Get organized and focused with mindmaps
First, what is a mindmap?
A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used togenerate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.
Mindmaps are great. Have you ever been frustrated with taking notes in a regular matter, you know like one note per line, then later you found yourself having to link 2 notes together and then make sub notes and then change the order of the notes because one of them now belongs above the other one. You started with the intention of taking clean notes but it’s now a jumbled mess of crossed-out words, bent arrows and ink fingerprints :p
There’s a reason for that and why this line by line method of taking notes doesn’t work very well – our brain doesn’t think and links things and ideas one per line. Take a look at a hand-drawn mindmap and you’d be closer to seeing a graphical illustration of how the mind “takes notes”.
I’ve personally been using mindmaps for several years. If you’re like me and constantly have a barrage of ideas popping into your head and then find yourself day-dreaming and mentally-expanding on those ideas you know how it can detract your focus from what you should really be doing at that moment. It’s hard to focus with your mind going in a thousand different directions.
Putting these ideas as the come into a mindmap, frees your mind to think of what you should be thinking because you’ve stored that idea. For myself discovering this was like weight lifted from my shoulders because before I didn’t know how to stay focused on what I should because these were all good ideas that deserved attention – just not at that very moment
For me, my mindmaps are like a second brain – a storage brain where I can store ideas, concepts, things learned, anything and then refer back to those later either to refresh my memory or to expand on those ideas when the time is right.
At first I started by doing them just on paper then realized that it would become a mess and couldn’t really grow them indefinitely so I started looking at software and finally decided to use one called MindMapper. It’s a great program, gets the job done but it was missing something for my use, I wanted to be able to share mindmaps when I needed to. I played around with other software. There was another cool one I tried called Systemizer but I found it a bit limiting and not intuitive enough for my taste. For example I want to be able to quickly create new “branches” (or nodes) in my mind map but this software required me to right-click and add a new node every time or click a separate button whereas most other softwares allow you to create a child node by just hitting the “enter” or “tab” keys making the process much quicker.
The other thing is that the sharing of the mindmaps were still not up to par to what I was really looking for. It’s still a good software, don’t get me wrong but I use mindmaps so much that if I can find one that does everything I need, I’m going to use it.
The other issue was portability. I have a great setup on my computers that allows me sync all my files and program files across all my computers and to portable disk to easily plug into other machines if need be (perhaps something for another post )… but still, the future of applications is moving more and more towards being fully on the web and not programs you install on machines anymore. With mobile web access growing with no slowing down in sight, having programs 100% web accessible is a step in the right direction. So having an online mindmapping software would be ideal (if it’s good) – it means I could access it on the go from my iPhone
I had been looking at online mindmapping programs for a while but in the past they were still very new and none really stood out, they all seemed to lack features I needed so up until last week I was still using MindMapper but then I decided to take a look at online apps once again, mainly because I wanted a better way to be able to share mindmaps as needed, on this site namely. Take a look at the last mindmap I shared in this post, it was a pain to do that, I had to export the mindmap as a picture and then edit it in photoshop to reduce the size.
I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the online mindmapping apps have matured nicely! I compared a few ones and finally decided on Mindmeister – it has amazing features and best of all it’s completely free to start using and I could import my mindmaps from mindmapper (i just had to saved my mindmapper maps as .txt files first). It also allows you to embed maps in your blog and website – exactly what I needed!
Here’s an example of an embedded map:
It’s awesome! You can make maps private or public and even add people to your team and share maps within your team. You can also browse public maps here and I gotta say, there’s some amazing maps in there. Free knowledge! It’s like tapping into the minds of people Check out this great map about online communities. All I can say is wow! I’ll be using that map myself, what a great resource!
I give this online app my 2 thumbs up and I’ll be using it myself on daily basis. I recommend you create a free account and start using it too!