The Complete Guide on How to Mind Map for Beginners

Tony Buzan

The more you know and learn, the easier it is to learn and know more.

What is Mind Mapping?

Mind mapping is a visual information management tool that enables us to structure, organize, memorize, arrange, brainstorm and learn information in a highly specialized way.

The past 10 years have brought us amazing insights into the human mind and our limitless capacity to think, comprehend and store large reservoirs of information. If anything, these studies have proven that our capacity to think effectively and quickly is very closely tied to our imagination and our ability to create associations between information chunks.

Mind mapping has come a long way since the early days when Tony Buzan introduced it to the world. It is now on the brink of becoming a mainstream tool that enables academic students, business professionals and many other individuals to tackle and take control of the overwhelming amount of information that we are forced to absorb every single day.

These days mind mapping isn’t all about the map. It’s rather evolving into a visual information management tool that is transforming the way we think and work on a daily basis — bringing into perspective the critical importance of developing our visual thinking capacity.

The Visual Mapping Evolution

Visual mapping has come into its own over the past five years. There are now more visual mapping software applications out in the market than can be counted on our fingers and toes.

The world of information organization is definitely changing course, and visual mapping is quietly becoming the revolutionary tool that will enable the few early adopters to gain a foothold and advantage within their industry. The question is,

Are you on board yet?

Today’s discussion will provide you with a solid overview of the principles behind visual mapping from a beginner’s perspective. We will also explore several visual mapping examples using different mind mapping software programs — providing you with a visual comparison of the features and the graphical environment of each tool. The bulk of the discussion will however be built upon the IQ Matrix map presented at the top of this post.

We will begin our exploration by defining the process of mind mapping. After which we will delve into the benefits of mind mapping and describe a variety of uses for mind maps. We will conclude our discussion by taking a look at the industry accepted standards of how to draw a mind map and explore the specific rules of mind mapping.

The mind map rules that will be discussed are actually expanded in great depth within each of the computer generated mind map images presented towards the end of this post.

Defining Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a method of storing, organizing, prioritizing, learning, reviewing and memorizing information. It presents an overview and summary of a body of knowledge that fuses words and pictures together — helping simulate logic and creativity for proficient and effective thinking practices involving the five senses.

What is a mind map

The Benefits of Mind Mapping

The benefits of mind mapping / visual mapping are extensive and far reaching — naturally expanding our psychological thinking capacity and ability to think laterally in any given situation.

Here are some of the prolonged benefits that serious/committed mind mappers who consistently use mind maps to clarify their thinking and organize their ideas gain on a daily basis:

  • Improved capacity to see the bigger picture.
  • Improved capacity to see detailed information.
  • Improved capacity to remember complex information.
  • Improved capacity to remember related chunks of information.
  • Improved capacity to cope with mental clutter.
  • Improved capacity to cope and manage periods of information overload.
  • Improved imagination.
  • Improved memory and retention.
  • Improved levels of concentration.
  • Improved note-taking ability.
  • Improved level of interest in the content or subject one is studying.
  • Improved problem solving ability.
  • Improved capacity to manage academic workload. [see: smart study habits]
  • Helps unlock hidden understandings within information chunks.
  • Helps unlock unexpected creative insights and ideas.
  • Helps save time.
  • Helps make learning fun.
  • Clarifies goals.
  • Clarifies plans of action.
  • Clarifies ideas.
  • Clarifies habitual patterns of thinking.
  • Triggers creative associations.
  • Triggers comparison of facts, stats, data and ideas.
  • And much more that is based upon personal experience and ability.

All the benefits presented above are of course open for discussion and interpretation. However, keep in mind that the true benefit lies with committing yourself to the act of using mind maps for a period of at least two weeks, and measuring the results for yourself.

Remember that you don’t necessarily need to be a visual thinker to benefit from this process.

Visual maps don’t require the use of images, and can in fact be built entirely around keywords and phrases in a somewhat linear fashion. Either way, they will assist you to better organize and manage the plethora of information that you are exposed to every single day.

The Benefits of Mind Mapping

Using Mind Maps

Since the dawn of the Internet age, mind mapping has been growing steadily as an accepted way of storing and organizing information. Over this time, many people have shared extraordinary tales of how they use this visual thinking medium to organize, manage and improve their lives.

Mind Mapping for Work Productivity

Here are some ways people use visual mapping at work:

  • Planning sales strategy.
  • Planning marketing strategy.
  • Organizing and managing projects.
  • Organizing and managing meetings.
  • Preparing for networking.
  • Preparing for interviews, and conducting interviews.
  • Business planning.
  • Research and development.

Mind Mapping for Academic Success

Here are some ways students use visual mapping at school:

  • Learning languages.
  • Learning grammar.
  • Preparing for examinations.
  • Preparing structure for essays.
  • Preparing presentations.
  • For teaching purposes.
  • Brainstorming ideas.
  • Problem solving.
  • Thinking creatively and critically about topics.
  • Memorizing subject notes, books and materials.
  • For general study and revision of information.

