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How to Use a Mind Map to Organize Your Ideas

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 21, 2020 • 3 min read

Everyone processes information differently. For visual learners, mind maps can be a particularly effective method for organizing and absorbing information. Mind mapping is a fun, visually arresting way to help you memorize information, brainstorm ideas, and solve complex problems.



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What Is Mind Mapping?

Mind mapping is the practice of creating a diagram in order to organize your thoughts in a visual way. Mind maps, also known as spider diagrams, are organized with a central idea—often represented by a single word that embodies the central topic—surrounded by branches of sub-topics and closely related ideas. Those branches produce their own sub-branches of words and short phrases associated with subtopics.

3 Ways to Use Mind Mapping

Mind mapping can be a useful tool for a number of tasks, including:

  1. Note-taking: For people who prefer visual thinking, mind maps may be superior to linear notes because they can use images, words, and numbers. A visual representation of information received in real-time can be more intuitive and effective than traditional notes for certain people.
  2. Brainstorming: Mind mapping can be a particularly effective tool during brainstorming sessions. Mind maps can encourage creative thinking by presenting ideas simply, visually, and without hierarchy, inspiring team members to be more open when pitching ideas.
  3. Organizing information: Some people use mind maps to synthesize complex information. Mind maps can be particularly useful when trying to combine information from various sources or find solutions to complex problems.
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3 Benefits of Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is an enduring practice in the world of business, academia, and creative professions because of its simplicity and versatility. If you are a visual learner, mind mapping may have advantages over organizing information in a linear fashion. Here are some of the benefits of mind mapping:

  1. More effective memorization: Many people use mind maps to help them memorize information. Mind maps use colors, shapes, and images to present concepts and data, providing context and visual cues for complex information. By providing the brain with visual associations, mind maps help the brain generate and store new information.
  2. Creative thinking: Concept mapping is a particularly effective method for inspiring creative, outside-the-box thinking. By converting a blank page into a flowchart of branches and sub-branches, it encourages you to view the central concept from a thousand different angles, which can, in turn, inspire new ideas.
  3. Problem-solving: A lot of people use mind mapping tools to break down complex problems into their component parts in order to develop solutions. Distilling the problem to its central image or main topic and then expanding outward makes it easier to analyze the problem bit by bit and find solutions that respond to each component of the problem.


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How to Create a Mind Map in 4 Steps

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Creating your first mind map can seem overwhelming. However, the reason why mind mapping is so popular is that it’s actually a fairly simple system, and there are plenty of mind map examples and online mind map makers that will walk you through the process. Here are some mind mapping techniques to help you create your mind map:

  1. Start with your central topic. Write down the central topic you’re exploring in the center of a blank piece of paper or whiteboard (if you’re using mind mapping software or online mind map templates, you should input your central topic first). Try to express that idea as simply as possible, and draw a circle around it.
  2. Create your main branches. Brainstorm subtopics that are closely related to your central topic—these are your main branches. Surround your central idea with these subtopics, and draw lines connecting each subheading to your primary topic. Draw a circle around each subheading.
  3. Go deeper. Next, look at each of your subtopics and surround them with related ideas, facts, or images. Continue expanding each of those new topics as much as you can, filling up the entire page with related ideas and topics. If you’d like, you can use different colors to represent different types of subtopics.
  4. Review your work. Once you’ve filled most of your page with your diagram, review the whole thing. Seeing the entire mind map laid out will likely inspire you to add even more branches. You’ll probably notice that some parts of your mind map are densely populated with words and images, while others are more sparse. There’s no incorrect shape for a mind map, and yours will likely have its own unique, organic shape.

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