Why You Should Map Your Mind

I gave a speech yesterday at a local law school.

My topic was “15 Tips for Navigating Your Legal Career.”

Thankfully, I was able to come up with enough material to avoid the dreaded “Alternative Ways to Use Your Law Degree” that I see written and talked about a lot lately. I’m hoping they can all work in their chosen profession.

What was interesting, aside from my riveting remarks, was the way I put the talk together.

How I Map My Ideas

I used Mindjet. It’s a mind-mapping product I’ve been using for years.

It allows me to throw all my ideas out on the screen and move them around until I’ve got them just right. I can add details and show or hide those branches as I elaborate on specific elements of the talk. I can even throw videos or photos right into the mix.

I started with a blank screen and put the title of the speech right in the middle of the screen. Then I added my first, second, and third tips. I added some notes for each tip as thoughts popped into my head. The next thing I knew, I had eight tips up there.

I took a few minutes and reviewed some old articles I had stored in Evernote (which is where I keep pretty much everything I save digitally). That gave me a few more tips and some more ideas to flesh out the other tips. In the blink of an eye, I had 14 tips on the screen with a bunch of notes for each.

Then I used my “phone a friend” option and brainstormed with him to come up with tip number 15. We shared the screen so he could see what I already had and how it all fit together. Of course, that resulted in some combining and reorganizing of the other items, which was easy to do with the software.

Once I wrapped up the call, I sat back and looked at all 15 tips and did some more dragging and dropping in order to make the talk flow. As I moved items around, more and more thoughts occurred to me, and I fleshed out the details.

Could I have done the same thing without software? Sure, I could have used a pack of index cards or Post-it notes. That would have worked, but Mindjet made it so much easier.

Other Things You Can Map Out

Mindjet can be used for much more than drafting a speech. I’ve used Mindjet for lots of projects.

I’ve used it for creating and organizing:

  • Trials and hearings
  • Witness testimony
  • Opening statements and closing arguments
  • Firm meetings
  • Board meetings I’ve chaired
  • Blog posts
  • Longer articles
  • Speeches (of course)
  • Marketing plans
  • Annual goals
  • Website projects
  • And the list goes on and on.

It’s a really good product for getting ideas out of your head and out into the world. It’s ideal for use when you’re not quite sure where you’re going with your thoughts and you need to formulate a plan.

Basically, I use the software to dump everything out. Once it’s on the screen, I see things I couldn’t see before when it was all jumbled in my brain. Visualizing the information allows me to make connections and start seeing how disparate pieces of information fit together.

Every time I use Mindjet, I come away with something more than I had when I started. Somehow, it’s like dumping the data out of my brain frees up space for more thinking. There’s something magical about visualizing the information.

What I really like about mind-mapping software is that I’ve had a number of projects that felt impossible. I had no idea how to approach the situations. Throwing the info up onto my laptop screen did the trick and gave me the breakthrough I needed.

Mind mapping is a shockingly helpful approach to problem solving. There’s something that goes on with it that defies description. You’ve really got to try it to see what I mean.

Putting Yourself on the Map

Thankfully, you can try Mindjet for free. You can download a free trial.

You should know that Mindjet is expensive by some standards. It has a monthly subscription plan. It has a host of features that go well beyond the basic mind-mapping function.

There are less expensive options, and you should consider them, especially if you’re just testing the concept.

XMind is an open source project with free and paid options. It’s a very sophisticated package.

[ While I have you here, I wanted to remind you that you can get the latest articles delivered to your inbox a week before they go up on the web. Just one email per week. Sign up here. ]

There are many less sophisticated and simpler products on the market. I’ve tried several from the Mac App store with great success. A quick search on Google will turn up lots of free and inexpensive options.

If you haven’t tried mind mapping, you’re missing out. Download a trial copy of any of the mind-mapping products and give it a spin. You’ll be pleased with what it can do to expand the functionality of your brain.

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