Organize and design anything with Mind Maps

About the author

If there was only ONE tool to save in between thousand thousand that we have in the design and organization, I would choose mind maps. Mind maps are truly the most useful, practical, visual and easy-to-use tool that each of us has available to tidy up any type of business or project. One of the things that has happened to me most often this year in calls with companies and customers is that at a certain point the person interrupts me to ask me: “But what software do you use to make these maps you are creating now? Sounds cool! I would need to know how to use them. ".

In fact, unlike the other cases seen, this is not a case study, it is not a way to use professional transcripts to your advantage, but it is the best tool you can use to work on creating content of all kinds. Literally, anything that comes to your mind.

  • Do you want to write a book?
  • Organize a marketing campaign?
  • Schedule the creation and publication of the marketing content that should come out in the next month?
  • Create the structure of a training course?

Each of these points you see in the list has as their best design tool: the mind map. The following pages will not explain how you can use maps ONLY from a written content standpoint, but rather how you can use this amazing tool in all its forms. So if you are reading this book and are interested in producing written content in the easiest, fastest and most comfortable way possible, in this part, you will really find some value waiting for you. Enjoy the reading.

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ADVANTAGE: THE MENTAL MAP AS A TOOL OF PERSONAL AND WORKING PRODUCTIVITY

Organizing your personal and work life with mind maps can dramatically increase the level of productivity in doing everything from organizing a two-month vacation to planning a work project. In organizational terms, there is nothing more effective than a mind map and the reason for this is very simple.

Mind maps are the ordered graphic representation of the structure of our thoughts.

That is, our brain works in this way: it is at the command center, and around it, all the various thoughts are attached, which in turn branch out into other sub-thoughts, which in turn (...).

Each thought has within it different variables:

  • Variables to be considered perceived as a risk;
  • Of the aspiration variables, or that if they came true you would be happy;
  • Logistic variables, therefore linked to organizational operations;
  • Variables associated with the people involved in the thing;
  • Etc…

The problem is that we are ONLY unconsciously aware of this. That is, we only feel the presence of some sub-thoughts, but obviously if we don't spend quality time reflecting on them we will never, ever have clarity about them. Do you ever happen to be in bed and just in the minutes before sleep, your brain suddenly lights up and you start thinking about one thing and then another? And this is how all of a sudden you find yourself evaluating all the possible alternatives of that specific case ... This comes exactly from a lack of clarity we have about what is going through our heads.

Mind maps serve to clarify precisely in this regard. But how do they work? How are they drawn? Which tools are best to use? How do they differ from concept maps? Let's find out in the next pages.

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SOFTWARE AND WAYS TO CREATE A MIND MAP

Let's start with the basics. Let's start by saying that you basically have two ways to create mind maps:

  • Traditional method: Paper and pen;
  • "Technological" method: You use mind mapping software.

Here I'll go straight to the point without going around it too much.

à I root for software.

The reason is that in my opinion it has several advantages that are impossible to give up, namely:

  1. Ease of modification and intervention on the document;
  2. Order:
  3. Shareability.

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1st advantage: ease of modification and intervention on the document.

I know that many of us still have a love of good old paper. But let's face it, as much as you can find it better, and this obviously can be, it is not opinionable: paper is uncomfortable! If you have to delete something it is not immediate and often not even possible. The order of the sheet depends on your dexterity and often this is NOT an advantage. If you want to move a scribble somewhere else you can't do it, or at least not very easily.

On the contrary, if you work on digital software, modification and intervention are very easy, you don't even have to think about it. Click a button and you're done. Do you want to delete a word or phrase? Just press a button. Do you want to move a word or an image? Just press a button. Do you want to move an entire photo from one side to the other? Two clicks and you're done. Add to this the fact that you can intervene on a map:

  • from smartphone / iphone;
  • from ipad / tablet;
  • from desktop / any computer with connection;
  • from app for pc / mac.

Also, be aware of one thing. As we will see in a few lines, a fundamental function performed by mental maps consists precisely in being able to create explanatory schemes of a certain organization, which can be configured in a business system, a procedure, an area or other. And by definition, that "it organizes itself" is in constant evolution. This is why - if you are not already - you should already put yourself in the perspective of not being able to use static mind map creation documents such as pen and paper; for which once you have drawn the map, it is difficult for you to modify. On the contrary, you must aim to have flexible schemes, which you can continuously update, modify and improve. And not only do you have to be able to do this. You must also be able to do it at any time you want. For example, if you are away from home and you can think of a possible improvement to implement in your map, the ideal should be to be able to pull out its smartphone or iphone and edit live, without having to think about it in the future, thus risking losing your intuition gained.

