5:30 a.m. my alarm goes off. Actually, not my alarm – my radio. Before my feet even hit the safety of my slippers my brain is bombarded with either the latest top 40 hit or my local DJ overzealously belting out his station’s call letters and 800 number so I can win tickets to the Outerlands concert.

That’s when it begins - the mental clutter.

News, projects, meetings, deadlines, facts, numbers, contacts, big ideas, small ideas … it all accumulates. Second by second as the day moves along, the database that sits atop our shoulders fills ups.

According to a paper published by the Global Information Industry Center at the University of California, San Diego our brains receive and process approximately 3.6 Zettabytes of data on a daily basis.

Big Data Infographic from Fast Company

Big Data Infographic from Fast Company

Declutter your mind. The Beauty and Simplicity of Mind Mapping.

So what to do? How can you be expected to be a big-picture thinker when you’ve got to weed through all the Zettabytes? Is there a Microsoft app that organizes your thoughts? No, not yet. BUT - there is a FREE tool that comes with your choice of interface.

Mind Mapping.

You may have been using this tool for years without even realizing it. Doodling in diaries and notebooks when you were in school. Thoughts sketched out on bar napkins during meet and greets. Notes jotted down on the back of quarterly reports during less-than-exciting team meetings.

At its core, mind mapping is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts. You pull thoughts from your mind and lay them out in front of your eyes in a structured way. The visual structure allows you to better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall, and generate ideas. Its power lies in its simplicity.

How do you mind map?

You don’t have to be an artist – any sketch will assist your brain in re-reading later.

You don’t have to be an artist – any sketch will assist your brain in re-reading later.

Whether you prefer pencil and paper or online mind mapping tools – getting into the flow is easy and the results can be mind-blowing.

  1. Start in the middle of your paper and write down the big thing on your mind. Circle it.

  2. Then, without thinking too hard or deeply – start branching out.

  3. Add connecting ideas and sub-ideas with lines as you go (anything you feel is related to that topic), mapping everything out.

  4. Use the page without restricting yourself. Words, drawings, doodles. You don’t have to be an artist – any sketch will assist your brain in re-reading later.

  5. Don’t worry about putting things in the exact correct position – as you go on, patterns will begin to emerge and sequential thoughts will become apparent.

  6. Erase and adjust lines and bubbles as you go.

  7. The most important thing is that if you have a thought in your mind related to your topic, be sure to write it down somewhere in the map so that it’s not crowding your mind anymore.

Every mind map is unique and starts with one thought in the center, radiating out like branches on a tree. Once you have emptied your thoughts onto your map – take a step back. You will likely find that once everything is down on paper, you’ll see things connecting that you hadn’t realized before.

When and why you should mind map.

Like cleaning out your inbox, don’t wait until your brain is overflowing to get started. Just 10 minutes a day of mind mapping will keep your human database humming, leaving room for new ideas and inspiration to enter.  

As you create your mind map, the left and the right hemispheres of your brain are working in tandem. Mind mapping uses a wide spectrum of brain functions, from both the left and right sides, including emotion management, imagination, logic, memory, words/expression, big picture thinking, and future planning.

Because of this, mind mapping is excellent exercise for the brain – and you don’t have to download anything to do it.  

What’s on your mind(map)? Join the conversation on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.