I’ve been writing for publications since I was 15 years old and spent a large part of my career working for newspapers and magazines, in addition to the blogging I’ve done. And in the last year, my approach to writing has been revolutionized by mind maps. In fact, my entire creative thought process has increasingly been driven by the use of mind maps.
I wanted to share how I use mind maps, some things I’ve learned and why I am using it more and more for everything from rough drafts of blog posts to outlines of presentations and big projects and campaigns.
In a nutshell: mind maps have helped me crystallize the creative thought process and made it easier, faster and better to communicate my thoughts and ideas.
In my old way for writing or blogging, I would open up my text editor or WordPress and start typing out some ideas and maybe start on a rough outline of points. And keep polishing on it until it became the final draft I published.
But here’s a step by step workflow of how I use mind mapping now:
I open Mind Node Lite for Mac (which is free, basic and awesome). I start by giving the main bubble a title or topic to go by. I don’t try to come up with the final headline here, but just something to start the creative process.
Then I start visually adding all my ideas and thoughts that flow out of that starter topic (or headline) without regard for how they fit with each other. My goal here is just to get some thoughts on the subject out of my head and onto the screen … it’s my visual brainstorm, a shotgun blast of thoughts and feelings about the subject.
From experience I know this is such a critical time as my energy and excitement about the topic is sparking all kinds of memories, experiences, quotes, ideas, etc … and I want to take full advantage of this creative time. In the past it’s often been wasted or that energy severely waned by staring at random lines that are hard to organize in a blank text editor.
Once I’ve spent some time just exploring the subject as deep and thoroughly as I can, I start reordering, sorting, organizing, tweaking, clarifying, adjusting refining all those thoughts into a more cohesive flow. Sometimes this means pulling the big points into subpoints on other topics where they fit better. Or deleting things altogether.
This phase is often during the time that I start realizing WHY I’m writing this. So this is the step where I start honing in what I’m really trying to accomplish with the project, post or presentation and why I’m really hooked on mind mapping. I can see it all together and optimize it for my mission.
For example, as I was doing my mind map for this post, I start a main idea that read: “Why am I writing this? What am I offering?” Then I made a subpoint that answered that question: “I’m showing how doing mind maps for everything from blog posts to marketing projects has revolutionized my creative process … making it easier and faster and better to communicate.” Very conversational. And you’ll see some of it above.
Here are some reasons why I love mind mapping and you should consider it too:
- Get quick visual brainstorming blast of ideas — Then I can easily sort and organize them better once I’ve got my initial thoughts out
- Get a very, very rough draft started fast and easily — Staring at my text editor and a blank canvas is tough, but once I start getting everything out, it’s been a great jumpstart for me. I find I start projects faster and have fewer creative roadblocks.
- Get a quick outline going of major points for presentations — Then I start fleshing out and organizing the subpoints and talking points for each.
- Clarify what I’m doing and why I’m doing it — Once I’ve got everything out I can review visually and refine my communication goals.
- Get inspired more than just opening a blank text editor (or the WordPress post screen) — Yeah, it’s probably trivial to you, but I like the different colors … it feels more inspiring and creative than black, white and grey. With every mind map, you have a first prompt — the main topic bubble.
- Turn it into a Minimal Viable Product to test — I recently just released an idea on business plan ideas for freelancers as a mind map PDF itself to see if it warranted a bigger blog post or webinar (which it did). The PDF got downloaded about 200 times in a day … and now has over 600 as of the writing of this post.
After writing this post using the mind mapping method, the old way as I remember it feels unnecessarily laborious now. That’s not to say I don’t use the old method from time to time. But it seems clunky and uninspiring.
Try it out and let me know what you think! (Or if you have already been using mind maps like this, let me know what you think in the comments and if you have any other tips to add.)