Advantage 2: order.

As I told you before, if you work on computer software you ALWAYS have order about what you are working on, even if you are a messy absurd like me. Our brain is a messy tangle of ideas and thoughts piled on top of each other that elbow and kick, when we design we need maximum clarity, both visually and in terms of ideas.

Advantage 3: Shareability.

In 99% of cases, when we design we find ourselves having to do it together with other people, we often have to involve them, both actively and passively. Do you want to put the convenience of being able to deliver a perfect, tidy and super precise diagram compared to a scribble on photographed paper in which the writings are barely read?

Are we on this? I really hope I have convinced you. Having found that mind mapping software is the most cost-effective way from virtually every point of view, now comes the fatal question that I'm sure has been attacking your head since the beginning of the chapter:

Which mind mapping software should I use?

I will not waste much time on this point for the simple fact that the value of the argument linked to mind maps does NOT lie ...

  • in which software to use;
  • in which software is better, which is worse;
  • in which software has more features than the others.

NO. The real value lies - precisely - in the very possibility of creating maps and in what you can do with them. So assuming the tool you use works and is practical to use, it's OK. So, the truth? One software is as good as another! They are the exact same thing. If you've already downloaded one to your computer and you're happy with that, keep that one, don't change it. But IF you haven't downloaded any yet and you really have to choose, then I would recommend the one I use personally: X Mind.

X Mind is a super simple software to use, practical and with all the possible and imaginable features inside. It is so easy to use, that I will not waste a second on how to use it technically, really, even if it is the first time you use it, it will take you no more than 50 seconds to learn how it works and how to use it.

Below I have prepared a series of points that embody the cardinal principles that will allow you to make the most of mind maps to increase your level of organization and productivity. Let's go! 

THE MIND MAP IS NOT A CONCEPTUAL MAP.

What is better to use: mind maps or concept maps? But even earlier: “what is a concept map and how does it differ from a mind map? In short, concept maps, having a hierarchical structure that starts from a mother topic that cascades down, DO NOT represent ideas as they are catalyzed in our brain. The real reason why Mind Maps are clearer and more functional is because their structure is the same one used by our brain to process ideas.

ANATOMY OF A MENTAL MAP.

How is a mind map structured? Let's first list all its components and then let's see what role each of them plays:

  • Central topic;
  • Keyword;
  • Colored branches and relationships;
  • Sub-topics;
  • Variables;
  • Structure and form;
  • Reading order.

Let's take as an example of a Mind Map the one you see below and let's analyze its structure according to the parts we have just mentioned:

CENTRAL TOPIC.

Each Mind Map must have a central topic which, by definition, consists of the focal theme around which the whole general scheme will revolve. So, very simple, if - we assume - I am creating (as in the figure) the outline-draft of the Business Plan of my new Start Up, the thing I will do is simply write “Business Plan” as a central topic because this is what the whole map will be based on.

-How to create a mind map

KEYWORD.

One of the main advantages of the Mind Map is that with a few words, writings, symbols or signs it is able to represent a scheme that has the most complex mechanisms-meanings within it. This means that IF you are going to fill in the boxes that form the various topics and sub-topics with kilometric sentences and articulated propositions, you are losing the value that a mind map can give you. Your goal - on the contrary - must be to "simplify", not to add complexity and extra text. Keep this rule as a basic reasoning:

If you can't explain it in two, three or maximum four words, it means that you are expressing the concept in a too complex way and there is a way to express it much more simply.

The Mind Map in this is also an exercise in style, if you will. You know when they say that if the idea you have in your head you can't explain it in a 10 second sentence is an idea too complex and messy? Now, beyond the hyper-simplification of the case, it is clear that every single idea existing on the face of the earth needs time and articulated sentences to be well expressed, but NOT in the mind map. The map is used to schematize, to photograph! If you write a whole sentence in a box it is really like you want to participate in a photo exhibition with a video playback saying: “Look, my video better embodies the scene of people passing by because c'is the movement ".

a mind map

COLORFUL BRANCHES AND RELATIONS.

Let's start with the branches.

