The idea behind mind mapping is an old process.
The first well regarded use was during the third century when Porphyry of Tyros graphically represented the various categories of Aristotle’s work (as per Wikipedia).
What is mind mapping?
In essence, mind mapping is a way to visually organize your ideas.
In this day and age, we’re constantly surrounded by information.
Mind maps maps allow you to quickly get ideas out of your head. They also help you “See” the ideas. Using maps is a great way to help you collect, connect, and act on your ideas more quickly.
The man credited with coming up with the term mind map that describes a visual web-like structure is Tony Buzan.
The power of seeing your ideas
One of the biggest benefits of mind mapping is the ability to see your ideas. There's something amazing about having your ideas in a visual format right in front of you. It's much different than using a Word document, or writing things out on scraps of paper. I highly suggest you try out mind mapping for yourself to get a feel for how information is organized.
Try to think of mind mapping like organized sketching. When you sketch, you have unlimited choice in how you place your ideas. A mind map provides just enough structure so you can group similar ideas together. And it lets you go back to easily find what you're looking for later on.
“When you look at it, it just makes sense.” – Kevin Achtzener
“It's how our brains our constructed”
Humans are visual creatures. I think visually organized information is easier to look at and interpret.
There are a lot of mind mapping experts and aficionados who talk about how the neurons in our brains look like a web. Each neuron is connected to one or several others. The reasoning goes that because our brains are structured like this, and because mind maps look similar, that this must be the best way to learn and organize everything.
I don't personally subscribe to that theory. I'm not convinced that the structure of the brain should impact the structure of material we want to learn or understand.
I think that well-organized, visual information is easier to work with because it “looks good” and because it's easy to see similarities and patterns in what you've created.
In the end, the neuron and brain similarity conversation is a mute point. All the matters is how effective mind mapping is for you. Why it's effective is might be good to know, but it's not as important as knowing that “mind maps just work.”
How can you use mind mapping?
You can use mind mapping techniques for pretty much anything you'd like. They sky's the limit.
Here are a few of my favourite things:
- Organizing your ideas
- Planning meetings
- Planning speeches
- Goal planning
- Time management
If you have a use in mind, I suggest you try it out in mind mapping format. It only takes a few minutes to do a basic map. You can add more information later, but starting out is quick.
Which program is the best?
I've tested out and reviewed a ton of programs, and you know what I've found?
Most are really good.
The downside is that since so many products have come out over the years, some have continued to be updated and refined while others have not.
I highly recommend looking for programs that are continuing to be developed. It can be very frustrating to spend time getting to know a particular mind mapping program, only to find it isn't being kept up to date.
If you'd like to see what I think on a variety of programs, you can have a look at my Visual Mapping Review Series. It has a lot of reviews that will hopefully help you make a decision. 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.
I personally use a tool called XMind. It's worked great for me. I'm mentioning that because I've also done 60-70 video tutorials on it as well, but in the end it's best to go for the tool that fits into your current workflow.
My best advice
If you're having a rough time, don't stress out.
Give yourself a chance to get used to the program, the different look, and some of the basic features of mind maps.
There's a short learning curve to mind mapping as you're figuring out what you can do and how to do it. It's nothing you can't do. Besides, if you get stuck, you can always do a search in YouTube for a tutorial.
If something is bugging you, leave me a comment below and tell me about it. I'll get back to you with an answer… good or bad.