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Spark Your Creativity with Mind Mapping

Creative Ways to Approach Problems and Find Solutions

Most people occasionally feel overwhelmed by the many demands on their time, energy and brainpower. Some are looking for new ways to add meaning and happiness to their lives or tools to help them make important decisions.

A technique called mind mapping, developed by British brain researcher Tony Buzan, is a tool for helping people gain control of seemingly impossible situations and find answers to dozens of questions or challenges. A mind map is a non-linear graphical diagram for intuitively arranging tasks, words, concepts or other items around a central concept or subject.

Here are a few situations in which mind maps can be helpful:

Enhancing memory and creativity: Mind maps are like organized doodles. They get our whole brain engaged—the logical, analytical left side and the free-flowing, uninhibited right side. Companies like Boeing use similar techniques to train upper-level engineers quickly and effectively. By creating pictures and links to familiar concepts, we remember better and can let our minds flow freely, while staying focused, organized and in touch with the big picture.

Moving from wishes to actions: The mere act of putting something—anything—on paper is a tremendous step toward manifesting one’s dreams and creating one’s own reality.

Making decisions: Treating the issue or question as a starting point or core concept, mind maps enable a person to list relevant pros and cons, feelings, ideas or whatever else comes to mind about that issue. Creating a mind map is also a simple and creative way to enhance communication and decision making when more than one person is involved.

Overcoming procrastination: Breaking down daunting projects or to-dos into manageable steps makes them seem less intimidating. Mind maps may be used to overcome writer’s block, organize research material and complete a thesis, or map out the many steps in remodeling a kitchen.

How to Mind Map

Let’s use the subject of balance in our lives as a conceptual example in a mind map. Take a sheet of plain, unlined paper. Turn the paper sideways (landscape format). Now draw a circle in the center. If you feel artistically inclined, you can also draw a picture or use a photo as the central image. Next, draw six straight lines extending symmetrically outward from each side of the center circle image, like rays of the sun (see diagram below):

Choosing words that are relevant to the subject of life balance, print one of the following words on each line segment or add others that seem more relevant to you.

• Family (or other relationships)
• Finances
•  Happiness
•  Health
•  Hobbies
•  Work

You can also curve the branches so that you can write on each and still read your mind map from one direction (see diagram below). Many people like using colors, symbols, photos and decorations to create a truly special diagram of their lives.

Now start filling in the details by letting each branch sprout new twigs (see diagram below). For instance, someone with a career as a writing coach might add the following at the end of the WORK / JOB branch: CLIENTS, WORKSHOPS, WRITING and COACHING. To add more details, continue branching.

Mind Mapping

Do the same for every branch on your mind map. If you feel that you have too many details on one twig or another, start another map on a different sheet of paper, using the name of the branch as your beginning concept.

Let things flow with your thoughts, emotions and intuition. With a bit of practice, it becomes easy to create mind maps on walls, flipcharts, whiteboards and even napkins and matchbooks for oneself, family or co-workers.

Kira Henschel is president and CEO at HenschelHAUS Publishing. She is a book coach who hosts both private sessions and group seminars. For more information, email or visit

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