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How to Create a Mind Map

Updated on February 23, 2017

Getting Started When It's Dificult

Can’t think of how to make a start on something, even if it’s urgent? Maybe you need to work out a problem, or work out the relationships in a complex situation? Or perhaps you are finding difficulty starting to write your paper or a novel, begin an essay, revise your studies, plan out your garden or a weekly diet plan, solve a mystery puzzle, organise your information on something or even see if something makes sense?

Maybe what you need is the motivation to get stuck in, but in many cases, it's knowing how to get started that will get you going. And getting going may be a LOT easier if you map or draw something out than it is to just start writing about it. Mapping or drawing out your problem can help you do just about anything. And you don’t need to be any sort of artist either!

Part of a Personal Mind Map

Example of a personal mind map covering personal development and life interests. Note that the central focus is of a stick person having fun (throwing a ball). There is lots of colour included and the diagrams do NOT need artistic talent.
Example of a personal mind map covering personal development and life interests. Note that the central focus is of a stick person having fun (throwing a ball). There is lots of colour included and the diagrams do NOT need artistic talent. | Source

There are a number of different ways of mapping out a problem, including probably the best known one - mind mapping - but there are other mapping techniques that are just as useful and which can serve different purposes. They are all great tools to have at your disposal, whether you are in business, studying, planning out your life or just plain want to get stuck into something but don’t know how. This hub will show you how to create and use several types of map.

The main mapping techniques that are useful in any situation are:

  1. Mind mapping/spider diagrams;
  2. Concept maps; and
  3. Cause and effect (consequence) webs.

There are others but they really need a separate hub to themselves.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping helps you get all your ideas down on paper in a single page visual that helps you hold all the different relationships in view. It means you don't need to write long, linear paragraphs where you can get lost, or where you can’t see how things fit together. They are REALLY useful for studying and learning, for organising a paper you need to write, for analysing something, for setting out your goals and aims, or the company’s goals and aims, or for checking out the sense of something, for instance, if you are trying to understand how a contract works, in a situation where you may not trust the other company. They are also really useful if you need to make a presentation or give a talk or run a training course - they let you see everything at a glance, remind you of where you are and what you need to cover, without overwhelming you with words.

Mind maps are easy to learn how to do and can be used even by children in primary school, where one of the main benefits can be in helping them to write essays. Most children don’t like to do any more writing (or word processing) than necessary, so planning out a story they want to write may seem like additional torture, on top of having to write an essay or story or project and they often want to get stuck straight in with what they know, then get lost and have to backtrack. By using a mind map, they can organise their story, make changes to the order or add more points, all without having to write (or type) or change lots of stuff.

In addition, they love adding little stick figures, arrows, colours, highlighters and any other visual aids they (or you) can think of to emphasise different points, make connections between different areas and generally be creative about producing their own, original work.

Some simple icons or line drawings you can use for Mind Maps
Some simple icons or line drawings you can use for Mind Maps | Source

Grown Ups Like Mind Maps, Too!

Grownups can have fun with mind maps too. Admit it - you really like using colours and highlighters and making little paw-print connection lines between different areas. And while you’re having fun, you can be doing really serious, important work, including academic research, creating technical help documentation, analysing a book or a chapter of a book, developing a company business plan or working on your nutrition and fitness plan for a competition.

How to create a Mind Map / Spider Diagram.
How to create a Mind Map / Spider Diagram. | Source

How to Start Creating a Mind Map

Use a piece of plain paper in landscape format, that is, with the long side nearest to you and write your topic slap bang in the middle of the page, surrounded by an oval or circle or whatever shape you feel fits best. If it’s a child writing a story, the focus or topic might be “My pet”, “my dream holiday”, “last weekend”, “maths project”, etc. If it’s about a dog, then the central oval or shape could say “my dog”. If you want to be really creative or your child needs additional incentives, why not use a picture or a drawing of a dog? (Note: this is a HELP for the child, it does NOT have to be perfect, it can be a scratchy drawing and they can colour it in if they wish). This is preparation for the child writing a story about their dog, or a dog they wish they had. It is not part of what they will be handing in eventually unless you or they want it to be. So let them create the topic they want (provided that it fits with the work they have to do) and colour and surround it as they wish, to provide a central focus. I have given several examples of the focus of a mind map, so you can see that there is no special way of doing it - just do something that suits you and the child. Don’t let grown-up desires to do the project for the child or to be seen as a “special” family get in the way of allowing your child to create the mind map for themselves and make it their own. You will be doing them and yourself, a favour that will remain with them all their lives, both as an experience that makes it fun to produce work and as a skill that they will be able to use at the very highest levels of education if they choose.

