Mind mapping software can significantly improve your effectiveness, so much so that you really ought to consider making it a key tool in your personal productivity arsenal. Here are 10 reasons why you should incorporate this technology into your workflow:
1. It’s unbelievably flexible. The number one benefit of mind mapping software, hands down, is this: No other type of program lets you manipulate ideas, knowledge and information with as much freedom and flexibility as mind mapping software. That’s because it encapsulates ideas and knowledge in “containers” that can hold various types of content and data and can be rearranged at will.
2. It can make you more productive. Mind mapping software can increase your productivity by an average of 20%, according to two independent research studies conducted by me and Mindjet. That’s the equivalent of saving one day a week. What you could accomplish in your job if you could save that kind of time? What could that magnitude of productivity increase do to your reputation as a “can do” worker?
3. It can help you become a better creative problem solver. Mind mapping software can help you to make connections and become a better creative problem solver. Because your brain works by association, mapping information visually makes it easier to see connections between seemingly unrelated bits of information. Also, your brain hates to see things in an unfinished state. So when it sees a map branch with information that hasn’t been fully developed, your brain kicks into gear and delivers the thoughts and ideas needed to complete it.
4. It helps you to identify gaps in your information. Your brain works visually, and it works by association. So when you start to visually record your ideas and knowledge, it enables you to more easily see where gaps exist in your information – additional facts or knowledge you need to gather, new “white space” ideas that you couldn’t see before.
5. It gives you a powerful set of tools to think about your thinking. When you move a topic in a mind map, you change its context – you “reframe” its meaning. That’s powerful, because it gives you a unique ability to “think about your thinking” – to look at ideas and information from a higher level of abstraction and rethink and rearrange your ideas until they make sense to you. To the best of my knowledge, mind mapping software is the only type of business software that enables this capability.
6. You can reach clarity faster on key issues. In a survey that I conducted, this was the number one benefit that users of mind mapping software cited when asked to define the value that it provides to them. You can quickly do a “brain dump” in your favorite mind mapping software, and then rearrange your ideas and topics until they make the most sense to you. Each time you do so, you have the opportunity to view them in a different context, which is very powerful.
Mind mapping expert Kyle McFarlin put it this way: “Mind mapping is the fastest way to get clarity on confusing issues, hands down. No other medium allows you to brainstorm about a subject and quickly rearrange topics, like notes on a desk. And with mind mapping, you get to create knowledge centers for important topics you are working on, all in an easy to see, hub-and-spokes format. It can literally convey what used to take hundreds of pages in one visually engaging document.”
7. It helps you to make better decisions. Mind maps give you a highly visual way to record a detailed description of the challenge or opportunity you face, brainstorm potential solutions, explore the pros and cons of each one, envision potential future problems more clearly, assign weights to each factor and reach a more balanced, well thought out decision – often in less time than other methods of decision making. It’s also very helpful when you’re facing an ambiguous situation, or where you don’t have enough information to make an accurate business decision.
8. It helps you to become better organized. You can use mind maps as a very efficient front-end process for your new projects, to create meeting agendas, to do lists and other valuable time-savers. Your maps can also contain links to files, web pages, notes and individual e-mails. This means you’ll spend less time looking for key documents and information, and more time accomplishing great things. In addition, several mind mapping tools enable you to capture ideas on the fly, so you don’t lose any of them.
9. You can see the forest and the trees. The expandable/contractible format of a mind map enables you to see both the 50,000 foot overview and “drill down” to a detailed view, both in the same document. When you’re developing a complex business or project plan, this capability is incredibly useful!
10. It helps you to identify, prioritize and track key project tasks. Nearly all mind mapping software programs enable you to attach detailed task information to map topics – including start and end dates, percentage complete and even to whom you delegated a task. You can also create a personal dashboard to track items you have delegated to others and those you must accomplish. In addition, if you utilize the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, you’ll find that certain programs can help you to easily manage your next actions and “someday maybe” items quickly and easily.
If you’re not utilizing mind mapping software today as part of your personal productivity system, you really ought to consider doing so.
The content for this article was excerpted in part from The Mind Mapping Manifesto, an e-book that can help you to specify the right program for your needs.