Mindmapping 101

I love mindmapping! It’s powerful tool for generating creative solutions. After oodles of years of using techniques like this, I’m still surprised by the results. I thought I’d share a little of what I know, and maybe you’ll be inspired to mindmap, too.

Mindmapping is a brainstorming technique that enables you to capture spontaneous, right-brain thinking, and express it in a graphic, non-linear format. The radiant structure encourages unrestricted thought, and when finished, is easier and faster for your brain to re-read.

So you want to see how to make one?

First you start by writing your problem or idea in the center of a sheet of paper. My problem is that I have too many books.

Start a Mindmap with a Central Idea

Then I think, what are the possible solutions for having too many books? I come up with three ideas off the top of my head: sell, donate, or buy more bookshelves. Each idea gets its own main branch stemming from the center thought.  I throw in an image wherever I can (like the bookshelf). The brain processes pics faster than words, so the more images I use, the easier it will be to re-read the finished map.

There’s no special place for these branches. Just sketch. I prefer wavy lines.

Add a Few Main Branches

Now I add some offshoots. For example, I add offshoots called IKEA and Target because those are two places I can get additional bookshelves for my surplus books. I add offshoots onto donate, and sell, and added a new main branch called trade. An idea off trade was to trade books with my family at the next holiday gathering (see the extensions off the main branch?). Or I can trade them online, or at a local bookswap. To keep things clean, start the offshoots at the endpoint of the main branch, not in the middle.

Add Offshoots

I continue adding main branches and offshoots as they occur to me, working in no particular order. The idea here is to subvert the logical, order-driven mind that wants you to work clockwise around the circle, adding sub-branches on one branch at a time. Don’t do this! Instead, create wherever your brain pops out an idea! A big branch here, a baby branch there! Although I don’t show it here, you can carry out offshoots as far as your mind desires. Think about how a tree starts with a single trunk, and ends at the tips with hundreds or thousands of soft twigs brushing the sky.

Here’s my finished map (although, a mindmap is never really finished).

An (Almost) Finished Mindmap

If ideas stop flowing, sit and doodle on the map for a while. Add an empty branch here or there. It encourages the mind to fill the branch with something.

I add trash, which makes me think of a branch of Rules that I could use to determine which books to keep and which to get rid of. For example, if it’s a book about one of my hobbies, the rule is, if the info is now available on the internet, I can get rid of the book.

Once you think you’ve gotten all your ideas out, wait a bit. See if any odd ideas crop up. On this map, the interesting branch that came up near the end is “make art.” Sitting with this map, I suddenly remembered a special exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago. Various artists had used books as material to create art. So I put it on my mindmap.

If you want some mindmap religion, check out one of the books by Tony Buzan, the man who owns the term Mind Map, and who devised a specific technique based on his research on the brain. I like Mind Maps at Work. I tend to blend techniques from various radiant thinkers, including Gabriele Rico (Writing the Natural Way), who was my introduction into right-brain thinking.

The applications for mindmapping are as limitless as your mind. I use mindmaps not only for brainstorming, but also to create a visual plan for things like my weekly schedule, a vacation, or a holiday menu. I’ve tied mindmapping into David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) philosophies, which is probably worth a separate discussion.

For now, it’s back to the books.  I’ll work with this mindmap and see which of these ideas work best for me. Who knows, I may even turn an old book into something new.


2 thoughts on “Mindmapping 101

  1. mmm… this sounds like a familiar problem to me—books really seem to multiply! I love how this creative brainstorming lead you to new interesting ideas you never would have come up with if you hadn’t opened a space. I am very intrigued by the idea of making art from the books. I have seen much interesting art and craft made from books including purses made from favorite book covers and pages that have been cut away to house little scenes. That sounds very exciting! And you could make a mindmap just about that!

  2. Nicole, your Blue Bicicletta art so wonderfully illustrates the natural, radiant thinking of the brain! Your Rays of Understanding is a perfect example. So are your beautiful flowers!

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