“Hope for a Scattered Mind”-REPOST and UPDATE

Mind-mapping is a technique I use on a daily basis. It has been a great help to me in Project Management, sermon prep, planning date nights…really anytime I need to generate ideas and attempt to organize an otherwise very scattered mind. I’ve been asked about it several times in the last few months, so I thought I would REPOST an article I wrote several years back.

Before I re-share the post, here’s an update. My mind-mapping software of choice is currently MindNode for Mac. It’s inexpensive and has iCloud integration, which means I have access to my mind-maps on my iPhone and iPad as well. Another option I’ve used recently is MindMeister which is a web-based, cloud solution. However, it requires a monthly fee, thus the move to MindNode.

With that update out of the way, here’s the REPOST of “Hope for a Scattered Mind.”

If I was still in elementary school, I would probably be labeled with “A.D.D.” I am easily distracted and my mind wonders a million different directions. This is fine when I’m mowing the lawn contemplating deep thoughts of high theology (ok, I’m probably pondering the grilled chicken I’m going to make…man I miss summer). However, it’s NOT ok when I’m teaching, or blogging, or planning. Somehow I need to get all the ideas and mind-trails into a cohesive message that can be communicated effectively. Is there hope for a scattered mind?!?

Yes…mindmapping. Though I am sure I’ve come across this concept at some point in my education, the tenique impacted me when I was reading the book “To Do, Doing, Done!” by Snead and Wycoff. The book is a introduction to Project Management and it’s filled with very practical techniques that have changed the way I adminsitrate. I still use the 1,2,3 method (I’ll blog on this sometime), the Action File, and the Project TaskMap…all methods I learned from this book. In fact, it’s what started me down the road of project managment which lead to my certification and helped me develop curriculumn on project managment. Anyway…I highly recommend the book. It’s not Christian, but the practical ideas are fantastic.

Let’s talk technique, then tools.

A quick caveat. This is post on an idea and a technique, not theology. Mind mapping is a practical method, not a biblical one. I just felt that was worth mentioning!

Mind-mapping is simple. Start with a central idea (in the middle of the “page”) and just let the mind flow. Don’t start at the upper left-hand corner of the page. Don’t make a list. Instead, go from the center and work out and let your mind go with all the ideas you have about the topic. Thoughts will naturally group themselves so use bubbles and lines to connect related thoughts. The most important thing is to just let the mind work without a lot of self-critique.

Below is an example of a mind map I used for the iPad blog. This is just a portion of the map as I was initially thinking about the idea. It got much more complex later, but it gives you an idea of a simple mind-map:

Notice that groups are naturally forming. There will be some organization. But I’m not worrying about an outline at this point. I’m just generating ideas.

A couple of tips:
-Take breaks. Most of us think best in bursts. Record all your ideas, go get some coffee and go at it again. Coffee always helps…always.
-Use colors. Black and white is pretty bland. Changing up the colors can spark more creativity.
-Brainstorm in teams. Sometimes I will call my secretary in the room with me just to throw out her ideas. She’ll think of something and that will trigger another thought in my brain…and off we go. If I am working on a project, I will use the Project Team and we’ll have several brainstorming meetings.
-Write down everything. There’s no “dumb idea” and no thought gets “deleted” (that will come later). Write down every idea. Also, you may need to write down unrelated items to avoid mental road blocks. Let’s say you’re brainstorming and you remember, “I have to get the taxes done!” Write down “taxes” so your brain can get beyond the thought and back to the matter at hand.

Once an idea is mind-mapped, now it’s time to go back to edit and organize. When I use software (covered below in the Tools section), I can click and drag, and cut and past to group like ideas and get an outline accomplished. I will delete the ridiculous and refine the unclear. Put your “critique hat” back on in the edit stage and zero in on how you will present your topic.

That’s it, in a quick nutshell. Remember, the steps are important…mind-map first, edit and organize second.

For what it’s worth, I mind-map just about everything. Sermons, blogs, my weekly to-dos, projects, recipes…just about everything. I use the method almost daily.

There are several mind mapping tools available. Obviously, I’ve not used them ALL, but I have used several. Let’s start basic…

For years, I simply used paper and colored markers. I purchased a ream of 11X17 sheets so I had plenty of room. If I was brainstorming for a project, I would fold the paper in half and include it in my project binder. I did this for years and it worked great. However, it has to be retyped into your computer if you need PDFs, spreadsheets, and/or Project files.

Another obvious one is a simple whiteboard and dry-erase markers. This works great with a team. In fact, I have a room at the church where one wall is covered in whiteboard material. This was done for the purpose of mind-mapping! When I’m working with a team, I’ll let someone with better hand-writing (and spelling) do the “dirty work.” We write down every idea without critique (not always, easy by the way) and it’s been wonderful see how syngergy will find creative solutions.

On the positive side, the whiteboard method allows everyone in your team to see the mind-map. Also, the editing stage is easy…simply erase, re-write, etc. On the negative side, you can’t fold it up and take it with you (unless you have one of those awesome printing whiteboards). I’ve used a digital camera to capture the mind-map…but this is not idea. You still have to transfer the thoughts to a computer some place, which is why I’ve moved to software solutions.

Here a couple applications I’ve used
Inspiration 9 is a mind-mapping tool built for educators. It’s a pretty inexpensive solution (comparatively) and does a great job. Once you are finished, it will create a text file which can be copied and pasted into Word, Project, or any other application. The keyboard strokes are not as smooth as other apps, but it gets the job done.

MindManager by MindJet
MindManager is the premiere mind-mapper, in my opinion. They have done a FANTASTIC job making it look and feel like a Microsoft product. It has a ribbon, groups, buttons, etc. If you are a project manager, it’s the idea tool for brainstorming. It will allow you to assign resources, create relationships, and assign start/finish dates. The most fantastic aspect is how easily your map can be exported into other formats! With a click of the mouse, you can export into Word, PowerPoint, and Project! You can quickly and easily create PDFs and even generate a really cool HTML Site based off your mind map! This is, by far, my favorite mind-mapping software solution.

What’s the downside? The price tag! MindManager retails for (drum roll) $349.00!! Ouch! However, there is a discount (about 1/2 when I purchased it several years ago) for non-profits. Call a sales rep and they will work with you.

iThoughts HD
Is there an iPad solution? Absolutely! iThoughts HD is the one that I use. Actually, MindJet also has a solution for the iPad, but I like iThoughts HD. It’s easier to use and has more functionality. With iThoughts, I can export to a number of formats (PDF, image files, MindManager, among others) and I can easily cut/copy and paste in the edit phase. Also, for $7.99, it’s hard to beat.

Below is the completed iPad blog mind-map from iThoughts

I hope this puts you on the pathway to more organized thinking! Let your mind flow with God-honoring ideas! And don’t be afraid to share your thoughts in the comments! Thanks for reading.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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