Colored branches are lines that link a topic to its subtopics. There is nothing more to say about this. They simply serve to give logical order and kinship between larger concepts and respective sub-concepts.

There are actually two things to consider: the first is that in the illustration shown here on the topics go up to three levels: central topics, topics and subtopics. Clearly this is just one example. In reality, a Mind Map can reach up to 10 levels of sub-branches. And here comes the doubt:

"How deep to go in terms of sub-topics? "

There is no fixed rule. DEPENDS on what you are doing. If you are trying to outline something broadly, it may tend to be superfluous to go beyond the second / third level. It is clear, however, that if the map you are making describes the organization of an entire business area in detail then yes, there you should go in depth as long as you need it. The second important to do instead it refers to the use of colors. Why use different colors to represent the various branches of the topics? Quite simply, these allow you to further differentiate one topic from another. That's all, it's a question related to the visual perception you will have at the end of the scheme. Always remember that we humans perceive 90% information in visual form, which is why it is a fundamental aspect to consider: helping the eye to decipher the information to which you submit it as easily as possible.

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Relations.

What you see circled in red is a relationship. It serves to indicate that those sub-topics belong to the same category, which in the case of the figure is associated with the characteristics that the typical customer of the hypothetical Business Plan, in your case the only limit is the imagination. There are also relationships of different types with easily understandable purposes such as summary braces.

And the so-called signal arrows.

To conclude on this, what I have just shown you consists of useful graphic devices that can enrich meaning, color and convey your patterns with greater clarity. They should not be used excessively as they risk overdosing the eye with colors and signals (very common mistake), but only when necessary.

SUB-TOPICS.

As we said before, if not used at an excessive level of depth, they still serve to give a certain depth to the various topics that make up the scheme.

VARIABLES.

The variables of the categories that do not concern so much the graphic aspect, but rather the conceptual one. Let's take an example, let's imagine that you are creating a mind map to organize the production and publication of content for your Facebook Page, ok? So, you get there, make your map and find the 7 content headlines for next week:

Variables, in this case, could be something like this:

In other words, the variables here act as the exact same conditions you have to consider for different subtopics. The convenience is that if you have to design different content that you know have the same pattern, you can paste the variables on each topic in seconds and then go to work directly on it.

STRUCTURE AND SHAPE.

Structure is the very shape you want to give to your mind map. What we have seen so far is the classic mind map. This map is fine in any case, because as we have already explained, it embodies the shape that ideas have in our brain, that is: central topic in the middle and sub-topics that each branch out in its own direction with various relationships and variables in play. But then we still have other forms of maps that we can use which, even if they do not have exactly the same shape as the ideas, can still be of help for specific situations and cases.

READING ORDER.

IF your mind map has a logical sense to follow, then number your topics, or assign each one a letter in front of the subtopic name;

IF your mind map does not necessarily have to follow a forced sense to be read, leave the topics without any indication and those in charge will decide independently where to start reading.

Let's summarize all the various possible ways to use and exploit mind maps:

  • Organize the production of marketing content;
  • Management of a company organization chart;
  • Management and organization of roles relating to a project;
  • Planning a detailed strategy;
  • Creating a timeline of work;
  • Ease of study and memorization of notions;
  • Organization of deliveries and deadlines not yet fulfilled;
  • Brainstorming on a certain theme;
  • Organize a workflow;
  • Organize a work procedure in detail;
  • Make aSWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats);
  • Organize a training module.[1]

Let's now look at each point in detail.

Organize the production of marketing content.

Also in this case the great advantage consists in being able to gather different contents that you want to produce in a single scheme

Once you have an eye on all the contents you want to organize the production of, for each of them list all the points you want to deal with, after which the procedure is always the same:

  • Get the map at hand;
  • Turn on the recorder of the smartphone (or the video camera if you prefer);
  • Start talking about each item by verbally discussing all the topics you have marked and want to treat exactly as if you were on the phone with a customer;
  • Send everything to a professional transcription service who will make the articles for you.

Now we have given the example of marketing articles, but in the same way it can be done for the creation of other types of content: marketing emails, social posts, e-books, etc. And speaking of that, I refer to the next point.

Plan the structure of a book

All books start with an outline, a draft, a skeleton, a map, call it whatever you want, but the fundamental thing is that EVERY book, before being written, must be planned and designed. When we think of the idea of already throwing away the draft structure of a book that we have in our heads it all seems very simple, in reality then, there is always a boundless series of complexity to manage.

