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Plasma ball with branches representing ideas connected to a central topic

Get Yourself Together: A Story of Mind Mapping

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What if there was a way to get yourself together, to make sense to your business/personal life and move forward with serenity. The short answer is yes there is a way and it’s called mind mapping. Here is how to use mind mapping in life.

The Beauty of Life: From Complexity to Simplicity

Life is complicated and the world is full of complexity. Accumulation of details always complicates things but it doesn’t have to be like this. Even the most complex ideas are made of simple elements. This complexity is just an appearance which goes away once connections between elements are made.

From time to time, thoughts wander in every direction. From one unique question, our mind assess every possible angle to address it. Most of the time, these ideas end up isolated—following their own path like nothing else ever happened. It is particularly true when the thought process is undertaken days, months, even years before. During this long period of time, we tend to forget or to misremember the exact facts and the thought processes behind it.

So many times, I was losing my mind in detail when working on gigantic projects. So many dots were waiting to be connected. I couldn’t even see it. The mass of information was such that my brain was frozen. It didn’t even know where to start. I needed to map what was on my mind and it helped to find clarity on the maze of data accumulated overtime. It was a life-changing experience. Since then, I used mind mapping for different activities.

Mind Mapping in Writings

When I first started my scientist career, I quickly realized, I was expected to write a large number of papers, but not any papers, academic papers—manuscripts following a rigorous and historically established outline. It described experimental facts with an extreme pragmatism. No room for emotions, no room for speculations, just cold truthful facts written in a specific order meant to address hypotheses.

I always wondered how such writing style could ever be appealing for someone outside scientific community. Readers need to be engaged in the content. They need to feel something to stay with us until the end of the story. Readers also need to understand clearly where the writer is going with the story. A succession of well-organized paragraph is a good way to reach this goal. The first draft is usually messy. Rare are the writers that got it perfectly the first time. Whatever is your style of writing, could it be scientific, nonfiction or fiction, the story you are telling needs to make sense to the audience.

How to Map a Story

Mapping paragraphs and sections of writings will help on the organization side. As a result, the story will nicely come together after going through the process of mind mapping. Let me help you getting started:

  • Step 1: Start writing and don’t stop. Let your fingers go over the keyboard. A new idea comes to your mind, that’s ok, just write it down even it wasn’t related to the previous idea you wrote.
  • Step 2: Since you have accumulated enough pieces of writings, let’s map them. Several mind mapping freeware and software are available. Write down your title. It is now your center piece of map. Then, take every single paragraph you wrote in step 1, give them general title and add them to the map. You will end up with a tree of paragraphs as the one depicted on the images below. You can see branches and roots connected to a central idea.
Mind mapping in writings
How to mind map your next novel
  • Step 3: One useful feature of mind mapping is that bubbles can be moved around, be connected to each other and to be grouped. With this, you can shape your story by connecting paragraphs and gathering them in chapters for examples. This tool enables the visualization of your entire story and consequently makes the organization of it easier.

Mind Mapping in Dating Life

Thanks to the internet, the distances are shortened and thus brings people together even if it is virtually. Being able to see and talk to someone geographically far away like this person was in front of you, is priceless. The internet also connects people that one would have never encountered in its entire life  Common interests bring people together but when these same people are separated by countries, continents and oceans, the encounter become unlikely.

Dating websites open a new world of opportunities. People with similar tastes in music, cinema, books or lifestyle can now find each other and exchange on the topics even if thousands of miles away. It is revolutionary. However, the quantity tends to take over on the quality. The impersonal virtuality of the process transformed the idea of choosing someone and working hard to get to know this person, into probability game where one end up swiping left on multiple potential mates hoping to get a maximum of positive replies in return—like going to the supermarket and staring at the merchandise. Surprises occur then during the first date where the person is not the one you thought.

MInd Mapping of dating life
How to mind map your dating life and make the right decision.

With so many opportunities, it is difficult to keep track of who’s who and the why of this person. Assuming it is not only based on the appearance, each profile comes with characteristics which at the time match your own ideal.

Mind Mapping in Project Management

Managing projects is no easy task. Every single piece of information could be important in the grand scheme of a project. Organization is crucial. Indeed, well-annotated folders, meticulously arranged in a dedicated drawer is a good start. However, keeping track of all the data is a gigantic task. Moreover, one need to make sense of every piece. Projects evolves based on the latest results obtained impacting the big picture of the study. In a fast-moving environment, projects often need to be readjusted.

To do so, one need to keep an eye on the integrality of the project and also need to understand where all pieces fit into. In this scenario, it is necessary to gather information in one and only place in order to look at them like one would look at a painting. The brain stores information. It sometimes doesn’t see the connections between them until it sees them in the same field of view.

