February 3

What is a Mind Map? And Why Are They Useful?

A few years ago, I spoke at a conference where another speaker was a former high school science teacher. His son was failing American history. So, he encouraged his son to use a mind map to remember

  • Important dates
  • Events
  • Significant people

His son put it somewhere he would see it every day his next exam. After reading this speaker’s book, I decided to give them another try. Once you know how to use them,  they become a great brainstorming tool for creative thinking. 

What is a Mind Map

It’s  a visual thinking tool that helps organize information visually around a set of ideas. Those ideas can can come from external sources like books, lectures podcasts, etc. Or they can be ideas that you have for writing a book or blog post, exploring a business idea or planning your next vacation.

The Benefits of Mind Maps

brown brain decor in selective-focus photography

Mind mapping can help you explore complex ideas, make connections between ideas, plan projects, and much more. They give you a central image or spider diagram of what you want to remember. 

1. Remember a Central Concept 

They can help you take better notes on books, podcasts and any other information you consume. You can use them transform knowledge into wisdom. Below are three examples of how I’ve used them.

  1. Remember the major ideas for an upcoming speaking engagement
  2. Outlining blog posts
  3. Summarizing core topics or remember a key concept from a book I’ve read

They can be powerful tool to help you remember what you learn.

2. Project Management and Project Planning

New projects and new ideas often feel vague because we’re trying process so much information. When you plan projects, mind maps facilitate a free flow of ideas in a non-linear way, enable you to identify relevant tasks, and make order out of anarchy.

How do You Create a Mind Map? A Mind Mapping Technique

MacBook Pro near white open book

It’s possible you’ve attempted to use one before but didn’t find it very useful. So let’s talk about how you create one that allows to reap the benefits of mind mapping. There are three things a mind map must have.

1.Organizational Structure

To make one that’s useful, you need to give it basic structure that mirrors the structure of what you want to remember.

  • With a tree structure, there’s central topic and connected branches for additional topics, which are the child branches.
  • The nodal structure is similar. There’s a central node, child nodes, and broader nodes. The node hierarchy helps you prioritize and organize everything.

Without a clear structure, your mind map is just a jumbled up mess of thoughts.

2.A Central Idea

Every map needs a central concept. If you want to remember what you read in a book or article, your structure would looks a follows:

  • The Root/Central Node: Book Title
  • Branches/Nodes: Chapter titles from the Table of Contents
  • Child Branches/Child Nodes: Subheads and additional ideas

You can use this same structure for taking notes on podcasts, online courses and more.

3.Related Themes and Additional Ideas

The first set of branches are the central nodes and connected branches are your child nodes, related themes and additional ideas and key takeaways.

The secret that unlocks and amplifies the power of a mind map is structure.

Mind Mapping Software

The right mind mapping tool is a matter of preference. On the Zapier blog, there’s an article about the best mind mapping software in 2019 . Whimsical is my mind mapping software of choice because:

  • The interface is beautiful.
  • They have a mind map template for multiple multiple scenarios
  • It costs 19 dollars a month.
  • You can collaborate with other people.

Some other great tools are Miro, Xmind, and Mindomo.

2 Examples of Mind Maps

The two primary ways I’ve used mind maps are to remember ideas for books and podcasts.

Using a Mind Map to Prepare for a Podcast Interview

When I interviewed Chase Jarvis, I didn’t receive his book until the day before the interview. There was no way I could finish it because he packed so much value into it. One of my golden rules for conducting podcast interviews is to read people’s books.

Because I didn’t have time to read his book, skimmed over some parts and read others in detail. I wanted to make sure I could reference quotes and stories that he included in the book. But, I also wanted to cover all of the topics in his book. As you’ll seen in the mind map below, I use the following tree structure.

  1. The title of the book (central node)
  2. Chapter Titles (branches/nodes)
  3. Subheads and additional topics (connected branches/child nodes)

Because I knew the underlying structure of the book, I was able to have an in-depth conversation with him.

Using a Mind Map to Remember Ideas from Naval Ravikant’s Podcast

Despite being the host of one, I don’t listen to podcasts very often, But Naval Ravikant recorded a 3-hour podcast on “How to Get Rich” which was filled with so many nuggets of wisdom that I recommend it to everyone who wants to start a business or creative project. I created an extensive mind map of it.

Because he packed it with so much, I had do listen to it multiple times Fortunately, Naval gave me a very linear structure to work with. For each central idea, he’d support it with 3-4 additional ideas. This how I mind mapped the ideas.

  • Title of the Podcast Episode (Central Node)
  • One branch for node for each of the core topics
  • Connected branches, child nodes, and broader nodes

In the case of this podcast, there was so much knowledge that I kept adding branches. You can see the example below.

How I Used a Mind Map to Write This Article

The first thing I did was create a content brief with a tool called Frase.io . Frase is amazing because it gives:

  • A list of all the blog posts about the same subject
  • Topics to include in your blog post
  • Potential subheads from other posts to include in yours (I stole this subhead from another post)

That made the writing process for this article much easier.  

With the volume information we take in each day, a mind map is great way to separate the essential from the irrelevant.


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