  • Chapters that you thought went at the beginning actually go in between;
  • Chapters that you originally wanted to end, you realize they need to be explained first;
  • Changes;
  • Structure changes;
  • Paragraphs that you discover to be longer than expected and which therefore become separate chapters;
  • Parts that are added;
  • Parts that take off;
  • ...

In short, not really a child's play. And in all this hurricane, what better ally than a Mind Map that lets you do anything with a couple of clicks?

Using a mind map in creating the structure of a book allows you to work with maximum agility and flexibility. Once you have created the complete map of a book that you want to make later, there are two main roads:

  • The first, you put yourself at the computer keyboard and write it yourself;
  • The second, you block a day or two and talk about it on the phone recorder, and then you give it all to a professional transcription service.

Organize the structure of a training course.

All training courses have one element in common: have a structure. This means that there will be chapters, sub-chapters and points to cover. And in this regard, when we talk about the design of a training module, there is no better element than a mind map. Not only because the mental map inevitably lends itself to organizing a training structure, but also for all the actions that can be carried out afterwards. Let me explain. Let's say I am organizing a presentation that I will give in a Webinar:

If I need to turn this map into one in the future Power Point presentation I can literally do it in a couple of "clicks".

This will allow you to directly have the presentation of the course you are organizing / designing, which will also contain all the images you have inserted in the map. Here the advantage is that if you want to transform your training course into a Professional Manual in the future, you can also use slides to be inserted inside, accompanied by graphics and images.

CHECK AND REPORTS OF DEADLINES AND DELIVERIES NOT YET EVENT.

Have you ever needed to keep an eye on the progress and completion of certain project-related activities? Mind maps in this regard can be a good alternative in case you need to monitor this flow visually and all at once.

In this regard, there are other very valid tools like Trello.com that allow you to view various tasks that you have running according to the progress column in which the same activity is located. However, the big advantage here is that you can process each activity with the depth you want, which in a software task management -maybe- you don't do it with the same comfort.

How to make a mind map

Organize a work procedure in detail.

In any job, there are better ways of doing things. These best ways can be studied, learned, applied and passed on to collaborators by means of walkthroughs that explain exactly how to do something. Here, too, the great advantage lies in being able to create a structure. For example, if I am a consulting company, in the "Marketing" activity I could have some activities including:

Each activity, in turn, could have other corporate sub-systems / procedures such as:

Subsequently, each procedure can have a link to its specific tab in which the Step By Step procedure is explained.

For example, by clicking on the activity "Welcome a new customer ", its respective procedure opens:

Creating a FLOW CHART

The flowchart actually has nothing to do with mind maps, it still remains a possible structure that can be used within any mind map software. The great advantage derived from the use of this structure consists in the possibility to realize conditioned processes. The most classic example of a conditioned process is the Funnel, or that structured process through which a customer has to go from an unknown to a paying customer. Such a process is obviously not a perfectly straight line with no possible conditions in between, it is rather a process chock full of 'IF' and 'MA'.

Therefore, the best use I personally make of the flowchart map is to create Funnel Schemes:

SWOT ANALYSIS (STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS)

Corporate ORGANIZATIONS AND ROLES ALLOCATION FOR PROJECTS.

Ease of study and memorization of notions + exercise

These are all the possible types and structures that an effective mind map can take. I hope I have given you a comprehensive overview on how to make the most of this tool in your personal and work life. So far I have given you setting and theory, now it's your turn to put it into practice.

Before leaving you, in fact, I would like to offer you an exercise to do. Do you read books (not non-fiction or novels, but books dealing with technical issues)? If so, try doing this:

  • Read the book as you normally do;
  • And in the meantime make a mental map in which you outline and schematize the main aspects you are reading (it does not have to correspond to the summary of the book);
  • Once you have finished reading the book and the respective map created at the time of reading, reread the Xmind and pay attention to the overview you will have of the subject matter.

By doing this exercise you will truly understand the power of mind maps. By doing this, it is not uncommon that if you reopen that same map in 5 years, you will be reminded of all the information relating to that Book that you didn't even think you remembered yet.


[1] These are forms and structures that the platform offers for free: X Mind. This means that if you want to use them, you just need to open the software, choose the form you want and very simply fill in the boxes with the topics and sub-topics you need.

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