By Miles Burke

A Focus on Mind Mapping

By Miles Burke

Ever feel like you have a mountain of ideas, but struggle when it comes to putting them down in written form? Well, you’re not alone! Many people who try to recall an idea they had a while ago can find it difficult to jot it down in a useful form, transforming it from a torn note in a shoe box.If you’re yet to try it, I encourage you to create a mind map. If you’ve previously had a look at mind mapping, but felt overwhelmed with the buzz words surrounding it — semantic network, pictorial modeling, and so on — I empathize with you; however, the creation and execution of a mind map is nowhere near as complex as it sounds.This Wikipedia page will give you an insight into what a mind map is. If you’re a creative and a fan of note-taking, you’re likely to have already created a simple mind map without even realizing what it is!I find mind maps an invaluable part of the brainstorming and idea collation process. There are no archaic structures to follow — you just start writing. It’s also a versatile process. Sure, there’s software and tools, but you can be just as effective with a sheet of paper and pen. And there are no concrete rules, so if you return to one that you’ve previously created, there’s a good chance you’ll understand it in moments.I’m a fan of the notepad and pen, so I have plenty of scribbled mind maps written when I’ve been on a plane, or in a client waiting room. Yet the range of software out there does make mind maps much easier to edit, as well as share with others.Here are some mind mapping tools that I’ve used and would recommend:

  • FreeMind — this is my favorite, and it’s free!
  • Mindmeister — a web-based tool (with iPhone app) that I’ve previously used when sharing mind maps with clients.
  • XMind — an open source, Java-based app that’s cross-platform and fairly sophisticated.

So why not give mind mapping a go? It may just help you sort that jumble of thoughts into a more meaningful and actionable idea.

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Image credit: imageshak

  • NetNerd85

    I still prefer a good structured list myself. I’ve found mind maps to be a nice idea but nice ideas don’t help me organise. I like things ordered and structured, it’s my bag baby, mind maps just freak me out more.

    Mind maps are good for brainstorming though!

    On another note, this is what sitepoint is now? just a redirect to wikipedia? Some more information about your experience and maybe some of your own examples would have been good Miles.

  • I’ve been mind mapping for a few years now, and MindManager is probably close to my most-used app outside of email.

    iThoughtsHD for the iPad is also extremely good.

  • Garrett Scott


    This is a great introduction to mind mapping. I think they are great for brainstorming as well. Here at Mindjet we also think that you can use them for things like Project Management and planning with our built in task management.

    As NetNerd85 said they aren’t for everyone but I definitely think they are worth trying mind mapping software out.

    Garrett Scott

  • danilostrauss

    Most of times I agree with @NetNerd85 and still there is group meetings, project planning that can be quickly done on mindmapping.

    I happen to be myself a “mindmap-addict” through about 6-to-7 years so far and find it a very useful tool to coordinate and organize thoughts, tasks and projects into some depth and perspective analysis that is pretty neat and doable to document, visualize and understand idea flow in a staged way (i guess).

    Aside the wonderful and practical use on brainstorming sessions, they can be used to create the basic points of a meeting and go step-by-step filling out the gaps to make it and entire mass of ideas and data regarding whatever you feel the need of (I already use mindmaps as briefing helpers with clients at live meetings and those were proven to be a great way to generate evaluate and discuss the ideas behind projects).

    About the “messiness” of a mindmap, I usually rely on breaking maps with too much data into 2 or more separated ones to keep it “human-readable” data mass.

    Besides this, I use it to prepare presentations, project schedules or the least a basic layout of that.

    Cheers, Danilo.

  • Niubi

    I think mindmaps are actually more confusing than simple lists in a logical structure. Mind maps are just too visually all over the place and mix thoughts up – HOWEVER, everyone has different brains, and those who think spatially may well find these more useful – and in a large project (e.g. DubLi) they might actually prove a better tool for thinking. Just my 2 cents.

  • NickV

    I agree with @Niubi. I was hoping this article might explain the logic or use of mind-mapping a little better. There are so many articles pointing out tools that are out there, but few that give tips on actually doing it.

    For me, the complexity and counter-intuitive nature of the tools actually dilutes the brainstorming process. That being said, people all think and learn differently, so I have known many people (of a more analytical nature) who LOVE it.

    I am going to check out the tools and give it another go, but would love to see a follow up article that talks about the how to implement.

  • Tomas Lehuta

    What about goalscaping? Never heard about it?
    Then be sure to check Goalscape product (http://www.goalscape.com) and read this article: http://www.goalscape.com/blog/goalscaping-better-mindmapping

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