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My ultimate mind mapping tip: map before you write

by Tris Hussey on October 9th, 2006

I’m almost done with my mind mapping series.  I’m sure we’re going to be talking more about it, but this intro into mind mapping is almost done.  First I talked about using a mind map for meeting notes and Scot took my advice (with great results it seems).  Then I talked about mind mapping your project plans, both using them as a starting point and a distribution mechanism.  Now my fav, mind mapping your documents before you write them.

Okay writing long documents can be a huge chore.  That empty Word document window staring at you.  Where do you start.  You have the ideas in your head, but you keep telling yourself, "no, that comes later …" or "yeah that’s good, then this, then this … but how do I say that?"  Mind mapping helps all of this.  Remember with a mind map your thoughts and ideas can be moved around connected and re-connected.  No harm in following a train of thought for a while, then skipping to something else.  No problem in using brainstorm mode (MindManager has this) and just firing off ideas.  Look it’s all progress towards the same goal, getting the document done.

So how do I do it?  Simple.  Just like a describe above.  I start with my topic as my central idea then just start firing off my thoughts.  I do that until I feel tapped out, then I stop and look and arrange.  Does this belong here?  Can I put those two streams together?  Often as I’m arranging my ideas come to me.  It just all flows.  On topics I add notes, these become the basis of the text that I’m going to write later.  Maybe not all of it, but the thoughts and ideas I have at the moment.

When I feel like I’m done, I export it all out to Word and start writing in earnest.  Now I usually have to play with the styles that MindManager presets, minor stuff really.  Does it work?  You bet.  I have two really good examples for you.

In my work at Qumana sometimes I’m tasked with making the big ideas come to life.  I had an idea.  Something cool to do with blogs and music.  We needed to explain it to a couple potential partners in the plan.  Lot’s of stuff in the idea.  Who, what, where, how.  Tech stuff, rational, high-level requirements.  Even to just express the idea so people would "get it" it would be a pretty long Word doc.  Something that might take days to write and proof.  Really, who wants to read a document like that when you’re just presenting an idea.  No way.  I mapped it thinking I would write it up, but decided to just zap off the map.  Comments … the person we needed to impress said that he "just got it".  You can see how stuff relates.  It’s short, condensed and to the point.  Saved my hours of work and everyone understood exactly what the idea was and how it needed to fit together.

Second example … I’ve started writing a book.  Yes, I have a (neglected) blog for it.  How did I start writing?  Mind map of course.  Move sections around and the notes come with them.  Refine, focus, add notes to myself for ideas or whatever.  I did a lot of round-tripping to Word for a while.  Eventually I just did one final export and have been working in Word ever since.  Given how hard it is to write a book, the whole process of mapping my ideas really helped.  It took me a couple weeks to be happy with the map (but I was also writing in the note spaces as I went, capturing ideas), but I think it really saved time.

What’s your mind mapping success story?

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POSTED IN: MindManager, MindMapping, Word, Time savers, MS Office

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