Getting started with mind maps for notes, outlines, and brainstorming

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Mind maps are a non-linear method of organizing information. I use them to take notes, to create outlines for presentations and projects, and to brainstorm ideas. If you have not used them, I suggest you take a look at this excellent overview.

I usually create mind maps on paper. I grab a legal pad and put the basic idea in the middle. As ideas come to me, I quickly add them as branches and sub-branches. In a minute or two, I can outline a complete presentation or project.

As the overview clearly shows, the advantage to the mind map is that it allows you to capture ideas as they occur to you, “out of order” so to speak, which is how the mind works. One idea leads to another and that leads to another, and so on, which is very different from the linear outlines we’re so used to. Once you have captured those ideas, however, it’s easy to re-write them into a formal outline.

I also use mind map software. Freemind is simple and easy to use and, well, free. There are many other choices. I don’t use the software often, but I do use it for bigger projects.

I’ve downloaded a few mind map apps on my iPhone but find them difficult to use. The “canvas” is too small, at least for me, and I find myself spending too much time working with the app rather than capturing ideas. Some apps do integrate with their desktop counterparts, however, so you could create the mind map on your computer and view it on your mobile device.

Some people create very detailed mind maps, with many sub-branches. They might outline an entire book (or legal case) on a large white board or fill several pages in a notebook. I usually keep things simple, using the map to get a general picture, but I have also used them to outline bigger projects.

If you’ve never tried a mind map you may be in for a pleasant surprise. Not only are they a practical way to discover and capture information you may otherwise overlook, they are a lot of fun.

I used mind maps to outline portions of The Attorney Marketing Formula. If you want to see how my mind works, download a copy today.

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