Mind Mapping for Life Management

Here are some ways people use visual mapping to manage their life:

  • Managing time.
  • Managing events.
  • Goal setting.
  • Keeping a diary.
  • Holiday planning.
  • Financial planning.
  • Tracking important dates, events and information.

What can be achieved, and the amount of information we can manage at one time using visual mind maps is absolutely extraordinary. And this list only scrapes the surface of what is possible.

Drawing Mind Maps

Drawing a Mind Map is a rather simple process once you have a grasp of the basic structure. It’s in fact a process that requires very little step-by-step explanation. For that reason I will present it here as briefly as possible.

Here are some quick guidelines to help you draw your first mind map.

  • Take a large sheet of paper and place it horizontally in front of you.
  • Draw a reasonably sized (colored) memorable central image that represents the topic you are going to be mapping.
  • Draw at least four thick organic looking branches radiating outwards from the central image. Make sure to use a different color to represent each branch.
  • Write key-topic words along these branches that represent the central image and the topic you are mapping.
  • Draw additional branches that extend from your main branches. The words on these branches are sub-topics of the words you wrote on your main branches.
  • Keep expanding the mind map outwards with additional sub sub-topics/keywords and branches.
  • Refer to the mind mapping rules presented within the next section to help improve your memory and recall of the information contained within the mind map you are creating.

For more information about drawing a mind map step-by-step see Drawing a Mind Map from Start to Finish.

Mind Map Rules

The content of this section is built upon the mind map software examples presented within the next section. You will gain significantly by downloading these images and referring to them as you move through the content presented here. These mind map software screen captures will also provide you with a visual representations of the key points of emphasis discussed below.

In order to improve your memory and recall of the mind map you are drawing, it is important to use a number of imaginative tools that will help stimulate deeper associations.

The Rules for Mind Mapping

Please keep in mind that it’s not necessary to use all these suggestions, however by incorporating them, you will build a strong long-term memory of the information you are learning.

  • Use symbols to classify different types of thoughts and ideas.
  • Use keywords on lines. Short phrases can also work well.
  • Use multi-headed arrows of varying color, size, style and dimensions.
  • Use codes to help draw your attention to specific sections of the map.
  • Use good spacing between topics to separate your ideas.
  • Use stimulating images and colors throughout the map.
  • Use images to represent words in a metaphorical, sound-like, or in a direct manner.
  • Create boundaries and borders to draw attention to specific branches.
  • Create linear hierarchies of ordered numbers, lists and letters.
  • Create line-hierarchies by radiating from thick to thin lines.
  • Create word-hierarchies by varying word sizes to emphasize importance.
  • Create memorable central image and associative pictures.
  • Draw different shapes to represent ideas and segments of the map.
  • Draw multi-dimensional words and objects.
  • Draw thick branches that radiate outwards away from the central image.
  • Vary word-case. Use UPPER and lower case to emphasize importance of words.
  • Vary font styles to separate ideas and topics.
  • Vary branch colors in order to separate topics.
  • Vary branch endings in order to emphasize words or phrases.
  • Vary branch thickness in order to highlight specific ideas.
  • Vary image/picture colors, emphasis, and size to enhance memory and recall.

For information on how to study using a mind map, please have a look at Mind Mapping Study Skills.

Drawing mind maps in this way helps to stimulate imagination while at the same time creating strong associations. And it is these two factors that stimulate long-term memory and recall of information.

Below is a mind map drawn by Paul Foreman presenting the above mentioned mind mapping rules in a visually stunning graphical format.

How to Mind Map

Drawing mind maps in this way allows for greater flexibility and freedom, while providing your mind with avenues for creative self-expression.

To see more of Paul Foreman’s ever growing collection of creative and inspirational mind maps, please visit his Mind Map Inspiration blog.

Paul also has a a wonderful Drawing Tips for Mind Mapping ebook where he teaches how to create mind maps from scratch.

For further insight into Paul’s drawing and mind mapping techniques, have a read of How I Drew My Mind Maps ebook. Here Paul discusses how he draws his mind maps step-by-step in a simple and easy to follow manner.

Here is a fantastic overview video showing how a mind map is created.

Comparing Mind Mapping Software Applications

There are several dozen visual mapping software applications available today.

For links and information about these software applications, please read Advanced Mind Mapping Study Skills.

Below I have presented the mind mapping rules (discussed above) within four leading visual mapping software applications. Each one represents this information in a slightly different way.

A short explanation of each software’s unique features is presented under the images.

These images will provide you with a good point-of-reference of the capabilities of each software application. However, keep in mind that each software also has other additional features and tools that you can only come to appreciate through use and application.

Tony Buzan’s iMindMap

iMindMap How to Mind Map Example

iMindMap is a cartoon-like Mind Mapping software applications that most closely resembles the process of the hand-drawn mind mapping presented by Paul Foreman. This software is designed and created by Tony Buzan the world renowned author who for many years has been a pioneer within the mind mapping community.

