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Mind Maps And To-Do Lists

A couple of years ago I went to a company for an in-house workshop. I was teaching them about speed reading, memory, and of course mind mapping.

During the break, I talked with a lady who had been mind mapping for a few years.

She asked me if I could have a look at some of the maps she had created.

Mind Maps And To-Do Lists

We went to her office and she fired up her computer. She showed me her maps, and I was…

Why Mind Maps Are Not Always The Best Solution

I was blown away. The maps she created were not practical or useful.

We talked about how she could change the way she created them. I showed her why she was mind mapping too often, and how to improve the effectiveness of her maps.

Our break was over and the training continued.

At the end of the day, she asked me if I could have a look at a map again. Of course! We had a look at her new map. It looked really good and she told me how happy she was now.

Mind mapping was no longer another task she said. It finally was what she hoped it would be. The new kind of mind map helped her to keep track of her activities and clear her mind. Just by looking at the map, she was feeling calm. She knew she could get her job done faster and easier.

It would be good to finish this story by telling you that we took her old mind maps and burned them… but we didn’t do that. I think we should have since they caused her more stress.

What You Can Learn From This

The first thing to learn is that mind maps can help you to create more overview and clarity. They reduce stress.

What the lady in the example above did was something many mind mappers do. She created too many maps.

She created a planning map for every workday. The result was a folder filled with hundreds of maps! She should have thrown away these maps after a few days. But she didn’t.

When I had a look at the maps, I saw that they were simple to-do lists in a mind map format.

Here is an example:

what to do list for today

This map can be a good mind map. But is it useful?

Quick question… Look at your mind maps. Are they useful? Or could you have used traditional notes, a to-do list, or some other more efficient format?

What We Did To Make Better Use Of Mind Maps

The very first thing we did was move away from to-do list mind maps!

This is not what you should be using a mind map for. When you really want to have a to-do list, create one on paper.

Write your to-do list on a sheet of paper, in a note on your desktop, or even in your email client. Don’t use a mind map for that.

Mind maps are normally getting efficient if you have at least a few levels of information. 

to-do list with multiple level

She could have made the map better by adding more information. For instance, add important notes, sub-goals, people, etc. to the lower levels in the map. This would have made the map more practical!

Used in the original form, the map was nothing more like a grocery list.

Would you mind map what you have to get from the supermarket? Probably not! A grocery list is a list. It is not a mind map.

The Solution She Started To Use

We took her daily mind map and created a monthly mind map. In this map:

  • She outlined her goals for that month. 
  • She added sub-goals
  • Important (daily) tasks were written as reminders

The outcome of this was amazing for her.

  • She reduced the number of mind maps with a factor of 20 each month
  • Her map was no longer a list of chores. It had become a road map to achieving her goals
  • She gained more time for her work
  • She knew exactly what to do and why it was important
  • And this is very important. She learned about speed reading and memory tactics that day. She continues to improve her study and work productivity


Your Lesson For Today

Have a look at your mind maps. Are you using them to create clarity and overview? Or are mind maps distracting you and taking too much of your time?

As a rule of thumb, never create a mind map with one level. These maps are nothing more than to-do lists or even worse… lists

Make use of mind maps. You could be creating more traditional (Buzan) mind maps. Or you save time and create practical mind maps.

As long as the map helps you (and they don’t take too much time to make and use).

As you can imagine, having someone look at your mind maps with you is a learning experience. I would love to help you improve your maps. Let me know if I can help.

Also, when you like to make study and work easier, have a look at the “Studying Made Easy” home study course. This is a great course to learn how to use your brain for smarter studying. 

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