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Getting started with mind mapping

I first learnt about mind mapping in a media production class during my Master's at SOAS. I used it with great results while planning my dissertation, and since then, it has become my favourite problem-solving and idea-generating method. I use it for everything, from planning complex articles to streamlining my goals. I also recommend it to fellow writers, but I couldn't find a good article about it, so I wrote one. Read on for an excerpt.

Mind mapping is a great first step for any project, whether you're writing an article, structuring a website or planning a business initiative. Faced with something new, many of us feel daunted, inundated with ideas, or completely stuck, unsure how or where to begin. 

A mind map can help us see various paths and possibilities, radiating outward before we move onward. Don't get me wrong; I love a good list. But sometimes, when there are too many choices or possible outcomes, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Putting down everything you're thinking on paper as it occurs to you, irrespective of whether it's fully formed, can be a game changer. As you'll see, there's a place for everything. 

Half-baked ideas (what is a mind map?) 

Simply put, a mind map is a way to brainstorm visually. We're familiar with charts and diagrams, such as wireframes and family trees, but this is a bit more free. It can help you by: 

  • Laying out everything you already know, so that you can then identify gaps that need further research 
  • Clearing your thoughts and transferring them without worrying about structure 
  • Finding associations between seemingly disparate things Figuring out the overarching form that can then be put into a different style (e.g. an outline) if needed 
  • Sparking creativity and sharpening memory and intuition ​
And it's not just for writers! While I have used mind maps to plan complex articles, I turned to them with equal trust to evaluate the direction of my career. Essentially, anytime you feel like your thoughts are swirling beyond control, things aren't as clear-cut as a pro-con list, or if you're unsure where to begin, make a mind map.

Read the full guide here.