Possible focus for starting a child's mind map about a dog
Possible focus for starting a child's mind map about a dog | Source

Add Branches to Your Mind Map

Next, choose some words (topics) related to the subject and add them around the focus. If you are mapping about dogs, these might relate to the TYPES of dogs you can have, their FEEDING, the EXERCISE they need and how to CARE for a dog. Draw a line below the words and join it to the centre. These now form branches of the mind map. You now continue by adding further topics (branches) joined to the focus or by adding twigs to the branches. For instance, you might decide to add a new topic covering “accessories” for a dog (such things as a lead, a water bowl, a food bowl, a sleeping basket, etc). You can fit that in very easily somewhere around the diagram. On the other hand, you might decide to consider the kinds of dog (TYPES) you could have, such as a terrier, a poodle, a great Dane, etc. If you know any of these dogs, you might realise that they are very different sizes and that they are also very different in the kind of pet they can be. For instance, some dogs are known as “working dogs”, others are just pets.

A mind map with a focus and branches added
A mind map with a focus and branches added | Source
Mind Map updated to add extra branches and information
Mind Map updated to add extra branches and information | Source

A Mind Map in Progress Party Party!

I have added a Mind Map on a party theme, and then I updated it, to add more information, so you can see just how easy it is to add more information and to keep all the information available on a single page to make sure you don't forget anything. With the Party Party! Focus, I added seven branches, including

  1. Theme
  2. Where?
  3. Organisation
  4. Invite
  5. Entertainment
  6. When? and
  7. Cost.

In the first version, I did not have the branch "Organisation." This was to show that you do not have to be able to think of absolutely everything at the start. As you will see from the two pictures, it is really easy to add another branch to a Mind Map and to add extra information or twigs elsewhere in the diagram.

There is a lot of information available on the Internet about creating Mind Maps, including videos from their creator, Tony Buzan, and software for helping you create, save and print mind maps with your computer, so I will leave any further work on this to him to explain and move onto other areas of mapping further on down this hub.

Cause and Effect Webs

These are pretty simple methods for helping you work out problems and if you have followed the hub on mind mapping, these will be easy peasy for you. You can use these just for expanding or clarifying your thinking or thoughts on something. Start in the middle of a page with an idea that you want to clarify. It might well be a personal problem, such as, "should I leave school now?" This is the type of question many young people may be asking themselves, especially when exams loom and no study, or not enough, has been done! Once you have the focus question, you ask yourself, "What would be the effects of this?" and write them down to the RIGHT of the focus question.

The effects of leaving school might be, "need to get money" "parents/guardians will be angry/disappointed", etc. Note: you are NOT using this to try to provide yourself with a guilt trip over anything, you are using it as a tool to work out all the effects or consequences of a particular decision so that you can see whether or not you want to make that decision. There could of course also be some very pleasant consequences, such as "no study needed," "free evenings," etc. Try to think of as many as you can.

Once you have some effects or consequences down, then you take each of those in turn and use them as a focus point for more effects/consequences.

Starting a Cause and Effect Web
Starting a Cause and Effect Web | Source

Cause and Effect Webs Work Both Ways

You also need to work backward from your initial focus to why out why you landed there (the cause of you being in this situation). The possible causes might be that you are bored, you don't understand the lessons, you are being bullied, the work is too easy, you have home problems, etc. There could be any number of possible causes for you wanting to leave school earlier than planned.

Cause and Effect Web getting filled out
Cause and Effect Web getting filled out | Source

Cause and Effect Webs—Completing

A cause and effect web is a way of looking at all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, without agonising over particular parts of it. They help you to see the whole picture and to look at it rationally. They are helpful in letting you see that there are a number of areas that must be considered with a difficult problem and they can often help you to find a way through. For instance, if you can see that your parents would be upset if you left school but you are unhappy because you are being bullied, you might be able to find a compromise, such as going to a different school, getting help to stand up to bullies, etc. Or if your parents need help at home, you may be able to find some help in school (possibly from a pastoral care teacher) that could get your parents some additional help that frees you up to do more schoolwork. You may also find that leaving school might be your best option. Not everyone is suited to school, and if you have done a cause and effect web, so you know all the pros and cons of your decision, you will be in a better situation to make plans that suit YOUR life and interests.

Summary

This hub covered 2 mapping techniques for solving problems, working things out and understanding situations. They were mind mapping and cause and effect webs. I hope you have learned something new and that you have enjoyed this hub. There are other techniques for drawing out problems or finding your way through tricky situations. Let me know if you would like some more. :) For instance, concept mapping is also useful for working out things and seeing relationships between different parts of a subject. And free mapping is another method for visualising relationships.

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    • DreamerMeg profile image
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      DreamerMeg 3 weeks ago from Northern Ireland

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Mind maps are just fantastic!

    • profile image

      David Bridges 4 weeks ago

      Great article. I first learned here: https://www.mindjet.com/mind-mapping-techniques/ about mind maps and software itself and I was amazed how helpful they are. Thank you very much for sharing

    • DreamerMeg profile image
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      DreamerMeg 16 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Thank you for visiting and commenting

    • GAES STEM profile image

      Governor's Academy for Engineering Studies 16 months ago from Chesterfield, Virginia

      You did a good job explaining what mind maps are and how to use them. This was a useful hub!

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 2 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Glad you found it useful. Mind maps can be used in just about any situation.

