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What Is A Mind Map And How To Get Started

Published on 13/02/2020 by Anna Hammond

“I’m not a naturally creative person.” We’ve all said it, haven’t we? If big ideas don’t come easily to you, planning projects can be a nightmare.

Luckily, mind maps are a great way to bring out the creative side in anyone. With simple and elegant modern mind mapping software available, you’ll find that planning is suddenly a whole lot easier.

what is a mind map

In this article, we cover some mind map basics, such as:

  • What is a mind map?
  • What industries use mind maps?
  • Why are they helpful?
  • How to get started.

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a simple but elegant way of organising your ideas. You may have seen—or used—mind maps before, without knowing it. Teachers love them as a way of getting kids to think, so you might well have come across them in the classroom. Of course, that was many years ago, and you probably haven’t given them a second thought since then!

The beauty of a mind map lies in its simplicity. Take up your pen, and write your topic in the centre of a blank sheet of paper. Then use lines to create a circle of subtopics around it. You can then use lines to branch out from each subtopic, going into more detail where necessary.

You can make mind maps about anything. For a mind map example, imagine that you’re planning a wedding. You start by writing in the centre of the page: ‘Scott and Charlotte’. Then you begin with the subtopics: Clothes, theme, food, entertainment.

As the list goes on, you start developing each subtopic. For example, ‘clothes’ leads to ‘dresses’, which leads to ‘bridesmaid’ and ‘bride’. ‘Entertainment’ takes you to ‘DJ’, ‘first dance’, and ‘photobooth’. With a mind map, the only limit is your imagination.

What industries use mind maps?

Mind map example
A typical mind map example.

Mind mapping is growing in popularity across the world of business. It is commonly used in a number of ways: First, people across industries use mind maps to brainstorm and plan projects. A large scale project may seem daunting until you start mind mapping, and realise that it can be broken down into chunks that are easier to handle.

As mind maps are easy to read and process, they can also be used as presentation tools, and offer a more dynamic alternative to bullet-point lists. They’re great within a team, too, helping you to identify different task areas and quickly assign responsibility. That’s why mind mapping software is growing. Rather than the traditional pen and paper method, computer mind maps allow you to update and change where necessary, and you can share mind maps with your entire team, which helps create a more collaborative process.

Why are they helpful?

Mind mapping experts have identified plenty of reasons to use these tools. For many people, the advantage is simple: They help break a project down into manageable pieces. Planning a project can be nervewracking, particularly if it’s your first time—but when you create a mind map, you’ll see that the event is not a single, daunting monolith, but rather the sum of a number of small parts, which can be tackled step by step.

The advantage of a mind map over a list is that a mind map is not linear. On a list, the items fall into a particular order, with the most important at the top. On a mind map, on the other hand, nothing takes precedence. This makes it a great tool for project management in a team, as it can help soothe tensions between members.

Mind maps also allow you to show connections between different things. By thinking in terms of topics and subtopics, or categories, you can identify how everything fits together, which helps you see the bigger picture of your project. 

Finally, many people find them to be an easy way to inspire ideas. When you start mind mapping, you’ll find that creativity flows more readily than with other planning tools.

What should a mind map include?

A mind map should include all the topics and subtopics that will be involved in your project. It can be as detailed as you want it to be. A good idea, particularly if you are new to the world of mind maps, is to keep it simple. Keep topic labels limited to one or two words. Remember, you are coming up with the skeleton, not fleshing out the details.

Many users find that their creativity flourishes more when they vary the size of words, or use different colours, in a mind map. This gives the tool a more vibrant, dynamic feel than a classic list, and also helps you sort things quickly into more than one category.

How to draw a mind map

To begin your mind map, start at the centre, with your main topic, then begin branching out. Make sure you leave enough space between subtopics to create more, smaller branches. You never know how many you’ll need, and you might be surprised by the ideas that come up as you continue the process.

Use computerised mind mapping programmes to make the process easier, and to enable you to share your ideas quickly with your teammates, and together come up with new, collaborative solutions.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.