How Mind Maps Removed Stress From My Working Day
September 23, 2016
TopicsMind Mapping, Stress Reduction
We have so much stuff swimming around in our heads; half-baked ideas, things promised to others and that ever-growing list of to-dos that require attention and feel ever-present yet are ultimately unachievable. This is because getting that stuff out is becoming increasingly difficult in a world full of distractions.
I don’t proclaim to be immune to this, but a technique I discovered a few months ago has enabled me to greatly reduce the number of tangled thoughts in my brain.
My knight in shining armour came in the form of a mind map. Here’s an example of one in action:
Don’t run away! Take a look again.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Even though you’re not part of this particular project, I bet, within a few seconds, you’ll have worked out what I’m trying to achieve. I’ve been tasked with the content marketing effort for a hotel website and a key part of it is the blogging strategy.
Without the mind map, I’d have notes (both physical and digital) strewn everywhere with post ideas, and a brain constantly reminding me that this particular project requires the attention it deserves.
Now, just one look at that mind map, and I know exactly what I need to do next, and can follow my thought process for every idea I’ve previously had.
Mind mapping has restored order to my working day, but, crucially, it has also removed a great deal of stress. I hate not feeling on top of things and having a to-do list which is forever running away from me. Feeling out of control of one’s workload is a surefire way to increase stress levels, therefore any device that adds clarity and encourages creative thought demands further investigation.
How do mind maps work?
The example above should be relatively self-explanatory (that’s the beauty of mind maps), but it’s worth considering exactly how these ingenious diagrams work.
You start by placing the central theme on a piece of paper and circling it. This may be the project, meeting title or business idea. From that central theme, you extend to what are known as ‘nodes’. These are intended to flesh out the ideas you have by placing them in relevant categories. In our example, we have a node for ‘hotel specific’ which is designed to encourage thought on potential blog titles that relate to the hotel itself.
From each node, you can extend further to ‘child nodes’. I’ve used ‘offers’, ‘history’ and ‘staff stories’ to help me brainstorm content ideas that revolve around those areas, which is why you’ll see further nodes beyond containing title ideas. I’ve even added another node labelled ‘Dave’ which is used to denote the intended author for one particular post.
The beauty of mind maps is that they can expand almost limitlessly and, because they’re very visual in nature and tightly categorised, it’s easy to pick them up at any time in order to add further ideas or share with colleagues.
Non-linear thinking at its best
Besides the hours and minutes that march forward relentlessly each day, life is rarely linear. This is particularly the case in the professional realm, where nearly every day will differ from the last. Our brains, if only tuned to think in a linear fashion (i.e. I’ll need to do this next, then that, etc), are less able to think creatively; tasks back-up and our true potential is rarely realised.
Mind mapping is non-linear thinking at its best. It can be approached in any way you see fit and enables thoughts and ideas to simply tumble out of your brain in any order, no matter how disparate each one is.
Rather than ending up with a notepad full of these ideas, line-after-line, a mind map helps you organise them into something meaningful and ultimately engaging. It draws you in.
Uses for mind mapping
The example mind map I’ve provided in this post relates to project planning, but they have so many other uses, each one destined to take a weight (literally) off your mind.
Here’s how you could use mind maps at both work and in your personal life:
- Meeting notes. Of all the non-linear practices, meetings must be among the most prolific. Rarely do they follow the set agenda, and as a result, notes taken make little sense further down the line. Mind mapping is a brilliant way to take meeting notes that can be easily digested one the dust has settled.
- Presentations. Who wants to sit through slide after slide of what makes an idea or product so fantastic? Impress upon potential customers and peers by using mind maps to tell your story instead. It’s far more engaging.
- House move. There are so many things to keep on top of when moving house - imagine a mind map that neatly compartmentalises each thing you need to do and your plans for making the move a success.
- That novel you mean to write. If you’ve had a burning desire to create something - be it a novel, album or video highlight reel from your wedding, there’s no better way to ensure it finally happens than by using a mind map to plan its production. Get those ideas out of your head and into some kind of structure on paper and your creative endeavour will become a reality!
Mind maps have worked for me when it comes to compartmentalising my thoughts and all but removing that constantly-nagging doubt that I’m not reaching my full potential. And the best thing? They’re ridiculously easy to start using. Although plenty of software mind mapping tools exist, all you need as a novice is a big sheet of paper and a pen.
Give it a try!
Tidy explanation and graphic. Thank you.
I’ve used MM for a number of years. Started it with me at the center (hub) and branched (spoked) out into all phases of life, viz., real, planned and imagined.
Used different colors for each spoke.
Enjoy a grand Fall-in-the-making.
This looks very interesting. I would be pleased to participate from time to time.
Great article. Wondering what software/apps you use for mind mapping? Thanks!
I am gratified to hear of the success Mark has had with mind mapping. I first learned the technique in 1983 and have been an avid mind mapper ever since. I have taught hundreds of people to mind map and continue to do so to this day.
The key concept of mind mapping is articulated by Edward Tufte in his seminal work about the visual display of information — don’t stack information in time — display it adjacent in space. The mind map keeps everything in front of you rather than buried in stacks of notes or pages.
Great post, I love Mind Mapping I use iMindMap6 although they have updated it, information at http://www.thinkbuzan.com
You can really get carried away, fascinating I hope this helps. – Barry.
Thanks for all the comments and feedback – much appreciated. I personally use http://www.simpleapps.eu/simplemind/desktop, which can be found for free on the Mac App Store. It won’t set the world alight, but it is fantastic for very quickly getting ideas down.
Great to hear that others are enjoying putting mind maps to use!
Around 12 years ago, I discovered Tony Buzan’s book about Mind Maps and I found that this technique was useful for me, so I began to use it taking notes of classes and conferences using Mind Maps. I tried to share with other colleagues, but they could not (or didn’t want) break their paradigm of linear process.
Thanks for the note and for remind us this useful technique.
I saw my colleague using mind maps on a project we were working on and I thought it is a good idea to organize ideas. I looked around and found MindMup 2.0 which is simple to use. No download is needed which is a plus compared to most mind maps.
Thanks for the inspiration! I’m a Type A, linear thinker but this inspired me to prepare for a workshop I’m hosting in an entirely different way, and I came away with a much more robust plan than my usual bullet point list! I was so inspired I blogged about it here – http://www.100degreesconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/06/Mind-Mapping-for-Type-As
I am a Mind Map addict and in total agreement with you. I have used Mind Mapping in multiple scenarios ( many success stories available on my website). I have written two books on Mind Maps, one from a business application perspective (Mind Maps for Effective Project Management) http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maneesh+dutt
and another from an personal self help kind of usage of Mind Maps (Live Life colorfully, http://www.amazon.in/dp/1946129186, will shortly be available on Amazon.com)
For self help kind of usage for Mind Maps I encourage people to make hand drawn Mind Maps using lots of colors whereas for business application , of course the Mind Mapping softwares are helpful.
Thanks for your article , is really an interesting read.