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How to Create a Mind Map

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.

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 article 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 article 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. For instance, you can create a full day's training course on one A3 sheet of paper, that can remain open in front of you, without the need to turn pages, or lose your place.

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

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.

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

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

Mind Map updated to add extra branches and information

Mind Map updated to add extra branches and information

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.

Saving Your Mind Maps

While it's easy to take a sheet of paper, turn it sideways and get stuck into a mind map, it's also useful to be able to save them, to look back on, especially if you are using them for revision and study or for lecture notes or if you have a series of meetings that you want to write notes on, for instance. They are also useful to keep if you have prepared training courses, or for interview preparation. I like to create my mind maps in a book that I can store on a shelf, rather than have to search for pieces of paper. It can be hard to find an A3 size book with plain pages, although artists' sketch books may work for you.

I have a mind map book that I use for my mind maps. It contains pointers and notes at the front for reminders, together with ideas for use and sample graphics to be included if desired. It also has 5 pages that include a light grey-scale mindmap as an example plus a further 65 blank pages for creating mind maps from scratch. While I may make a temporary mind map on a single sheet of paper, important ones get added to the mind map book to keep them safe.

Mind Map Book

Mind Maps On Your Computer - Zen FlowChart reviewed

While it's useful to start creating mind maps by hand, especially for children, you may prefer to create and save mind maps on your computer. There are a number of software programs you can use for this but one free one I have tried is called zenflowchart. It is intuitive to use, in that I did not need to read the instructions in order to create a flow chart.

I have an article I want to write but life is very busy at the moment, so I need a way of storing my ideas, being able to change them around and come back to the idea at different times. A mind map is an ideal way for saving ideas for an article, without having to write screeds each time. With notes and ideas stored, it will be easy to write the article in a structured way once I have all the sections charted out.

I opened Zenflowchart to find an example flowchart available immediately on the screen.

Screen shots from Mind Map in Progress

Opening screenshot for creating a mind map

Opening screenshot for creating a mind map

More Screen Shots For Developing Mind Map

Comments On Developing Mind Map

You can see from the screenshots, that I tried the color option to make the mind map monochrome, which may be useful for some people in printing out but went back to color as I find that more useful. I also added in my own topics and sub topics, created a new topic and deleted another.

I added an icon of a light bulb and also a note.

The branches (topics) can be moved around if necessary.

This mind map is now stored, ready for me to amend or use for writing my new article, though I have not yet decided where to publish it.

Mind Map Development

I then double clicked on the text I wanted to change and typed in the focus of the new mind map and the branches I wanted to include. I was able to change the color of the mind map to grey or various colors if I wanted and was also able to add icons (such as a light bulb to denote an idea) and notes, to expand on points if necessary.

I could also add in new branches (topics) and subtopics and delete any I did not want.

These options were all available from the menu at the top of the mind map page.

Zen Flow Chart - Where to Find It

More Information On Mind Maps

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 article.

Cause and Effect Webs

These are pretty simple methods for helping you work out problems and if you have followed the article 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

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

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.


This article 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 article. 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.

More Please?


DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on March 14, 2020:

A genealogy sheet seems to me to be more like a concept map, rather than a mind map. Th cause and effect map is not done the same way as a mind map, however, all three: concept maps, mind maps and cause and effect webs can be very useful in many ways. Thanks for visiting.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 13, 2020:

I've done mind mapping before using more of a cause and effect kind. It reminds me of a Geneology sheet. Don't you think so?



DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on December 28, 2019:

Oh, it's definitely fun. I love doing mind maps.

Robert Sacchi on December 28, 2019:

This seems a fun way to organize plans.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on November 16, 2019:

MInd maps are very useful and children can learn them from about the age of 8 years or so. You could do one for a book that you read, with each branch covering a separate chapter, or if youa re writing a book, then each branch could be a sperate topic OR your hero, villain, plot structure, etc. Alternatively you could make a mind map for a certain subject and each branch could be the book or chapter that covers that subject. They can be pinned up and others can read them or even add to them.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 16, 2019:

Wow. Cool to know about mind mapping. I should try that one too in order not to forget something I want to achieve. Thanks for sharing.

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on July 29, 2017:

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

David Bridges on July 23, 2017:

Great article. I first learned here: about mind maps and software itself and I was amazed how helpful they are. Thank you very much for sharing

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on April 15, 2016:

Thank you for visiting and commenting

Governor's Academy for Engineering Studies from Virginia on April 15, 2016:

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

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on November 06, 2014:

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

VioletteRose from Atlanta on October 29, 2014:

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

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on February 08, 2014:

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.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on February 08, 2014:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on December 18, 2013:

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

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on December 18, 2013:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on December 10, 2013:

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

CraftytotheCore on December 10, 2013:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on May 14, 2013:

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.

Michelle Widmann on May 14, 2013:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on November 30, 2012:

That's a great idea!

matthew francis from UK on November 29, 2012:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on July 16, 2012:

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 from Sunny Cali on July 16, 2012:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on July 04, 2012:

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

Isocrates on July 03, 2012:

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!

kumar24894 from Fuck of HUBPAGES on July 03, 2012:

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

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on July 03, 2012:

You're welcome. Hope you enjoy using them

kumar24894 from Fuck of HUBPAGES on July 03, 2012:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on July 03, 2012:

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!

kumar24894 from Fuck of HUBPAGES on July 03, 2012:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on July 03, 2012:

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.

kumar24894 from Fuck of HUBPAGES on July 02, 2012:

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

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on June 13, 2012:

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

peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 12, 2012:

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

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on June 10, 2012:

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

Ann M Reid on June 09, 2012:

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 (author) from Northern Ireland on June 04, 2012:

Thanks very much for the comments. :)

Mandeeadair from California on June 03, 2012:

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

DreamerMeg (author) from Northern Ireland on June 03, 2012:

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

Leah Lefler from Western New York on June 03, 2012:

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!

David Owen on June 01, 2012:

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.