A mind map is a whole-brain method for generating and organizing ideas. Basically, you place an image at the center of a piece of paper which represents the subject matter of the mind map. Then you write down a key word that describes your topic. Next, you proceed to draw branches leading out from the central issue which represent the main associations that come from thinking of said issue. From each main association, you then branch out into sub-associations.

There are many uses for mind maps, such as the following:

  • Generating ideas
  • Personal goal setting
  • Studying for exams
  • Improving reading comprehension and retention
  • Creating a business plan
  • Coming up with different alternatives to resolve a problem

Step-by Step Instructions for Creating a Mind Map

Below you’ll find the ten steps you need to follow in order to create a mind map:

1. Get a plain sheet of paper and turn it so that it's on its landscape side. You're also going to need colored pens or pencils.

2. Mind maps represent a task or idea in pictorial form with a minimum of words. They rely on key pictures and key words that act as triggers. In the center of the page, draw a picture or image that represents the central concept of your mind map.

3. Use colors throughout. Adding colors stimulates right-brain thinking; that is, it stimulates creativity and imagination.

4. Write down a key word which represents the central idea. Throughout the mind map you'll use just one key word per line. Keywords exercise your analytical "left brain" and help you find the essence of your subject. A phrase or sentence locks the meaning of a word into a very restricted area. Using just one key word per line gives you the freedom to discover the maximum amount of creative associations for your key word. When you first start mind mapping, the temptation to use complete phrases will be enormous, but you should always look for opportunities to shorten phrases to a single word.

5. What are the main concepts or ideas that can be derived from the image and key word you've placed in the middle of the page? Draw anywhere from five to nine thick branches leading out from your central image/key word. Each of these branches represents a Basic Ordering Idea (BOI), and you're going to find an image and a key word for each.

6. Make your branches organic and free flowing, instead of making them structured and rigid.

7. Look at your main branches--your BOIs--and begin making free associations. Draw smaller sub-branches that stem from each BOI to accommodate the new associations you're making. Then connect third-level branches from the ends of the sub-branches, and so on. Let your mind work freely by association and have fun.

8. Make the branches curve and flow.

9. Don't be arbitrary in your use of color, shapes, line styles and other visual elements of your map. Each of these can help to convey additional meaning or context, if used consistently and systematically.

10. Use images throughout. The images make the mind map more interesting and more memorable. In addition, pictures generate far more associations than words do.

Author's Bio: 

Written by Marelisa Fábrega. For more information on mind maps and mind mapping, visit "Creating Mind Maps: Everything You Need to Know".