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 2 years ago from Chicago

      Great, I really didn't know much about this. This is very helpful, thank you.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      LOL - it might well be part of procrastinating, however, actually writing down the problem, then looking at reasons (BEFORE solutions) might give you an insight into how to overcome it. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      As I was reading this article, I took out paper and pencil and gave mind mapping a try, and it does work, just as you and the man in the video said it would. Henceforth I am going to "pre-write" with a mind map before drafting just about any prose text.

      I intend to give creating a cause-and-effect web a try soon, too. I'm thinking that I will use mind mapping to help create that.

      If the cause-and-effect web question is: why am I procrastinating getting some writing done, then wouldn't creating it be part of the problem?

    • DreamerMeg profile image
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      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thanks very much. Yes, it can really help with problem solving too.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      I am familiar with mind-maps. This is wonderful and your visuals are great. Sometimes, just visualizing the problem or situation helps one to stand outside the picture and look in and come to a conclusion on how to solve the problem. Brilliant hub!

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thanks. I love Mind Maps and Yes, I think that they do help you to focus.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      This is interesting and useful. Sometimes I have difficulty expressing in words what I'm trying to say. I can see how this will help me stay focused.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
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      DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      You're very welcome. Hope this helps in journalling, I certainly have found it useful to doodle in mind map mode and have found useful ideas, insights and connections when doing so.

    • profile image

      Michelle Widmann 4 years ago

      I've been experimenting with a number of ways to journal and get my ideas onto paper and out of my head, but I've never thought to do a mind map before. Especially since I have been dealing with trying to keep my anxiety in check, this would be a really helpful way to keep track of how things happen and what the results are. Your photos were also extremely helpful in adding to your explanations. Thanks for this hub!

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      That's a great idea!

    • matthew francis profile image

      matthew francis 4 years ago from UK

      Ive found the iPad and other tablets have unlocked mind maps for me. Creating one in a meeting and then emailing it round later is a great way to share your thoughts or just capture what happened. Thanks.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thanks. I never thought of a mind map as a way to journal and so "get rid of things" before, but YES! Mind mapping can be used to create "to do" lists and for doodling - sometimes the best ideas come when you are just doodling away thinking of nothing in particular, so they could be used for journalling AND to get rid of stuff too. Maybe that should be another hub. Thanks again.

    • Ann810 profile image

      Ann810 5 years ago from Sunny Cali

      Hi Dreamermeg, this mind mapping is a cool way to rid our minds of things; something like a journal but with pictures added. Voted up.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      That's great. Thanks for the comment. Good luck with your studies.

    • Isocrates profile image

      Isocrates 5 years ago

      Holy crap, this is probably the best hub I've read. I've always heard people talking about "mind maps" and making one, etc, but I never knew what it really was. Anyway, thanks a bunch, I have to definitely bookmark this page, it will be really useful when I start college next year!

    • profile image

      kumar24894 5 years ago from Fuck of HUBPAGES

      Yes I will . I'm excited to do it.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      You're welcome. Hope you enjoy using them

    • profile image

      kumar24894 5 years ago from Fuck of HUBPAGES

      Yes you are right. I will always try doing this , I will use this in my preparation for essays for the B-school. Thanks for giving the example of your children. It helped me.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      You're welcome. When I first learned about them, I was "wow, why have I never heard about these before?" Since then, I have used them many, many times for all sorts of things. I have even taught them to my children when they were at school (they are all grown now) and they found them useful for writing essays, because it made it SO MUCH easier to plan the essay, without lots of writing!

    • profile image

      kumar24894 5 years ago from Fuck of HUBPAGES

      Ya right. I never created mind map. But it seems to be a lot useful . I'm 17 and I will need it for my future studies, jobs and everything. Thanks for such useful hub.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      That's very kind, but you don't need to be able to draw to be able to create a mind map. Just get it down in a way that suits your own thinking and it will be beautiful because it does the job you need it to do.

    • profile image

      kumar24894 5 years ago from Fuck of HUBPAGES

      Beautiful hub and useful too. Must say your drawing is very good.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thank you very much. :) Glad you liked it.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Wonderful hub and interesting to know about mind mapping. The photos show very detail and I could understand easily. Very good work.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thank you so much for your comments. I am writing more hubs but they take a little time to do:)

    • profile image

      Ann M Reid 5 years ago

      Really interesting and thought-provoking. You did a great job of explaining and illustrating your topic. A wonderful tool for writing and thinking anything through in a non-linear way. Write more soon.

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thanks very much for the comments. :)

    • Mandeeadair profile image

      Mandeeadair 5 years ago from California

      This was incredible!! A very nice read and I enjoyed learning about Mind maps. Great hub!

    • DreamerMeg profile image
      Author

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thank you very much. Kids love mind maps - they are so easy!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      This is a fantastic hub! You clearly present the concept of mind mapping and I love your photographic examples. These are great planning techniques and I am definitely using this idea with my six year old, as he is starting to read and write, and loves to make up stories!

    • profile image

      David Owen 5 years ago

      Very good. I've known about mind-maps for a long time and I constantly get adverts from Buzan about buying his mind map but just haven't done anything about it. I quite like my more disorganised approach to life but there are times when nailing things down in advance would benefit me and others.