The more you know and learn, the easier it is to learn and know more. – Tony Buzan
What is Mind Mapping?
Mind mapping is a visual information management tool that helps us structure, organize, memorize, arrange, brainstorm and learn information in a highly specialized way.
The past 20 years have brought us incredible insights into the human mind and our limitless capacity to think, comprehend and store vast reserves of information.
If anything, these studies have highlighted that our capacity to think effectively and quickly is very closely tied to our imagination and our ability to create associations between various information chunks.
Mind mapping has come a long way since the early days when Tony Buzan first introduced it to the world. It is now on the brink of becoming a mainstream tool used by academics, students, business professionals and many other individuals to manage, organize and reimagine information in a new and highly structured way.
These days though, mind mapping isn’t just about creating a map. It’s instead evolving into a visual information management tool that’s transforming the way we think, work, and develop our visual thinking capacity.
The Visual Mapping Evolution
Visual mapping has slowly crept into mainstream awareness over a period of about 10 years. There are now a plethora of visual mapping software applications available on all platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Our methods for organizing information are changing dramatically, and visual mapping is quietly becoming a revolutionary tool that’s keeping us organized, productive, and focused. The question is…
Are you on board yet?
What follows is a beginner’s overview of the principles behind mind mapping.
Along the way, we will also explore several mind mapping examples using a variety of mind mapping software programs. This exploration will provide you with a visual comparison of the features of each tool to help you figure out whether or not it might be suitable for your purposes.
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 mind maps and the rules that govern their design.
A Broader Definition of Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a method for 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.
Mind mapping seamlessly blends logic and creative thought to help us think more proficiently and effectively about the subject we are learning.
What are the Benefits of Mind Mapping?
The benefits of mind mapping are extensive and far-reaching.
In a general way, mind mapping expands our ability to think laterally and logically in any given situation.
Listed below are several benefits of using mind maps for thinking, organizing information, and brainstorming ideas.
- Helps you grasp a big picture overview of the subject under study.
- Improves your capacity to explore detailed snippets of information.
- Helps improve your memory, retention, and comprehension of information.
- Helps you organize information into easy to remember chunks.
- Helps reduce mental clutter, cope with information overload, and overwhelm.
- Stimulates the imagination and encourages creative insights and ideas.
- Helps enhance your level of focus and concentration while working or studying.
- Helps expand your ability to take effective, better organized, and more comprehensive notes.
- Makes learning and organizing information fun and exciting, which subsequently strengthens your interest in the subject matter.
- Helps accelerate your ability to solve complex problems.
- Improved your capacity to manage your academic workload.
- Helps unlock hidden understandings within information chunks.
- Helps unlock unexpected creative insights and ideas.
- Helps you save time while working, studying or learning.
- Helps you to prepare for tests and examinations.
- Helps provide you with more clarity about your goals, ideas, and actions.
- Helps triggers creative associations between seemingly unrelated bits of information.
This list of benefits is, of course, by no means comprehensive. There are many more value-added benefits that are specific to individuals who consistently work with mind maps.
To gain actual value from using mind maps, you will need to commit yourself to incorporating them into your work and study routine for at least 30 days. You will need at the very least four weeks to fully comprehend the value that mind maps can bring to your life.
Remember though, that you don’t necessarily need to be a doodler to gain value from using mind maps. Mind mapping isn’t about pretty little pictures and doodles. It’s rather about the structure and process you use to organize and make sense of information.
What Can Mind Maps be Used for?
Since the dawn of the Internet Age, mind mapping has been growing steadily as a traditional method for collating, organizing, and expanding upon existing knowledge and information.
Over this period, many people have shared extraordinary insights about how they have used mind maps to help them organize, manage and improve their lives.
What follows, are various uses for mind maps that people from all walks of life have found of value.
