Different productivity hacks work for different people, which is why there are so many of them. But if you happen to be a visual learner, there’s one in particular that might be suited for you: mind mapping. Mind maps are diagrams designed to organize information and data points that relate to each other, making everything you need to do easier to follow. Here’s how to make and use them.
What is a mind map?
A mind map isn’t just a diagram that lays out tasks. Rather, it does so in a hierarchical way, connecting things that are related and making it clear which need to be done first in order to move on to the next task. You can use mind maps for a variety of reasons, whether you want to think clearer or set goals with them, but for our purposes, we’ll go over how they can be used as productivity tools. Feel free to try them for word-associating, brainstorming, note-taking, and more once you get the hang of it.
Start by writing the main idea of what you need to do. For instance, if you have to make a new hire, write that right in the center and draw a circle around it. Then, use arrows to branch off into related tasks: HR tasks, onboarding tasks, financial tasks, etc. From each of these, you draw more arrows. HR tasks might involve legal paperwork and background checks. Onboarding may require getting your new hire access to training modules and finding them a workspace. Financial tasks could include setting up payroll and getting them certain benefits enrollment information.
After creating the mind map, you’ll see all the tasks laid out in a web that will help you visualize and grasp everything you need to do. It all leads back to that one main responsibility.
How to make your own mind map
Above, we talked about drawing circles, which is fine if you prefer the old paper-and-pen method. You can make them in Word or Google Docs, but those can be clunky. Your best option is to use an online creativity tool, like Canva or Draw.io. I used Draw.io to create flowcharts and mind maps for a class last semester, and it’s easy to use. You select your boxes and shapes, connect arrows, and add text with a few simple clicks.
There are also online mind-map-making tools, like this one from Miro or this one from Mural.co. All of these tools are free to use and can create mind maps that you can save to your devices to have or edit wherever you go.
Why this works
Per Mindmaps.com, the simplicity of a mind map is what makes it so effective. Keywords, not long phrases, and color-coding lend themselves to quick processing and recall, while the hierarchical nature of the tasks helps you see what order you need to handle the tasks. The simple flow of arrows links ideas, and the spacing of the boxes keeps categories organized. Overall, it’s a great solution for visual learners or anyone in a rush, and it’s not as clumsy or convoluted as a large spreadsheet or planning document.