Indeed, taking detailed notes helps to remember what has been done alongside with the considerations made at the time. However, notes are usually written in linear order. A stack of paper that makes the retrieve a difficult and time-consuming task, often unsuccessful.

For a timely illustration, I mapped the several steps the development of a COVID-19 testing kit would need. Indeed, many more could be added to the list.

COVID19 testing kit project map
How to mind map a project. COVID19 testing kit as an example.

One can imagine the struggle the scientists and project managers are going through. The pressure and the importance of such task could influence the outcome of the project. Mapping the project would decrease the pain associated to the task.

Mind Mapping in Learning

Mind mapping is a fantastic and well-recognized tool for learning new concept. Hay at al defined three levels of learning obtained when comparing knowledges before and after intervention.

  • Non-learning; no change in knowledges
  • Rote learning; some prior concepts are rejected and new ones are created but no link made with prior knowledges.
  • Meaningful learning; new concepts are linked to prior knowledge and new connection are made with pre-existing knowledges.

Mind mapping contributes to reach a meaningful learning experience when use as teaching material. By mapping various knowledges around a central concept, students are linking existing knowledge with newly taught concepts which, in return, help reaching a level of meaningful learning.

Mind Mapping Helps Memory

Gifted people are capable to remember and recite the Pi number far in the digits. The record to date is 70,000 digits. It’s incredible! How is it possible? Knowing scientists demonstrated that the structure of the brain of such talented individuals is no different from any of us. So why am I nearly unable to remember what’s on my grocery shopping list? Well, the champions of memorization are mastering the art of association and imagination. Memory is like muscle, to improve you need to exercise over and over again.

Improving memory by exercising your association skills

Mind mapping is the perfect tool to improve your memory. This entire concept is based on connecting dots. Visualizing ideas connected to each other will encourage your mind to make associations between concepts.

Mind mapping to remember meeting location
Exercising memory by association using mind mapping.

How does it work? Here is an example. Imagine you have an important business meeting at a coffee shop downtown, 101 dog street. You could easily remember this address by picturing 101 Dalmatians drinking a cup of coffee. Your brain will easily remember the exact address when needed because an association has been created.

Another illustration would be to make a node with your tissue at the same time you tell yourself you need to get milk. Your mind will associate the node to something you need to remember. The next time you get your tissue out and see the node, it will remind you to get milk. Indeed, nowadays few people carried tissue in their pockets anymore. So it is up to your creativity to find something else to be tied up.

Improving Memory Using Imagination

Mind mapping grocery list
Working on your memory with imagination and mind mapping.

In addition to an associative method, the use of imagination help to build your memory. Creating stories is an effective way to remember. For example, if you have a list of items to pick up at your local grocery store, use your imagination and create a short story that include all needed items. Perhaps, imagine onions dancing with a carrot and a jealous pair of cherries watching them. Everything is possible with imagination—infinity is the only limit. Mind mapping will enable to visualize items from the grocery lists as well (See image).

Coming back to our main topic, mind mapping could help in both situations.
It will enable to visualize the association you made to remember the address (See image below).

AI in Mind Mapping

The growing field of artificial intelligence is pushing mind mapping to evolve. As many leaders recognize, AI is going to revolutionize the world as electricity or fire did.

About 100 years ago, electricity transformed every major industry. AI has advanced to the point where it has the power to transform every major sector in coming years.

Andrew Ng, cofounder of Coursera and founder of the Google Brain Deep Learning Project

Mind mapping software developer concurred with the ideas and are already thinking how implementing AI would turn mind mapping software into powerful sense-making tools. AI would allow:

  • To create automatically “smart” collections to organize data in a meaningful way.
  • To suggest additional references or useful resources based on the actual data mapped.

AI will grow a comprehensive map of knowledge leading to a better understanding.

Mind mapping in AI

As mentioned above, AI is bringing mind mapping to the next level. However, the other way around is also true. The use of mind-mapping is helping AI to make appropriate decision by preventing data overload thus simplifying input information.

Many different industries would benefit of such game changer approach. The amount of data accumulated by insurances, healthcare or finance and banking industries are outraging. The data are collected and stored linearly. As we talk earlier in “mind mapping and learning” section, no connections are made between past and new information learned if linearly stored. As a result, most data are wasted.

Using mind mapping techniques and AI would help to use the dataset integrality. By sorting, categorizing and linking information, the combination of mind mapping with AI will create simple and meaningful set of data that can be employed to improve productivity.

Conclusion

Mind mapping possibilities are endless. Basically, every situation, even the most complex, is divided into simple bricks. Because mind mapping will help to organize and rationalize, it will transform your understanding of concepts and furthermore their applications. One of the best feelings one could have during self-improvement is when you fully understand a concept and it all starts making sense.

Oh wait, also, next time you’d like to define your marital relationship as “it’s complicated”, I would suggest mind mapping the actual situation and you’ll see, everything will get simpler.

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