Mind Mapping for Work Productivity
Here are examples of ways professionals use mind mapping at work:
- Planning sales strategy
- Planning marketing strategy
- Organizing and managing projects
- Organizing and managing meetings
- Preparing for networking events
- Preparing for interviews
- Business planning
- Research and development
Mind Mapping for Academic Success
Here are examples of ways students use mind mapping at school:
- Learning languages
- Learning grammar
- Preparing for examinations
- Preparing a structure for writing essays
- Preparing presentations
- Brainstorming ideas
- Solving problems
- 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 examples of ways people use mind mapping to manage their life:
- Managing time
- Managing events
- Goal setting
- Keeping a diary
- Holiday planning
- Financial planning
- Tracking important dates, events, and information
The things that can be achieved and the amount of information we can manage at one time using mind maps is absolutely extraordinary. And this list only scrapes the surface of what’s possible.
How do I Draw a Mind Map?
Drawing a mind map involves a rather simple process. All that’s required is an understanding of its underlying structure.
Mind mapping is, in fact, a process that requires very little step-by-step explanation. For that reason, I will break it down for you here in only a few brief steps.
Here are several quick guidelines to help you get started drawing your very first mind map:
- Take out 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. Alternatively, draw a circle and write some words inside the circle to represent that image.
- Draw at least four thick organic looking branches radiating outwards from the central image. Using a different color for each branch is helpful.
- Write key-words (headings) 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 in the next section to help improve your memory and recall of the information you are mapping.
For more information about how to draw mind map step-by-step, please see Drawing a Mind Map from Start to Finish.
What are the Rules for Mind Mapping?
The content in this section is built upon the mind mapping software examples presented in the next section.
You will gain significant value by downloading these images and referring to them as you work through the mind mapping rules listed below.
These mind mapping software screenshots will likewise provide you with a visual representation of the critical points of emphasis discussed below.
To improve your memory and recall of the mind map you are creating, it’s essential to use some creative tools that will help stimulate deeper conscious awareness and free association.
Please keep in mind that it’s not necessary to follow all the guidelines listed below. However, it can be incredibly helpful if you check all of them off your list. That’s because following each guideline will help improve your memory and recall of the information you are mind mapping.
Okay, here are several mind mapping rules you should keep in mind when creating your mind maps.
- 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 proper 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 a hierarchy of lines where they start off think then thin out as they expand outward.
- Draw thick branches that radiate outwards away from the central image.
- Create word-hierarchies by varying word sizes to emphasize their level of importance.
- Use UPPER and lower case to emphasize the importance of each word.
- Create a memorable central image and complementary visuals that come off the main branches.
- Draw different shapes to represent ideas and segments of the map.
- Vary font styles to separate ideas and topics.
- Vary branch colors to distinguish different topics.
- Vary branch endings to emphasize words and phrases.
- Vary branch thickness to highlight specific ideas.
- Vary image colors, emphasis, and size to improve memory and recall.
For information on how to study using mind maps, please have read of mind mapping study skills.
Drawing mind maps in this way help stimulate our imaginations, form stronger visual associations while improving memory and recall of the information we are learning.
Below is a mind map that was drawn by Paul Foreman. It presents the above-mentioned mind mapping rules in a visually beautiful and practical way.
Drawing mind maps in this way allow for greater flexibility and freedom. It provides your brain with avenues for creative self-expression.
To see more of Paul Foreman’s collection of creative and inspirational mind maps, please visit his Mind Map Inspiration website.
Paul also has a beautiful 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. There Paul discusses how he draws his mind maps using a simple and easy to follow process of steps.
Creating a Mind Map Using Mind Mapping Software
These days there are a wide array of mind mapping software applications available on the market. Whether you’re on a PC, a MAC, using Android, iOS, or Linux, there is a mind mapping application available for every platform.
Below I have represented the mind mapping rules (discussed above) using 3 leading mind mapping software applications.
As you will see below, each mind mapping application represents these rules in a slightly different way. I have also provided a short explanation of each software applications unique features below each image.
These images will provide you with a good point-of-reference of what each software application is capable of. However, do keep in mind that each software has many other additional features that I do not explore in this article.
iMindMap is a cartoon-like mind mapping software applications that most closely resembles the hand-drawn mind maps created by Paul Foreman. The design of this software is also very heavily influenced by Tony Buzan’s rules for mind mapping.
