Supercharging Your Mind Mapping – Part 1: Mind Mapping Techniques to Create Your Mind Maps

If you haven’t yet, make sure to download your free mind mapping e-book.

Creating the mapOk, so now you can mind map.

You master basic mind mapping techniques. You’ve worked with MindManager for a while, and you created several maps with it.

You know how to add color, relationships, boundaries, numbering, images, notes, attached files and hyperlinks.

You might even have discovered the icons, and some extra mind mapping techniques.

That is great, and you’ve made outstanding progress.

So how do you go to the next level? How can you supercharge your mind mapping?  If we compare your current proficiency with walking, how do you start running?

This is what this series is all about.

Speed And Effectiveness Are Key

Your speed and effectiveness at mind mapping directly impacts your overall productivity at capturing and organizing information.

Speed, as will be discussed later in this article, can be broken down into your typing speed, your speed with the software (shortcuts), and your speed with other tools (such as Word, email).

Your effectiveness is measured by how well you can extract and summarize information, and structure it into a mind map.

Remember that it takes a lot of effort to master anything. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, suggests it generally takes 10,000 hours to master a complex topic.

It took me several years to perfect my visual facilitation skills up to my current level. And there will always be a lot for me to learn and improve on.

The rewards are well worth the investment. The obvious benefits are dramatically improved productivity and increased clarity which lead to better business results.

How Can You Mind Map Effectively?

I’ve always been obsessed with productivity and optimization. I have come to master Mindjet MindManager over several years, and in the next few paragraphs, I’ll cover what I believe are the essentials to effective mind mapping.

I see three main categories:

  1. Creating The Map: First, you create the mind map file. Then, you add content – topics and subtopics, callouts, notes, files, etc. I will share my best tips about content creating in MindManager in this section.
  2. Navigating The Map: Throughout your work with your map, you need to navigate through it. We will cover the optimal ways to zoom in and out, go from one topic to another, select topics, navigate from map to map, etc.
  3. Formatting The Map: To make it more visually interesting – may it be for yourself or people you’re sending it to -, I will present you with some guidance, techniques and shortcuts.

In this article, we will cover only the first category. The other two will each be the topic of another article.

This article is very technical and step-by-step. I am assuming you have a basic experience with MindManager. This was written for version 9, but most of the stuff here applies to other versions as well.
 

Part 1: Creating The Map

Inserting A New Element (Topic) On The Same Level

Don’t use the ribbon menu to do this. There is an easier and quicker way to do it.

  1. Select the element after which you want to add the element;
  2. Press “Enter” to insert a new element;
  3. Type the text you want for that element;
  4. Press “Enter” to confirm the text entry.

 

Reorder Elements

The order of elements on a branch often needs to be changed. There are two effective ways to do this:

  1. First way:
    1. Drag n’ drop the element to the desired position.
  2. Second way:
    1. Select the element you want to move to a different position;
    2. Move up with Ctrl-Alt-Up or move down with Ctrl-Alt-Down.

 

Insert A Parent Branch

Since information in a mind map is hierarchical, you are required to add a parent element to a specific element almost as often as you need to insert elements on the same level or sublevels. To do this,

  1. Select the element you want to add a parent element to;
  2. Press Ctrl-Shift-Insert;
  3. Type the text you want for that element.

By the way, you can remove a parent branch and keep its children by selecting the parent and pressing Ctrl-Shift-Delete.

 

Relationships

Add relationships between elements more or less depending on type of map you make. Causal logical trees, such as the Current Reality Tree by Eli Goldratt, are made of elements and if-then relationships between them. Relationships in traditional mind maps tend to make them more complex, and you should use them sparingly. By default, the shape of a relationship is “Bezier”. You will often need to change it to a “straight” relationship, especially if you add relationships between floating topics.

To do so: Alt-H, R, S

Or if you want to make all relationships straight by default, you need to

  1. Go into “Map Style” in the Home tab;
  2. Click on Modify;
  3. In the Map Style editor, select the arrow;
  4. Change the Line Shape to “Straight”;
  5. Apply the changes.

 

Callouts

Callouts are used to add a comment to an element. Use with moderation; they tend to clutter the map. Instead, you can add that comment to the element itself, as subtext or as a tag.

The callout in all its glory:

And here are a few alternatives to that callout. You can click on this image to view the full-size PDF.

 

Boundaries

I find that boundaries are especially interesting when creating free-floating elements. It allows you to create blocks of information that go together.

