Mind maps are fairly easy to construct logistically. The magic of mind maps lie in the use of them. So I’m going to give you the steps you would use to create a basic mind map. When you’re starting out with mind maps and figuring out how to best use them, you should do it in the simplest way possible. If you are very computer savvy and can process new ideas while learning new software, there are some mind mapping software programs you could use.  But if you prefer to put pen to paper, you can create your mind map by hand. Regardless of how you create the mind map, there are some basic steps to keep in mind.

1. Start with a central concept

You want to make sure that you have a firm concept that you will be analyzing with the mind map. Make sure the concept is broad enough that you can flesh out the mind map in a way that is beneficial. However you want to make sure the concept is narrow enough not to cause you to end up with multiple mind maps. You want to dive into one topic and go as deep as you can go without it being muddied with another topic.

2. Write down the different ideas related to the concept

Write down the words that come to mind as they relate to the central concept. Link those words to the central concept using lines and underline the words. Use single words and keep them down to the bare minimum. Use upper and lower case letters to emphasize specific points. Most mind maps are about key words, not phrases or sentences so make the most of those key words. There are some exceptions to this rule that I will discuss later but to start, work on focusing on key words.

3. Use images and symbols in place of words

Whenever possible, use images and symbols instead of words. It’s ok if you don’t draw. You can use very basic stick figure images or simple symbols. The point is for you to add a visual element to the mind map to communicate a point.

4. Use shapes to group sets of words or images

When you create a set of words or images, you can use shapes to show a relationship between them. For example, if you’re exploring a specific area of the central topic you could put all of those words and images in squares. Then if you’re exploring another area, you could put all of those words and images in circles. If you’re feeling creative, you could use less standard shapes like stars but the main goal is to give your mind map an interesting look.

5. Incorporate colors to show relationships

It’s important that you use multiple colors in your mind map. You should use a minimum of three colors but look for ways to use more. The colors should be used in addition to shapes, symbols and images not instead of. Be creative with your use of color.

Once you have followed these steps, you’re on your way to creating a basic mind map. This will give you the opportunity to get more comfortable using mind maps in the most practical way. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not just creating a pretty picture. You’re creating a visual example of how your mind processes information as it relates to the central concept.

min map diagram

The mind map in teh figure above is fairly simplistic. It doesn’t use a lot of colors or shapes but it still does a great job of fully fleshing out the plan for a vacation. In this form, the mind map is essentially a creative list. But rather than creating six separate lists, this mind map incorporates them all into one document that can be seen at a glance. If this mind map is for a large family vacation, it would be much easier to share it with multiple parties than several different lists.

mind map figure

The mind map in Figure 4-2 is one about mind mapping. It’s also very simple, using only one color, a couple of shapes, lines and words. However simplistic it is, the use of short phrases makes it still very easy to understand. Because a mind map is a somewhat complex concept to consider, phrases may be more helpful in fully analyzing them but the phrases are still very short.

mind map technique

The mind map in Figure 4-3 doesn’t use any color. It focuses on using lines to outline the different parts of a meeting need to be considered. It’s breaking down the different things that need to be considered in a monthly board meeting. This type of mind map is one way to begin introducing them in more corporate environments. Sometimes business people may shy away from things that are too bright and colorful or overly creative. By creating a basic mind map this way, you will be able to take advantage of its benefits while not alienating the people you may have to share it with.

mind map diagram 2

The mind map in Figure 4-4 was created to develop a character that the author is going to be writing about. While it’s much more colorful than the other basic mind maps, it also qualifies as a basic mind map because color is the prevailing tool that is used. The different sections are represented by different color lines and different sizes and caps use in the words. It is possible to have a basic mind map that is colorful but still not overwhelmingly full of detail.

Basic mind maps work best when analyzing a topic with only a few areas the need to be analyzed. For example, if you look at the vacation mind map, you’ll notice that it relates to a very specific vacation. It’s not a general mind map about vacations overall. This is a great mind map to use when you’re planning something very specific. It helps you to work through all of the details as they relate to what you’re planning.

When you’re doing a basic mind map, it’s best not to get to elaborate. Keep the colors down to three or less and keep the graphic elements minimal. You may want to keep the font of your words consistent and focus on using colors and shapes to group topics. However, if you want to get creative with one tool while creating the map don’t get creative with many others. For example in Figure 4-4, the creator used color and text formatting as the main areas to be creative with. So in the end, it’s still basic but more colorful. This is why basic mind maps are ideal for beginners. You can get used to the structure and how they work in a way that is easy to understand and create.