I’m no genius. Every now and then my memory fails me. I sometimes get overwhelmed with the amount of detail or information that comes my way. Many years ago my uncle told me that my notebooks had better memory than me. He was right. The day he told me that, my life changed. A tower of old notebooks and journals stands as evidence in my study.
With time, the ideas and information I’ve had to capture and process grew, a lot. It became important to somehow index my ideas. I needed to get smarter with how I not only captured but processed information. From study notes to brainstorming, I’ve experimented with many ways of capturing ideas and information.
I’ve used, and still use, spreadsheets. I even experimented with drawing – never again. I’ve written electronically and manually, in notebooks and Word documents and such. The effectiveness of these tools and methods varied with each context.
Besides capturing notes and ideas with tools such as Evernote, I use mind mapping a lot. Mind mapping is one of the tools I discovered a few years ago and continue to use. I use mind maps for many things: brainstorming, project planning and management, for example.
How and Why I Use Mind Maps
Detail and Big Picture
Brainstorming can be a chaotic exercise. The goal is generally to come up with and capture ideas. During brainstorming, details of the overarching idea can emerge. With mind maps I can capture and see both the big picture and details at the same time. The main theme, like a tree trunk, is in the centre.
Sub categories and other details then follow like branches and twigs… Thus, in a glance you can see details and the big picture. This is why I use mind maps for both my own brainstorming and with teams I lead. I work on them on my own and sometimes with my team.
Dealing with Complexity
Especially in complex systems or scenarios, mind maps help me break things down. By mind mapping I get to see each puzzle piece in context; complex doesn’t seem daunting. Lines make relationships obvious. They help me see how each piece relate to each other.
Organize as We Go
By default, mind maps force me to categorise. This takes away the clutter and noise of the traditional notebooks. This helps me know how to treat or manage each piece of information. It could just be my personality but I find it helpful to put things in a category…
There’s a reason why many find infographics useful. I think it is the combination of images and text that makes information easier to consume. I include links to websites and documents, as well images in some of my mind maps. It is not as messy as using a pin board, but I can easily collect and collate with mind maps. Being a visual person it is easier for me to engage with what I can see. Hence I find them helpful.
After experimenting with a number of apps I settled for Xmind. I like how it works and its feel. You might want to check out MindMeister, Mindjet MindManager, FreeMind, iMindMap or scour the Internet for more.
This is why i use mind maps. Do you mind map? What tools or methods do you use or find helpful? Your thoughts…