The software is relatively simple to use, allowing each user the ability to draw and extend branches with their mouse or a computer pen. Content is added to each branch via the keyboard once that branch (line) has been selected. Colors, fonts, images, symbols, and discrete notes can also be added to each branch as required.

The software is quite pleasing on the eyes from a graphical perspective, and is probably most suited to young children and those who are just starting out with mind mapping. However, iMindMap does lack quite a number of business, productivity and information-organization related features that can be found in the other software packages presented within this post.

Personally, I use iMindMap to present simple snippets of information in a creative and visually appealing way.

Mindjet MindManager

MindManager How to Mind Map Example

MindManager is a feature rich mind mapping application that structures content and information in a very systematic and organized way. Predominantly used for business purposes, MindManager is today gaining inroads into educational institutions and the home environment.

MindManager provides the user with great flexibility to organize, arrange and categorize information in a variety of ways, while providing seamless Microsoft Office and Outlook integration. The software also allows the user to attach discrete notes to every branch, to insert symbols, images, web-pages, file shortcuts and folder links.

The recent version of MindManager now comes with an integrated browser and enables users to save their mind map creations in an interactive pdf format that can be shared with others who don’t have access to the software application.

I have personally used MindManager extensively for the past five years to plan my blog posts, set goals, organize my time, manage the information I am learning on a daily basis, brainstorm ideas, and much more. My life would no doubt be very cluttered without it. 🙂


NovaMind Mind Map Example

The visual mapping market is very broad, as each software application positions itself within the marketplace somewhat differently. At one end, we have the cartoon-like layout of iMindMap. While at the other end of the spectrum there is the very structured layout of MindManager which is primarily used for business mapping purposes. There are also 3D applications such as Topicscape which is discussed a little later.

NovaMind seamlessly blends the features found within iMindMap and MindManager and improves on them in several respects.

Within NovaMind you have the ability to position the branches exactly where you want them (which you can’t do within MindManager), while at the same time having the ability to create different branch styles (which you can’t do in iMindMap). On top of this NovaMind also provides the use of many different layout options like the rainbox coloring, FlexiBranches, attached graphics and text, reflections, glassy styles, and high quality images in the graphics libraries, all of which enable the user to make absolutely stunning mind maps easily.

NovaMind also allows the user to edit the outline of the mind map on the same screen as the mind map itself (something that can’t be executed within MindManager or iMindMap) which helps people who like to work backwards and forwards between the two representations.

NovaMind is great for teaching and learning, as it provides a number of unique and helpful features like the Suggesterator which suggests new ideas related to what you already have on your mind map. There is also the BranchStorm capability which helps you blast ideas out very quickly, while providing the user with the ability to print out mind maps without text on the branches to assist with note-taking, memorization and revision.

NovaMind also has specialist features for screenwriting, presentations, and project management, as well as a long list of import and export options, including the NovaMind Connect social mind map sharing community.

I’ve only recently been introduced to NovaMind, and on first impressions its ease of use and features have surpassed my expectations. It’s definitely a mind mapping software application for the creative mind, and for those who seek a feature packed flexible solution for information management purposes.

The Mind Mapping Process

Final Thoughts

I hope that this introduction to visual mapping has helped answer some of the questions you might have had about the tool that is gaining momentum within both academic and business circles. If you haven’t as yet used visual mapping at home, school or at work, then the chances are that over the next five to ten years you probably will.

Mind mapping is growing in popularity every single day and gaining an ever greater foothold within niche specific industries where information management is of critical importance. As a result, it will continue to grow and expand as the software tools evolve and adapt to our ever changing needs for information management.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

How to Mind Map

Download Using Map Free Maps

Did you gain value from this article? Would you like to keep these concepts at the forefront of your mind? If so, then you might like to download the accompanying mind map reference poster to your iPad, tablet or computer. The map presents you with a quick overview of this article. It’s designed specifically to help improve your memory and recall of this information so that you can better integrate these concepts into your daily thoughts, habits and actions. Your purchase will also go a long way towards supporting the further development of these maps.

If you enjoy using these mind maps, then why not become an IQ Matrix lifetime member where you will gain access to an ever-growing library of hundreds of self-growth mind maps that can help you excel in every area of life. Find out more by clicking on the banner below.

IQ Matrix Lifetime Membership

Free Articles and Resources

Here are a number of highly recommended free articles and online resources that will further help expand your understanding of mind mapping:

Mind Mapping Software Applications

Here are several mind mapping software applications you might like to check out. These applications are either free, or they come with a free trial period. Some of these applications are cloud-based, and ideal for collaboration. Many of them are also cross-platform applications that can be used on a Mac or PC. Xmind, Mindomo, and FreeMind have Linux versions. You will also find iOS and Android versions of some of these apps. Visit each website link for more information.

Recommended Books

Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam's story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.