Increase Creativity With Mind Mapping


I’m not a smart man.

In fact, I’m a little dim, like a fluorescent bulb that’s about to die. Sometimes I have a bright flicker, other times I forget how to tie my shoe.

Yet, to do the things I like to do, I need all the brains I can get. For this reason, I keep two kinds of journals, make a lot of lists, take a lot of notes, and use all the mind tricks I can. Minds maps are one of my favorites. Used in conjunction with my knockoff moleskine and daily journal, it’s like having an extra brain.

I use mind maps because they are fast, visual, and associative. Using a mind map is like thinking on paper. Why else use mind maps?

Mind maps help you:

  • Write faster and with greater ease
  • Smash the walls of writers block
  • See a problem in a new way
  • Organize large amounts of information
  • Discover new connections between concepts
  • Solve complex problems
  • Remember past events with great clarity

About two years ago, I started messing around with mind maps. I’ve used them for fiction writing, note taking, and blog posts. In fact, almost every post I write starts out as a mind map. Maybe its because I’m lazy and dim, but I’ve found using a mind map or concept map cuts my writing time almost in half and gives me a more concise final product.

Additionally, researchers have shown that using mind maps increases recall by 10% among motivated students.

If you’re interested, read on…

How to Make a Mind Map

First, let me say that I don’t always follow the ‘official’ instructions to the letter. My maps are usually devoid of drawings, sloppy, and notoriously monochromatic.

Think of a mind map like the root system of a tree. The central idea is the tree, and each supporting idea is a root. Each main root will have several smaller roots growing out from it.

1. Start with a blank sheet of copy paper, oriented horizontally. Write the main idea in the middle. Since I need to do some planning for a temporary move to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Let’s use that for a quick and dirty example.


2. From the main idea, add the main categories. Silly pictures helpful.


3. From each main category, add relevant sub-categories.


4. Add supporting information as needed. Making your mind map will spark new ideas. When I started this, I only had six main categories, but by the time I finished, I had ten, and I’ll probably add a couple more.


5. If you like, you can add color. Just for fun, I did. The final product:


For other, better examples of mind maps, check out some of these: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4

Now that I’ve got all this information down on paper, I have a pretty complete picture of what I need to do to make my temporary move happen. The next thing I’ll do is turn this into a project list; each category will have its own to-do list…but that’s a post for another day.

Bonus tip: To keep all your mind maps organized, use a three-ring binder with clear sheets/sleeves. After you finish each map, date it, give it a page number, slide it in the plastic sleeve, and make an entry in the index.

Mind Mapping Resources

Video Interview with Tony Buzan (plus video tutorial) Buzan popularized the modern mind map.

Wikipedia Entry on Mind Maps

20+ Mind Mapping Resources

How to Make a Mind Map

10 Tips for Highly Effective Mind Mapping Sessions

Over to You:

  • Have you ever used mind maps? What do you think of them?
  • Mind map vs. concept map: which is better?
  • If you have some pictures of some cool mind maps you’ve made, post a link in the comments.

I’d love to hear from you.

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Tree photo credit: jeffersondavis. All other photos taken by the author


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael Deutch December 18, 2009, 11:27 am


    Thanks for linking to our resources on the Mindjet blog! Great post.


  • Seth December 19, 2009, 6:51 pm

    No problem, Michael. I have found your resources quite useful. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Arno December 21, 2009, 7:53 am

    Hi, Seth

    I like the idea of organising mm’s. I have lot of unorganised mm’s

    Trying to move from computer based mm’s to handmade – Made some Christmas cards as mm’s.

    Thanks for the link to research.

  • Seth December 21, 2009, 8:03 pm

    Hey Arno,
    I’d like to see the mm Christmas cards. If you have a link to images you’d like to share, feel free to post it. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Franklin Roop March 1, 2010, 10:04 pm

    Your site was suggested by Seth Baker. When I learn how to mind map I am sure it greatly benefit even an old, bearded 84 year old. All of
    the subjects I have read are inspirational and helpful. Thanxxxxx!

  • Sandra S. Richardson June 19, 2010, 11:13 am

    There is a software program called Inspiration that features Mind Mapping. It is available for both PC and Mac. I’ve used it and really liked it.

  • Beauyp December 15, 2011, 3:00 pm

    love it especially since I am a visual person!