How to create Mind Maps

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5 mins read
Ben Willmott

What is a Mind Map?

If you’re looking for a great way to take notes in a meeting, come up with ideas or just anything where you need to get a lot of information down on paper fast, you can’t go far wrong with creating a Mind Map.

I’ve tried all sorts and tools and approaches over the years and Mind Maps are the only approach I’ve consistently stuck with.

The term Mind Map was termed by a guy called Tony Buzan but the origins go way back further than Tony. These days Mind Maps are used by all sorts of people across multiple professions and industries.

The reason I love mind maps is they’re just so easy to do, and they’re fast. Even when you don’t need to take notes quickly, they’re still a great way to empty your brain of ideas altogether.

If you’re new to Mind Maps, I’ve put down some simple steps below on how to create them, plus some of my favourite pens and notes pads to use as well, but it really is up to you how they look and are laid out.

You can get super creative to make them look great, or keep them as simple as words on a piece of paper with connecting lines.

In this example, I used a Mind Map to create this blog, but Mind Maps can be used for pretty anything from taking notes in meetings, process development, holiday planning.

Before you read the steps on how to create a Mind Map, here are 5 reasons why they’re great!

  1. Mind Maps let you take notes but still stay engaged in the conversation
  2. All you need is a pen and something to write on, so you can create them anywhere
  3. Make a mistake, it doesn’t matter, just scribble it out and start a new connection
  4. Stuck for ideas, Mind Maps really help the creative juices flow as everything is in front of you
  5. Need to impress? Use colours, patterns and get creative with icons

Create the main topic for your Mind Map

First of all, get a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. Better to go big if you think you’ll need the space.

Write down the main topic in the centre and create a border (circle, rectangle or any other shape or object) So in this case "How to create a Mind Map" This is level 1 of the mind map.

Mind Map_maintopic.png

Create the level 2 linking topics

Next write down the level 2 linking topics, for example, "What is a Mind Map" "Why Use a Mind Map" and How to create a Mind Map.

These are still pretty high-level topics which you know there will be lots of linking items off them.

Then pick another shape and put this shape around each of the words for this next level. This is, so they’re grouped and surrounding your level one topic.

Mind Map_linking.png

Next create the sub topics off the level 2 linking topics

Now start creating ideas linking off each level 2 topic, this is level 3. This is where you can start creating loads of ideas all linking to the level 2 items.

By this stage, I don’t frame them with a shape as it takes up too much room, just write down as many ideas as you can.

Mind Map_Big.png

Now finish or just keep going!

Just keep adding more and more until you’ve run out of time, the meeting is over, or you just can’t think of anything else.

You can keep branching out with more levels and links, whatever you need.

Finishing up (Optional)

These are optional, but here are a few things you can do with your Mind Map once complete.

  • Look at your MindMap and you may see some links between any of the different ideas. So it doesn’t get too messy, you can connect these with dotted lines
  • If what you’ve produced is in a logical order, so like this blog where I list the steps in the Mind Map, add numbers to show this.
  • Add some colour to different sections if you want to highlight an idea or just make it look more appealing
  • If you wish to highlight actions, put stars or an icon of your choice next to each one. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you know what it means.
  • Take a picture, I always do this to reduce the fear of losing my note pad!

Additional tips

  • Write the words first, not the connectors. If you don’t the connectors start to get really messy
  • When creating level 2 topics, if you think you’ll have 5 or 6, spread them evenly in a circle around your level 1 topic
  • When creating a new level, make sure the first word isn’t too far away as you’ll quickly run out of space on the paper
  • Use different colour pens for different levels, just makes it much easier to read after
  • Use Mind Maps in groups not only on your own. It’s amazing what you can create when doing this together

My recommended equipment

The first is a set of multicoloured Uni Gel pens. They’re reasonably priced and they help create great looking Mind Maps. My personal favourites are the Uni-Ball back of four, which include Black, Blue, Green and Red pens. Good value as well.

Click on the image to go to Amazon

For just every day Mind Maps, so quick conversations or short meetings, I  go with the Moleskin A5 note pad. I prefer plain paper, but there are squared versions as well.

Click on the image to go to Amazon

Then if I’m in a long meeting I go big with the note pad, and although you can go as big as you want, the Moleskin A4 is ideal. Any bigger than this you may get some funny looks!

Click on the image to go to Amazon

Thats it, just try Mind Maps as I’m sure you’ll grow to find them as useful as I have.

Ben Willmott
Ben is the founder of the PPM Academy, which provides training and coaching for project managers at all levels of experience.

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