Monday, September 24, 2012

Mind maps

I've known about mind maps as an organizational tool for brainstorming since at least high school, but I've never personally found them particularly useful for writing papers, and I always did more linear paper outlines with heading and subheadings. Even when we talked about them as a brainstorming tool in grad classes, I didn't see the magic, because doing them as a sample is entirely different than doing them for real.

But now I have seen the light of mind maps, because I used them to write my packing lists for the next year. Mind maps are really perfect for something like packing which has so many categories and sub-categories, and it's really easy to add things in any order without the paper getting out of order. That's a big deal for me- I want my lists to make sense, so it bothers me if I don't split the page up right and run out of room in one vertical list, or if the order doesn't make any sense because I thought of something later, but it was related to earlier things.

Adding information to the mind map worked around that problem, though, because I could come back to any category and add to it later, and since ideas are expanding outward from the center, there's still room, and it's still in the right place. Even adding a whole new category a few days after the first brainstorming session didn't mess things up! It was also helpful just in terms of thinking, because it both made me a little more orderly in filling out my categories, and mitigated the effects of writing down ideas out of order.

I'm starting to feel like it's at least possible that I won't wind up in Japan and realize I should have brought ________.

So, mind maps: what's your experience been with them, and why? Love them, hate them, use them never/all the time?


  1. I had to look up what a mind map was, as I was only taught how to do structured outlines, like the ones you mentioned in your post. They look incredibly confusing to someone who has no concept of how they work, although honestly, the mind map examples I saw on Google remind me of the Wagner Fluids Chart. :p