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Mapping your mind to create ideas.

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Mind maps are a classic way to explore ideas quickly and effectively.

To make a mind map, you simply take one idea or core concept and branch it out into various related ideas or words and then break them off into even smaller, more distantly related ideas, and so on. The method sounds trite, but it’s been proven to spur ideas.

The method works because it allows your brain to do several things at once. First you’re physically writing ideas down, which takes them from a surreal, intangible form, and makes them something you can see with your eyes and manipulate in a different form (language).

Mind maps are more than simply writing things down though, by creating a map of related topics you are essentially breaking down larger ideas into their most basic forms. This alone makes your project or task easier to work with (because you’ll be working with smaller pieces), and also helps break down barriers to ideas you otherwise wouldn’t have seen before.

If you want to spice up the mapping process you can even try variations of the tried-and-true method. Try a reverse mind map, where everything you branch out from is an opposite (so if you were to write “wheel” in the center of the page, the next branch could be “square” or “barrier”), or try creating a mind map in a group. Visual Root is one such tool that mixes up mind mapping by creating public maps anyone can add to.

You can come up with incredible associates by mind mapping. This form of combinatorial creativity is what many of the most brilliant minds through-out history have relied on in one form or another, mind mapping makes it easy.

If you’re feeling stuck today, whip out a sheet of paper or your iPad right now and quickly put together a mind map around your day. You may be surprised.

Photo by Jessica Mullen.