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How to Create a Mind Map

Updated on March 4, 2015
A mind map is a great way of bringing ideas, concepts and action together
A mind map is a great way of bringing ideas, concepts and action together | Source

Introduction

A mind map is a great way to create, understand and show ideas, concepts, topics and other areas and the links between them. Mind maps excel because they show abstract data in a visual way, which makes it easier to see and understand how everything fits together.

A mind map is a very powerful way to easily visualize data, information and ideas. Great mind maps then allow you to create projects, actions and tasks that help you to accomplish larger goals. This article covers the basic concepts of mind mapping including how to create your first mind map.

Benefits of mind maps

The benefits of mind maps are clearest when they help people to quickly and easily understand complex, linked information such as:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Planning out a project at home or work
  • Explaining things to people
  • Creating a business plan, product or service
  • Studying and revising for an exam
  • Summarizing ideas and knowledge

Mind maps can get ideas out of your head and onto paper
Mind maps can get ideas out of your head and onto paper | Source

Learning about mind maps

In this guide, we'll explore the main concepts of mind mapping and explain how to start creating one of your own. The steps are:

  1. Learn the basic concepts of mind mapping
  2. Find the right tool to create a mind map
  3. Decide exactly what you want to mind map
  4. Write down your central theme in the middle of your mind map
  5. Create the high level things that link to your central theme
  6. Go through each of the branches and create more detail
  7. Repeat and go down to greater levels of detail
  8. Look for more connections
  9. Create some actions

Step 1 - Learn the basic concepts of mind mapping

Mind mapping has several key concepts that are important to understanding how the process works:

  • It is visual - A mind map is more about seeing the big picture and connections between things, rather than individual words
  • It builds out from a center - All mind maps have a starting point that other things get added onto
  • Is is hierarchical, like a tree - As the mind map spreads, it will split and become finer and there will be more levels in the mind map, just like a tree starts with a trunk, divides into large branches, then small branches, twigs and leaves
  • There can be many connections - There's often more than one way to connect different parts of the mind map together

Step 2 - Find the right tool to create a mind map

There are lots of tools that you can use to create a mind map, depending on whether you want to do it by hand, or by using software.

  • Completing mind maps by hand - You will need a large piece of paper (e.g. flip chart size) and a pencil or pen
  • Completing mind maps using software - There are some good free mind mapping software applications available, including Freemind, Xmind and Edraw Mindmap

If you're using some software to create the mind map, download a few different ones to see which you like the most, spend a little time getting to grips with them and learning how they work.

An example of a business mind map
An example of a business mind map | Source

Step 3 - Decide exactly what you want to mind map

Mind maps need to have a purpose, otherwise they are nothing more than fairly complex posters! You should think about what you want your mind map to help you accomplish.

Do you want to solve a problem, do some research, explore options or something else? Ultimately, what do you want the end result of the mind map to be?

Step 4 - Write down your central theme in the middle of your mind map

Now that you know what you want your mind map to do, write it down at the center of your map, it is from here that you will build the branches and visualize the next steps.

Try to make your central theme descriptive as this will help you to create further areas in the mind map.

Step 5 - Create the high level things that link to your central theme

Now its time to create the main branches. What are the high-level areas that connect to the central theme?

For example, if you were preparing to move house, the central theme would be 'moving house' and the branches might be: packing, real estate agents, investigate new area, prepare house for moving etc.

Give each of the high level areas its own branch.

The more detail you can add, the better
The more detail you can add, the better | Source

Step 6 - Go through each of the branches and create more detail

Now you're going to go through each one and create more detail. for example, off of the 'Investigate new area' in the example, you might have 'Find new schools', 'Find out where to move to', 'Investigate house prices' etc.

You should go through each of your high level areas in turn and create branches off of each one; these sub-branches should have correspondingly higher levels of detail.

Step 7 - Repeat and go down to greater levels of detail

Go through all of your branches and divide them, then go through each of those branches and divide them again, until you have put as much detail as you think you need into the mind map.

The right level of detail should be enough that you can create actions and tasks to allow you to make progress towards the central theme of the mind map.

Mindmaps can go down to considerable levels of detail
Mindmaps can go down to considerable levels of detail | Source

Step 8 - Look for more connections

Look at all of the items you have captured and see if there are connections to other parts of the mind map.

For example, you might connect 'Investigate house prices' with 'Find a real estate agent' as they can help you out with that.

Step 9 - Create some actions

Now you have a mind map, its important to get actions from it. For each of the lowest level items, create an action that helps you move things forward and get stuff done!

Create each action as a dedicated task, for example your 'Find Real Estate Agent' branch might have tasks like 'Call Real Estate Agents in local area'.

How to create a mind map

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In closing

Mind maps are a great way to visualize things and break down large areas into more manageable, bite-sized chunks.

If you think visually, they are a perfect way to make projects more manageable, and as with everything else, practicing with mind maps will make you even better with them.

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