If you stick to the traditional mind map format (radially around the central topic), then they’re good to put emphasis on some of the information. However, in that case, only highlight the most important information; don’t surround every single branch with a boundary -- that overwhelms the brain.

 

Free Floating Elements

The radial mind map format is sometimes an obstacle. Don’t hesitate to create free-floating elements (i.e. somewhere in the white space around the main map). This happens for me especially when:

  • There is information somewhat related to the central topic, but not enough for it to make sense to attach it to that central topic;
  • Using other thinking processes and tools such as Eli Goldratt’s;
  • Writing a blog post: consider the mind map being the brainstorm, and the free-floating element contains the text of the post.


 

Images

It is time-consuming to add appropriate images to a map. So keep it simple:

  • A relevant central image;
  • Screenshots and diagrams to illustrate more simply or to complete an idea you’re describing with text (those are the most valuable images).

 

Icons

Two types of icons are most useful: priority icons and task completion icons.

  • Priority icons: In most cases where you need to prioritize a list, DO NOT use priority icons; use numbering instead. Priority icons are useful when you want to prioritize only certain elements spread around the map, and/or if a few elements have the same priority. For to-do lists, like I said, use numbering -- it is automatic and less fuss.
  • Progress icons: This is used most when planning tasks to do. They are available under the Insert tab, in the Icons or the Progress buttons. By default, the only % choices are 0%, 25%, 50%, 75% and completed. More % options are available. To use them, do the following:
    1. Select the element to add the progress icon to;
    2. Add a progress icon (any);
    3. Select the element, then right-click on the progress icon and there is a “More Complete % Icons” sub-menu item. That is where the extra % options are.

 

Remove The Orthographic Corrector

Sometimes useful (if making a lot of typos), sometimes a pain (when typing in French). To deactivate it:

  1. Go to the Review tab;
  2. Click on the Spelling button;
  3. Uncheck the “Check spelling as you type in this document” option.

 

Speed

There are 3 main factors to your speed of mind mapping:

  1. Typing speed: The fastest I’ve done on that particular test is 119 wpm. Actually, 118 wpm because I made one mistake : ) Here is a good test to measure your typing speed: http://www.typingtest.com/

     
  2. Speed with the mind mapping software
    • keyboard shortcuts
    • navigating around the map
    • creating information
    • simplifying the information to its essence
    • re-organizing the information and creating sub-maps
    • making links between ideas
  3. Your speed at using other tools where your information comes from and goes to. A good example is if you need to extract information from Word or email.

These three factors add up. Which one is your biggest constraint right now?
 

Other Useful Keyboard Shortcuts To Improve Your Speed When Creating

  • Select elements on a level: Ctrl-Shift-A
  • Cross out selected elements: Ctrl-Shift-S
  • Add a hyperlink to a selected element: Ctrl-K: You can also select multiple topics and add a hyperlink to them at the same time.
  • Attach a file to a selected element: Ctrl-Shift-H

 
This is a lot of information to digest. So pick one of the recommendations above and start applying it NOW. Once you’ve mastered it, pick another one and implement it. Soon enough, you’ll have supercharged your mind mapping.
 

Read Part 2 Read Part 2: Navigation Using Mind Maps 

Learn the best ways to:

  • Expand And Collapse Branches Quickly
  • Move The Map Around
  • Show A Branch Alone
  • Resize Map To Fit Screen
  • Open A Hyperlink

 

16 replies
  1. Liam Hughes
    Liam Hughes says:

    Matt,

    A great article with some really useful tips for mappers of all levels of experience! We will be sure to tell people about your blog and this article. Keep up the good work!

    Liam
    Founder: Biggerplate

    Reply
  2. Clive Lewis
    Clive Lewis says:

    Nice article on some of the intricacies of MindManager. Not sure that Gladwell’s assertion that we need to do something for 10,000 hours to become expert at it, is especially relevant – even if it’s right (which I also question. Most people I talk to want to get on and use Mind Maps rather than become world class, or very fast, mind mappers.

    Having said that, you’ve included some very useful pointers for people sho want to take their skills up a level.

    Clive Lewis
    illumine training

    Reply
    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Hey Clive,
      Thank you for your comment! : ) You’re making a good point about people wanting to get on and use Mind Maps rather than become world class. I am not targeting mind mappers as prospects. So hopefully it will simply be of value for those who do have some experience with MindManager and want to take their skills up a level, like you said, and bring some more traffic to my site.

