How mind mapping can change your life

Nicola MacPhail
Jul 17, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

I have used mind mapping for years. It has helped me gain clarity on many tasks, from brainstorming ideas and troubleshooting to prioritising tasks and goal setting.

Why use it?

You know those times when you have a muddle of ideas in your head? You know what you have to do but struggle to know how to create order and prioritising tasks? This is where the power of mind mapping comes in.

This tool effectively gets everything ‘out of your head’ and on to paper. Then you can review it, add to it, prioritise it and build a strategy to get stuff done.

I use this tool weekly for prioritising my to-do list, content brainstorming and collating research. In work, I use it for troubleshooting snags in operations, training requirements, identifying new opportunities, staff issues, and even budgeting. I wouldn’t be without it!

So how can you use it?

There are many apps out there that allow you to create digital mind maps, however I am a fan of peace and quiet, a big piece of paper (A3), some coloured felt pens, a mug of coffee (or wine depending on the time of day!) and an awesome music playlist.

Here is an example of how you can use mind mapping to get clarity on a range of things, from work, to business, to life goals!

Stage 1: Data Collection

At work, obtain feedback from staff/colleagues, collect improvement ideas, look through any recent mistakes or customer complaints. Don’t be embarrassed by what you find; lots of data is vital if this process is to be meaningful and productive.

Personally, take an objective look at your lifestyle, habits, routines and other areas. ‘Take stock’ of your current situation.

Stage 2: The ‘Brain Dump’

Lock yourself away somewhere and get scribbling. In the centre of a large piece of paper, then begin ‘brain-dumping’ all the information you have collected, listed, found out etc.
It is an exhaustive process — just keep going until there is nothing else you can write. You will know when you reach this point because you go to write something and realise you have already written it!

Stage 3: Categorising

With another coloured pen, begin grouping the issues you have written — at work they might be : staff, customer service, IT, dispatch process, management, training, time management.
Once you start, a pattern will appear. Really take the time to do each stage until complete. Grab a brew and sit with it for a while before proceeding onto the next stage.

Stage 4: The Mind Map

On a second piece of paper, begin a second mind map where you group the issues you identified in the brain dump under the headings you identified. Like branches of a tree, these items will branch into clearly definable ‘categories’ or groups.

Stage 5: Prioritising

This is all about priorities. There are two assessment factors you can use if you are struggling to know what to ‘attack’ first.

Impact: How impactful will sorting this issue be on your overall work or life? How big will the change be from that single improvement?

The second factor is influence.

Influence: How influential will this change be on the other issues or improvements you have on you mind-map.

Assess each issue or improvement against these two criteria and begin circling those that score high in both. These are your highest priorities. With a red pen, begin circling items that are an immediate priority. Secondly in orange, circle those that can wait a month or so. Finally, in green circle those you identified as improvements rather than major issues, which could be postponed for a few months.

Stage 6: Understanding the issue

The final stage is looking at each ‘Red’ and ‘Orange’ issue in isolation.
Create a mind map for each issue and honestly explore what is causing these issues to happen and then outline what will solve these issues.

These could be simple or more complex but once this process is complete, it will give you the road map to sorting the issue at its true root.

Stage 7: Execution

Now you know the issues, priorities and root causes, you have clarity. You know what the issues are, what’s causing them, what you need to do, and can apply realistic timescales required to address each.

Schedule regular sessions

I would encourage you to do a mind map like this at least every six months, but in expanding businesses or during times of rapid change you might complete this more frequently to quickly identify ‘growing pains’ and rapidly deliver solutions. At work or in your business remember to involve your team, include your managers in this process and as they become confident, ask them to complete this exercise themselves.

Mind mapping has multiple benefits

In business, you will find your managers develop a confidence and a managerial mindset to problem solve issues themselves. Meanwhile, other staff feel involved and constructively give feedback. They quickly see feedback being acted upon and watch the results benefits them. Most importantly, issues are clearly identified and improvements executed , improving the business structure.

With mind mapping, you’ll find your business benefits from smoother operations, empowered managers, fewer complaints, happier staff and greater efficiency.

Give it a try!

Nicola MacPhail

Written by

A business consultant and writer, I write extensively on change management, productivity and business operations. Find out more at

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