When I started blogging on Her Lovely Heart I wanted to find the right direction for the blog in order to create the best content I could. I had lots of ideas and interests, but I wanted to get clear on how to deliver what I wanted to say in a focused way. So I decided to use one of my favourite techniques for organising my thoughts – mind-mapping. Mind-mapping is kind of like having a conversation with yourself, but only one that doesn't go around in endless circles, but rather lets you group thoughts and ideas together. And the great thing about it is that, since it's your conversation, the order that emerges doesn't have to make sense to anyone else but you.
I also like the process itself and the creative choices you can make when mind-mapping. You can make it as simple or as complex as you want. You can draw think bubbles on a large paper, use chalk on a blackboard, use post it notes or anything that takes your fancy. You can group things in a way that makes sense to you visually, you can use arrows for colour coding or hierarchies. The visual nature of mind-maps makes them incredibly powerful tool to deal with complex problems.
How to get started with mind-mapping
The first version doesn't necessarily solve all your questions, but over time you can create a profoundly useful conversation. You can even keep your maps going for over a longer period of time, adding to them when you think of something new. Here are a couple of guidelines to get you started:
- Try to pair down what you write into as few words as possible, trying to get to the core phrase or idea.
- Aim to make connections between things that might be seemingly isolated. You don't need to worry about anyone but you understanding what you have connected, and the further you reach with trying to make connections, the more doors you might open for your thinking.
- Once you start developing clusters, try to step back and look at your map objectively. Are the any gaps or missing information? Anything you might need to research further?
Mind-mapping can also be a good exercise in mindfulness. It forces you to actively process your thoughts, and move things into your long-term memory. Moving elements around will also spark new ideas and help you divert the circular thinking that so often keeps us paralysed.
For my mind-map, I started with my challenge phrase ‘useful inspiring blog content' and placed that in the centre. I then let any thoughts knocking around in my head come out and put those down, trying to draw connections between them. Here are some of the ideas my map generated for me.
- Interview creatives who work for themselves.
- Document my own process.
- Introduce simple but powerful techniques.
- Demonstrate how to simplify difficult concepts.
- Provide inspiration in both visual and practical forms.
The deeper I went with the original map, the more defined my areas got, until I arrived at the categories and series you find here today. I think there's still some sharpening to do in the future, but for now I feel pretty inspired and focused to deliver a balanced variety of useful and inspiring content. I hope you think so, too!
Do you use mind-mapping for anything, or are you going to try it in the future?