How to Boost Your Creativity (for free!) With Mind Mapping

Help! Writer’s block? Can’t focus or concentrate? Is your brain cluttered?

A technique called mind mapping may be what you need.  It will help you generate ideas, connect thoughts, and organize information.

For example, last week I was working on a project with pages and pages of writing, but I could not seem to put it in the order I had in mind.

Desperately, I checked out my bookshelf and found a book I hadn’t read yet.  I picked up  Book Blueprint: How Any Entrepreneur Can Write an Awesome Book, by Jacqui Pretty. In chapter two she suggests using mind mapping to clarify your thoughts.  Since I was finding her writing helpful, I figured I might as well try it. In fact, I organized my article quickly and even gained insight into a complicated section. 

Ms. Pretty summarizes the process, “Unlike the linear structure of lists or tables, the radiant structure of mind maps mimics the natural function of our brains. This allows you to see connections and relationships that wouldn’t be as obvious in linear lists, which then triggers more related ideas and enables you to organize these ideas more easily.”

How Does Mind Mapping Work?

There is no question that people have used mind mapping techniques for centuries, probably before the written word. Evidence exists to show that early philosophers and thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci used the technique.

While there is disagreement about the origins of the modern use of the concept ranging from Dr. Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 1981 for his research into brain hemispheres to Tony Buzan who popularized the word with his T.V. show and books, there is widespread consensus it works.

As humans evolved, we relied more and more on our cerebral cortex for speech, decision making, and processing information from the five senses.

The exercise of mind mapping includes various innate skills such as; logic, rhythm, lines, color, lists, daydreaming, numbers, imagination; enhancing the Gestalt or whole picture.

The visual experience of using lines, color, images, and words not in a linear progression enhances clarity, structure, and organization; which includes input from the entire brain. Even the eye movement required by looking in a circular motion triggers a different thought process, and since we all recall information by association, it stimulates new ideas.

Five Simple Steps for Easier Brainstorming

  1. Write an idea, problem, or concept in the middle of a large sheet of unlined paper, poster board,  or even an old piece of cardboard.
  2. Radiating out from the original idea like spokes of a wheel add curved or straight lines and all the other relevant words that come to you. Use symbols, sketches, or words– let the ideas flow. Use a pen or colored markers.
  3. Next, under each of your second-tier ideas add more spokes and any concepts related to the earlier one.  
  4. Notice subheadings which have longer lists showing you know more about those items.  Observe connections the ideas. Draw connecting lines, cross things out, and continue brainstorming.
  5. Finally; on a separate piece of paper, write your main idea with the subsidiary ones underneath, the essence of an outline.

Use Mind Mapping to Collaborate

This technique is useful for individuals and fantastic for groups. Each person can feel confident that their contribution is valuable to the process.

While there is software that allows you to do the whole exercise, I prefer the free-flow of paper. If coworkers are connecting, these programs could be invaluable in enabling collaboration.  I tried the free access version of this program, and it was easy to use and intuitive.

In brief, next time you are struggling with ‘brain block,’ try this technique. It’s easy and free!

Whether you are a writer, brainstorming, or need to organize a complicated problem; I suggest you try it.

If you’re interested in learning more about this valuable tool, here are two sites to check out.

Read about the history and theory of mind mapping

Mind Maps for business