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Get Started with Mind Mapping in Project Management

written by: Bruce Tyson • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 11/6/2010

Get away from boring outlines and traditional notes and get started mapping your mind instead. By representing your thoughts visually, in a non-linear format, you will find that your projects can be managed more effectively. Get started with mind mapping with these helpful hints.

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    Mind Mapping Principles

    The idea behind mind mapping technique is to get your thoughts recorded in a way that mirrors the way you think rather than the way you write. You don't think in a I,IA, IB, II, IIA, IIB, etc. manner, do you? Most of us have a very broad scope of thought that is not necessarily sequential, but can be logical. By starting with central concepts and branching out into other related thoughts, you record everything that has to do with your project and then define relationships between your thoughts.

    Mind mapping described sounds difficult, but in practice it is quite a natural and stimulating idea and a good strategy for writing essays. To get started with mind mapping, all you need is a pen and paper, but you can also use mind mapping software to take your mind maps to the next level.

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    What to Look for in a Mind Map

    Some essential elements of a successful mind map are:

    • The central theme or main idea is concisely stated and forms a hub from which all other ideas branch out.
    • Primary themes are the next level out and form the basis for further development.
    • Branches are nodes that contain keywords relevant to each of them from which twigs, or additional thoughts, develop.

    Additional nodes, comments, brackets, images, arrows, and other assorted notations can be used to highlight thoughts, ask questions, or separate distinct branches in a crowded map. mindmap205 When drawing mind maps on paper, you are faced with the need to copy and revise a lot. Because of this many people prefer to use mind mapping software that makes it easy to reorganize your thoughts. Next, to help you get started with mind mapping, we'll create a simple mind map.

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    A Sample Mind Map

    Getting started with mind mapping requires that you start in the center of a blank page. You can do this on paper or you can use mind mapping software such as Edraw, Mindjet, or a variety of free mind mapping software solutions. Plenty of options are available for free, so be sure to shop around for the one that is best for you.

    For this demonstration, mind maps will be illustrated using MindManager, a mind mapping application offered by Mindjet. This is a premium software product, but a free 30 day trial download is available.

    Start by creating your central topic.


    Now think about all the things that need to be done in order to complete the project and list them off the central concept as spokes. For example, you may write down that you need to introduce the project.


    Next think of some related things that you need to think about when it comes to the product introduction. You might need to find sponsors and define stakeholders, so put it on your map.


    While you're doing this, you'll think of other things that belong on your mind map.


    Repeat this process over and over again until your brainstorming is complete.

    Image Credits: Screen shots taken by Bruce Tyson