Mind Mapping Strategies for Thinking through and Accomplishing Tasks

Mind maps, in the classical sense of webbing, drive me nuts. By the time I get the spokes constructed with all the important points, I can’t figure out what is important or where to start.

For years I used lists as a way to organize my life. As I became busier and the jobs became more detailed, I discovered that I wasn’t any more organized with lists and I still didn’t have the slightest clue as to where to begin.

I have since discovered that graphic organizers aren’t just webs or spokes around a main idea. They are any form that visually breaks a project down into its respective parts that allow you to distinguish a beginning, a middle, and an end. I’ve also discovered that no one particular map fits all my needs.

I use positive / negative columns, similar to the positive / negative chart used for graphing in algebra, for those opportunities that I have been offered but still can’t quite see why I should be doing them. I divide my paper in half one side for the possible positive outcomes of an action, the other side for the possible negative outcomes of an action. I also use it for ferreting out old habits and beliefs that might keep me from accomplishing a goal. I look for best possible outcomes and worst possible outcomes. I let my mind dream and then I let my ego and experience tell me all the things that could go wrong. With this information in hand, I can make an informed decision about whether or not to accept or continue with an opportunity. I also use it to help me decide about relationships with people in my life. It gives me that confirmation about what is good in a relationship, what needs to change, and by adding a third column for old habits and beliefs, I can facilitate change in myself and the relationship itself.

I’ve found the flow chart method to be very helpful, but I don’t go from left to right. I always start out with the desired outcome what is to be accomplished. Sometimes I place it in the right hand corner of a page and work my way backwards, or I’ll put it at the top or maybe the bottom of a page. Always I am answering the question: in order for this to happen, what has to happen first or what has to happen next? I draw lines between the steps and number them, in pencil, so that I can erase or rearrange as I add more points and steps. This usually gives me the answer of where to start and how to get from point A to point Z.

I also use a Back Flow chart for time management. It follows the principle of: the project is due Friday, today is Monday, what all has to happen before I can turn it in? I list those out, put them on a calendar in sequence so that I know that I have completed all the steps in time. It helps me with procrastination and by breaking the project into parts, I don’t feel as overwhelmed. An example of this is writing a report. I know the report is due Friday, today is Monday. I know that I have to do research, check with office staff, look into community repercussions, draft a rough draft, have the rough draft edited by someone other than me, fix the draft and submit it. So I set aside Monday for research. Tuesday I’ll check with office staff and look into community repercussions; Wednesday I’ll write a draft, and have someone check it. Thursday, early, I’ll have the draft edited just in case I was still writing Wednesday and make the changes. Friday I’ll submit it.

I still use lists. They are a great way for me to get a feel for how much I know about a project and how much I need to learn. I also use them for setting priorities and to remind me just what needs to be accomplished in a single day not a week. A week list of what needs to be done creates a feeling of too much in too little time.

The trick to mind mapping is not which format you use; it is using the format that meets the need the right tool at the right time.