The software is relatively simple to use, allowing each user the ability to draw and extend branches with their mouse or a digital 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 to the eyes from a graphical perspective and is probably most suited to young children and those who are starting out with mind mapping.
In recent years, iMindMap has been adding a ton of new features and capabilities to each version of their software. It began as a straightforward mind mapping tool. However, today it has a plethora of features for students, business professionals, or those looking for a robust information management tool. Definitely one of the better options on the market today.
MindManager is a feature-rich mind mapping application that structures content and information in a very systematic and organized way.
MindManager’s primary market seems to be business professionals. Their approach to mind mapping is very elegant and straightforward.
It doesn’t look as flashy from a graphical perspective when compared to iMindMap. However, it has a vast array of features for managing information, projects, goals and more.
MindManager provides the user the ability to organize, arrange and categorize information in a variety of ways. It also integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office and Outlook.
MindManager allows you to attach discrete notes to every branch, to insert symbols, images, web-pages, file shortcuts, folder links, and more. It also has a Gannt Chart and Flowchart feature.
MindManager also comes with an integrated web browser and permits 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 since 2008 to plan my blog posts, set goals, organize my time, manage the information I am learning, brainstorm ideas, and much more. My life would no doubt be very cluttered without it. 🙂
NovaMind seamlessly blends the features found within iMindMap and MindManager and improves on them in several respects.
Within NovaMind you can position the branches exactly where you want them on the map. Moreover, you can create different branch styles as you can see in the example above.
NovaMind also gives users the option to use a variety of layouts and to attach graphics and text to their mind maps. They have a fantastic graphics libraries, all of which help the user produce beautiful mind maps.
NovaMind is excellent 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. The user can also 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.
NovaMind hasn’t received as many updates or upgrades as iMindMap and MindManager over the years. However, it’s still a fantastic option for those on a budget who are looking for a reliable mind mapping software solution.
Finally, I would also recommend taking a look at Xmind. They offer a free and paid version of their mind mapping software application.
I hope that this introduction to mind maps has helped answer some of the questions you might have had about mind mapping and the various software applications that are available on the market today.
Mind mapping is growing in popularity every year 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, evolve, and adapt to our ever-changing information management needs.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. It’s kind of like implanting a thought into your brain – an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas. 🙂
Recommended IQ Matrix Bundles
If you’re intrigued by the idea of using mind maps for self-improvement then I would like to invite you to become an IQ Matrix Member.
If you’re new to mind mapping or just want to check things out, then register for the Free 12 Month Membership Program. There you will gain access to over 90 mind maps, visual tools, and resources valued at over $500.
If, on the other hand, you want access to an ever-growing library of 100s of visual tools and resources, then check out our Premium Membership Packages. These packages provide you with the ultimate visual reference library for all your personal development needs.
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:
- 10 Tony Buzan Mind Mapping Laws You Should Follow @ Magnetic Memory Method
- Drawing a Mind Map from Start to Finish @ Mind Map Inspiration
- How to Make a Mind Map @ WikIT
- Learn How to Draw Mind Maps @ Mind Tools
- How to Create a Mind Map @ HubPages
- The Mind Mapping Directory
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.
- Xmind (free)
- FreePlane (free)
- FreeMind (free)
- Mind Manager
- Coggle (cloud)
- Bubbl (cloud)
- Drawing Tips for Mind Mapping by Paul Foreman
- How I Drew My Mind Maps by Paul Foreman
- The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential by Tony Buzan & Barry Buzan
- Mapping Inner Space: Learning & Teaching Visual Mapping by Nancy Marqulies & Nusa Maal
- Idea Mapping: How to Access Your Hidden Brain Power, Learn Faster, Remember More, and Achieve Success in Business by Jamie Nast
- Mindmapping: Your Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity & Problem-Solving by Joyce Wycoff
- Mind Maps at Work: How to Be the Best at Your Job & Still Have Time to Play by Tony Buzan
- Visual Thinking: Tools for Mapping Your Ideas by Nancy Marqulies & Christine Valenza
- Thinking Visually: Business Applications of 14 Core Diagrams by Malcolm Craig