Spontaneous Mind Mapping


When I’m home, and I’m reading for pleasure or watching TV, ideas about my work-in-progress—or anything else that arises when I’m problem solving subconsciously—pop into my head.

I know this happens to you too. That’s how our minds are designed to work.

In the past, I’d tell myself I’ll take notes later. And of course I’d forgotten most of the ideas when, or if, I ever got around to it. If I did take a note contemporaneously, I usually didn’t expand it immediately, so the idea was half formed at best.

Now I’ve discovered a better way.

Whenever possible, I immediately get the idea down in mind map form. I’ve found this more effective than jotting notes in a notebook or recording them on my phone or digital voice recorder.

I keep a pen and a clipboard with printer paper at my side during appropriate activities. When an idea pops to the surface, I capture it in the center of the paper and then immediately start brainstorming various iterations of the idea in mind map form. If I want to expand on a node, I start a new page and mind map that. I don’t let my inner critic whisper nasty things into my ear. I just get the ideas down as fast as possible knowing I can work with them in a logical and conventional way later. The lack of self-censoring is a huge advantage over linear problem solving, particularly if you're working on a creative project.

Tonight for example, streaming two episodes of Dark Matter, I ended up with nine full pages of mind mapped ideas that had nothing to do with the episodes. And some of the ideas were pretty good. I can work with them in more depth tomorrow.

Why is this better than conventional note taking? Because your mind is already primed for brainstorming. I’ve found that the mind map is the easiest way to get the ideas down in a non-linear way.  It’s a great path to intuitive out-of-the-box lateral thinking.

I still rely on voice recorders when I’m in the car, or jot down a note on paper when it's not appropriate to mind map, but whenever I can, I map. I’m convinced it’s the best way to painlessly invite original thinking into a workable format.

One rule: don’t stop the video stream, or do an obvious mind map, if your significant other is watching with you. Your clipboard will be taken away.