Some people start mind mapping and they're changed forever. They can't stop raving about it.
Then there's another group of people, which you might be in.
It's the group that tries out mind mapping, but finds there's something not quite working for them.
If I'm describing you, read on. I'm going to cover what I think are the most common stumbling blocks when first using mind maps for whatever you're working on.
And Fear not.
If you've come across a stumbling block that's not included in this article, let me know in the comments and we'll talk about it.
Block #1: I'm doing this wrong
Never. That's impossible.
If you think you're doing it wrong, then you're doing it wrong.
Alright. I'm kidding.
But I don't believe there's a way to “do it wrong.”
Most of your stress from mind mapping will come from you thinking you're doing something wrong and not wanting to make a mistake.
Don't stress out about it.
The process will feel a little weird at first. That's what happens when you try something new. If you keep with it for a few days, that weird feeling goes away and after a few more days of using mind maps, you'll feel like a pro.
Don't wait until you've learned everything about mind mapping before starting. Just get in there and do it.
And stop worrying about rules, or what someone says you should be doing. There's time for that later.
The best way to figure out what works for you is to try it first, without judging yourself. Then go looking for some info and compare it to what you've figured out on your own.
Block #2: I can't pick a program to use
I've tested out and reviewed a ton of programs, and you know what I've found?
Many are really good.
10 years ago there were only a few good programs. Now there are hundreds. In fact, there are so many new ones coming out, I can barely keep up.
The downside to all that choice is that some programs aren't being updated and kept current.
When you're first starting out, there are two things you should look for.
- Is there still development on the program you want to use and a community of other people who use it. A community means you can ask questions if you stumble again.
- Can you get your information out? Are you able to copy and paste your information out and into something else? If so, great. Once you know what you like and don't like, you can feel free to move to a different program.
Thanks Kevin,but you YOU choose for me?
I like a lot of programs, but let me give you two names to look at if you can't get off the fence. If these don't work for you, then just find something else. Don't stress out about it.
Check out XMind. It's what I personally use most of the time. It's not perfect, but it's easy to learn. I'm mentioning XMind because I've also done 60-70 video tutorials on it, so if you have questions, I might have already posted an answer for it. You'll need to download the program and install it (Windows/Mac).
If you don't like my first suggestion, then try Mindomo. It has an app, web interface, and a desktop client. I like it too.
Phew. How was that? I just told you what to do.
If you'd like to get the fire hose treatment and see what I think on a variety of programs, you can have a look at my Visual Mapping Review Series. It's a huge list of reviews I've done. Just don't get bogged down in the minutiae of choosing a program. I'd much rather you START with something, than spend months researching.
Block #3: Should I use Paper, whiteboard, or electronic?
I love this question. Now were talking about something I'm super-passionate about.
My easy answer is YES to all three. They're all great tools to start mind mapping.
There are some tremendous electronic mind mapping resources available, and the offerings are only getting better.
This is a great time to be a mind mapper for sure. I highly recommend choosing an electronic mind mapping program as your main location to store information.
Electronic resources are great, because they're searchable, shareable, and “organizable.”
One thing you'll hear me harp on over and over again is the need to use your mind map to reorganize information you put into it. I suggest treating the map like a living document, and not something that's etched in stone.
I like paper. It's readily available in most cases, and if you want to be even cooler, you can get some flip chart paper at your local business supply store or Amazon.
I don't use it as much anymore, but paper rocks.
I absolutely love using big whiteboards for mind mapping.
There's something about using up a whole wall to put your ideas on. When you're able to write your ideas big, those ideas feel bigger and more tangible. The downside to using a whiteboard is that you either need to use that board to take action, or you'll have to copy the info into an electronic mind map. In many cases, I take a photo with my phone and save it for later.
White boards are my cure for insomnia. When I can't sleep, I head over to my giant whiteboard and write out everything I'm thinking. Then I head to bed and sleep like a baby. The next day I revisit what I've put down and take action on the ideas.
Here's a video I did a while back (2011) about flip charts and whiteboards. The video quality is a little messed up, but the content is still good.
I have a bunch of stupid ideas in my map, now what?
Leave them alone.
Do whatever you'd like. It's your mind map. I personally suggest using mind maps like scrap paper. I try to get absolutely everything out of my head and include it in the map. Then I scratch off (delete) the ideas when they're not useful anymore.
Here's why I think you should write out everything. Sometimes it's the weird or dumb sounding ideas that give you kernels of greatness. You might all of a sudden see a connection between a weird idea and one of your good ones. When you mash them together, the new idea might turn out to be a game changer.
Sometimes mind maps aren't the solution
I know it sounds crazy coming from me – but listen.
I've tried using mind maps for absolutely everything in my life. Most things work brilliantly with them, while others are best served with another tool.
I love mind maps for getting ideas out of my head and organizing them. I also teach people how to take action using mind maps. What I don't want you to do is limit your thinking, by saying that mind maps are the only tool you're going to use from now until eternity.
When I'm writing new blog posts, I usually do my planning in XMind (my everyday mapping program), and then I copy and paste everything into an editor.
If you need to collaborate with others, you may need to choose something else. Part of the decision in what you use needs to be based around the comfort level of the other people in the group. You may end up using Google Docs, which is great, but not as cool as a mind map.
My overall recommendations
Start now – Don't overthink what you're going to use or how you will use it. Start right away and get a feel for what you like and what you don't like. Once you know, you'll be better able to figure out how to use mind mapping to fit your current style.
Don't beat yourself up – No matter what anyone says, there's no “Right” way to mind map. Don't worry about how long or short your lines are. Who cares about colours.
After you've made a few maps, allow yourself to ask, “How could this be clearer?” Then go and read a few more articles or try things out. Don't do that now.
Try it with everything and see what sticks – For a while, pretend the only tool you have are mind maps. It's like the old saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like nails. Who knows. You might find a really cool use for mind maps you'd never thought of. I didn't know I could write a book using mind maps, but it was great.
But like I said earlier. If a use isn't working for your or your group, you have my permission to stop.
Do you have a new stumbling block?
If you're experiencing a stumbling block I haven't mentioned, let me know in the comments down below. We can look at it together and see if we can figure something out.