      Cheers,
      Matt

      Reply
    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Hey Troy,

      Thank you for your comment :-) I’ll let you know when I publish parts 2 and 3.

      By the way, how do you like it at Mindjet?

      Cheers,
      Matt

      Reply
  3. Faizel
    Faizel says:

    Matt,

    I really enjoyed this article and shared it on both my Blog and Facebook Page. Even though you use MindManager, the principles are universal and can be applied using other software packages as well.

    Faizel Mohidin
    UsingMindMaps.com

    P.S. So glad I’ve put in my 10 000 hours!

    Reply
    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Faizel,
      Thank you for sharing this article on your blog and Facebook page :) I see that you’re using primarily iMindMap? That’s a great tool. I find the maps to be more visually appealing with iMindMap.
      I checked out your website, and you seem to have developed a strong expertise. I’ll keep going through your site, and I’d love connecting offline over Skype or email as well.

      Regards,
      Matt

      Reply
  4. Andrew Wilcox
    Andrew Wilcox says:

    Great stuff Matt, excellently presented.

    I think Gladwell is correct. It’s not about being world class, it’s about being a good craftsman. Think of apprenticeships in previous centuries. Or getting a Grade 7 on a musical instrument (Google that if you don’t know what I mean, it might not make sense in North America).

    If only I was using the computer keyboard at Grade 7 standard. It should be a prerequiste before using any other application. :)

    It’s one thing scribbling, it’s another to produce good copper plate writing quickly.

    I would add:
    Ctrl-F5 to the shortcuts – centre and fill the screen with the map
    Ctrl-D to toggle through level of detail.
    F4 to focus on a specific topic and its children.

    Hope you didn’t have those lined up for your next installment.

    Reply
    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Hey Andrew,
      Thank you for your comment! : )

      I looked up grade 7 music on Google and Youtube, but all I could find is videos and articles or 7th grade students. I don’t think that’s what you were referring to – would you mind posting a link or two?

      What is your speed at the keyboard? Do you feel you would benefit from increasing it?

      By the way, I just started using Ditto. It is a “multiple clipboard” application. It is brilliant for extracting multiple pieces of information from a web page or document and pasting them into a mind map. I wish I started using it a long time ago!

      Thank you for the suggestions of shortcuts. In part 2 of the series (http://fluentbrain.com/blog/supercharging-your-mind-mapping-part-2/), I do refer to Ctrl-F5 and F4. I do not personally use Ctrl-D because I find it gives me less control and it is slower to use than showing X levels with the Alt-Shift-(number) shortcut.

      Cheers,

      Matt

      Reply
  5. Andrew Wilcox
    Andrew Wilcox says:

    Great article Matt

    I think Gladwell is correct. It’s not about being world class or a record holder but being a good craftsman. Think apprenticeships in the previous centuries. If you want to do more than scribble with mind maps, it takes practice. If you want your maps to go beyond being a personal asset to a shared or published communication or knowledge store then another level of skill is required.

    However the 80/20 rule also applies and individuals will get great value from understanding what you have published above.

    A few other shortcuts I use are:

    Ctrl-F5 fill the screen with map
    Ctrl-d to toggle levels
    F4 to focus on a topic and it’s sub branches. Select the same topic and pres F4 to toggle back to normal view.

    Reply
    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Hey Andrew,

      Did you see that I approved your other comment? Looks like you wrote a second comment with the same intent as the first one.

      In any case, thanks again for your comment(s) ! ;-)

      Matt

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] Mind Mapping Techniques: Supercharging Your Mind Mapping With Mindjet MindManager v9 – Part 1: Creat… You master basic mind mapping techniques. You’ve worked with MindManager for a while, and you created several maps with it. You know how to add color, relationships, boundaries, numbering, images, notes, attached files and hyperlinks. Ok, so now you can mind map. You might even have discovered the icons, and some extra mind mapping techniques. If you haven’t yet, make sure to download your free mind mapping e-book . [...]

  2. [...] from Fluent Brain has answered that very question. In his post Supercharging your Mind Mapping, he goes over several key tips on how to really get the most out of MindManager and [...]

  3. [...] Mind Mapping Techniques: Supercharging Your Mind Mapping With Mindjet MindManager v9 – Part 1:… Ok, so now you can mind map. [...]

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