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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Organizing Your Thoughts: Mind Mapping

Putting your thoughts down on paper is an activity easier said than done.  I’d like someone to take a peek into my mind and just TRY to get the mess of ideas I have tumbling around in there onto a piece of paper in a coherent, organized fashion. 

If you too have so many ideas bouncing around in your head that you can’t manage to focus on just one, having the right tools at your disposal will make writing that much easier.  One of those tools is called Mind mapping.

Mind Mapping

The motivation behind mind maps is the idea that knowledge is stored in our brains in a non-linear fashion.  The relationships between pieces of information are simply too complex to capture in the traditional left-to-right, top-to-bottom note-taking way.

Mind maps instead focus on a single idea (the center of the map) and information is added radially around it.  This avoids the hierarchy that ordering things in a list creates (for example, if I write a to-do list and include “1. fold laundry, 2. grade essays, 3. walk dogs” on it, folding the laundry  seems to take precedence over walking the dogs). 

Mind mapping can be done with pen and paper, but if you prefer something more advanced, there are plenty of programs available for *free* online.

Mind Mapping Programs


FreeMind This is the first mind mapping program I ever used and it's still my favorite. Check out the screenshots to see its awesomeness! There's a little bit of a learning curve required for this program, but it's well worth the effort. This application is hosted online so you don't have to download anything to your computer to use it. Being online also means you can access your mind maps from any computer with an internet connection.


There are many other mind mapping programs and online applications out there (some free, some not free), but these two are the ones I personally prefer over the rest.  If these two just don’t do it for you, you can always run your own search on Google to find one that fits your needs.

Writing well is difficult enough to do without also having to deal with making sense of the jumble of ideas that pop up as part of the writing process.  Take advantage of the tools available to you, whether they be computer programs or pen and paper, and make your task a little bit easier. 


Photo credit: MShades


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