your problems. Perhaps, you’ve been given a large project to unwrap and dissect; charting a map of your thoughts and ideas will help you find solutions. Let’s begin to get down on paper each thought as it emerges:

1. Gather your tools.

Find paper, the larger the better. Lay it lengthwise like a panorama. The white rolls of paper used for newsprint work great for large projects. (Boeing Corp. once created a 25 ft. long map for one of their projects.) Get colored pencils and magic markers.

2. Pick a style.

Think of the Barnum & Bailey’s Circus wagon using the 40-horse hitch. The wagon is the central idea; each set of sub-points represents a hitch. The stagecoach wheel or hub and spoke method, symbolizes the central idea as the hub and each sub-point shoots outward toward the rim. A spidergram as opposed to the tree diagram mimics the spider web, where the latter can have the roots placed at the left, right, top or bottom. Bubbles, clouds, stars, interlocking wheels, anything you want to use to chart your map and connect the dots go ahead and use. You can do it anyway you like.

3. Use images, symbols and color.

If an image comes to mind which is representative of your idea, draw it. Cut pictures out of a magazine if you want to. Have a symbol for the concept? Doodle it. Want it in color? Color it. Make it fun. Make it play time. Your initial map is to be done as a free-form exercise. Relax, enjoy it and later you can analyze the data.

4. Write down your central idea, problem or project.

Place your key word, picture or symbol anywhere on the page, as long as you have enough room to branch out. You are recording a train of thought that will switch tracks as your intuition guides you during the process.

Become Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew

The more questions you ask and the further you place your ideas under a microscope the more you will glean in the process. The following tips will help when exploring:

* SWOT analysis, which is an acronym for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat;

* Who, What, Where, When, How and Why;

* Edward de Bono’s, Six Thinking Hats (1985) states each of his six hats, represent six thinking strategies. The Red Hat represents Emotional thinking. The Yellow Hat represents Positive thinking. The Black Hat represents Critical thinking. The White Hat is purely the facts. The Green Hat is Creative thinking. The Blue Hat represents the Big Picture.

Historical records indicate the system of transforming ideas into a map, originates with the 3rd century thinker, Porphyry of Tyros. He was determined to categorize Aristotle’s vast and varied studies. Cognitive maps, concept maps and mental models surfaced through experimentation and began to give rise to further studies on the brain and how we sort, process and retain information. Tony Bruzan’s, The Mind Map Book (1991) further expands the theories in natural thought processes and Mind Mapping techniques.

Today, there are many software tools available to visually map and organize your data; however, the quickest way to get it out of your head is on to a sheet of paper.

Creating a map of your mind will help you in personal study, as well as, the workplace to brainstorm new projects. Begin right now. Go ahead Dare to succeed!