Sunday, 9 April 2006

Mind Mapping and Me

If you learn one new technique this month, make it mind-mapping. I believe that using this technique has had a great impact on my life since I discovered it 2-3 years ago.

It was created by Tony Buzan who was researching how the brain works, particularly as it relates to memory. I won't write a history or a review as there are lots of websites that provide this (see below). Instead, I will tell you how I use the technique to aid my memory, problem solving, and project planning.

Note-making - When I am trying to get a handle on a subject (e.g. revising for the ITIL exam), or just thrashing ideas out with myself, I use a mind map to capture my brainstorming. It's very easy to make sense of things by moving them around once my thoughts have been captured. Frequently moving them around also leads to 'aha' moments which don't readily happen when working in a more linear fashion.

Book Summaries - I'm reading a book and I want to take notes. Instead of the old fashioned way, I sit in front of my PC and create a mind map as I read. At the end I have a summary of the book's key points which serve as reminders of the content.

Project Planning - I create a map as though it were a work break down structure. Starting in the centre with the deliverable, I then work out what is needed to make it happen. Afterwards I then go through and add in the estimated times each action will take and who it may be allocated to. When finished I use Mind Manager to export it into Microsoft Project and voila - one work breakdown schedule in half the time it takes to create in Project. (Of course you then have to go through other parts like the finance, resource levelling, etc. But getting that initial work in saves a lot of time and is easier in mind to work from due to the visual nature of mind maps).

This applies from projects at work to projects at home like moving house!

Creating Presentations
- I haven't yet graduated to presenting with mind manager. However, I have used it to get down the key points for a presentation, add in notes for myself, then exported to power point. Works very well as it enables you to see how everything contributes to the main topic leading to a sharp, cohesive presentation.

Writing Reports - I put down everything I want to say, get all the key points down with extra text where needed. Then afterwards I move things around to get a structure that works. Only then do I export into MS Word to format as required for the respective occasion.

Meeting Management - I've used mind maps to create meeting agendas, then projecting the mind map onto a wall during a meeting, type up decisions and actions as it progresses. By the end of which you have a complete (hopefully accurate) record of the meeting as everyone can see what is being written. This can be e-mailed to everyone as a mind map, exported to MS word format, or published on an intranet.

Collating Research - When I find an interesting topic that I look into, I tend to create a mind map to draw together the useful links, quotations, book references, etc. Then it is easy to find things later on.

I also have lots of odd maps that don't quite fit in the above categories. Some for example are master maps that link various maps together, like a miniature desktop. Particularly useful when you don't want to go digging in your file directory.

Useful Links:
Introduction to Mind Mapping @ Mind Tools (my favourite personal development web-site)
MindJet - software developer of Mind Manager (my favourite)
Freemind - if you can't afford the above
Yahoo Mind Manager Group - great community to help you get the most out of Mind Manager

If you do take the plunge and look into mind mapping, please let me know how you get on with it. I personally find it makes some boring jobs rather fun, I hope you do too!


Robin Yearsley said...

Hi there!

Nice Blog - I enjoy your style of writing and your anonymity!

Keep it going.

I'm going to help drive new traffic to your Blog - by featuring it over on mine.

Great Service!


The ITIL Imp said...

Hi Robin,

Thank you very much for being the first to comment on my blog - much appreciated!

I was a big fan of your Dr Itil site and monitor your new IT service today blog to see what's new.

Hope you keep stopping by when you can :)

The ITIL imp

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