A while ago, I wrote a series of posts helping individuals get the most out of their mapping efforts. Today, I’d like share 10 productivity tips and best practices for working with large mind maps.
As illustrated by the image above, mind maps can become substantially difficult to work with when the number of topics exceeds 60. At this size should you try and use MindManager’s Fit Map view, the type size decreases so much so that it becomes difficult to read. If you Zoom In to increase the type size, however, you lose context, or the “big picture” ability to view each topic in relation to all the other topics. So, what do you do?
This problem became painfully apparent when I worked on creating a mind map outlining the Content Marketing Institute Blog’s contributors. Amazingly there are over 168! My goal was to have an easy way to track and learn as much as I could about each contributor, including the following:
- Profile statements. Content Management Institute profiles are limited to 50 words. I wanted to be able to study how other content professionals describe and position themselves.
- Links. I wanted to be able to easily access the URLs of each contributor’s business, or their employer’s website, and view social media updates. In addition, I wanted to note their email addresses, if available.
- Topics. Finally, I wanted to be able to note their areas of specialization and, in the case of some, include links to their Content Marketing Institute blog posts.
The figure above, shows a revised map, which I created for this project using MindManager 12 for Windows. I now use it as a template for similar projects involving names and titles.
For this map I organized the list of contributors into four primary topics: dividing the alphabet into four equal parts. I then used MindManager’s various View commands to only show the information I need when entering, updating, or viewing information.
The following are some ideas and tips that I wanted to share based on this project.
1. Create a protocol for adding topics
Looking back, it seems “obvious,” but one of the problems I occasionally ran into when creating dashboards involved entering names and titles in a way that allowed for easy sorting.
- Individuals. Always remember to enter last-names first, followed by the individual’s first name, (ex. Larson, Troy). Otherwise when you sort a topic, you’ll end up with the “Bills”, “Chucks”, and “Steves” grouped together by their first names.
- Titles. When dealing with article, book, or blog post titles, decide how you want to handle titles beginning with A or The. You might want to eliminate these “empty” words, or reposition them at the end of the title.
The more consistent you are, the better….the more time you’ll save down the road!
2. Use the Sort command to check for duplicates
Get in the habit of sorting each topic immediately after adding a new name as a subtopic. In MindManager for Windows, Sort is associated with the Format commands. Be sure to select the current topic before sorting. (You can sort alphabetically, numerically, or—what I recommend—alphanumerically).
Sorting topics makes it easy to check for duplicates before entering new topics.
3. Use Notes for details
Resist the temptation to clutter your maps with too many subtopics and sub-subtopics. Instead of adding subtopics by default ask yourself, “Would this information work better as a Note?”
Notes can include a lot of information, especially since newer versions of MindManager for Windows which allow you to include paragraphs, bulleted and numbered lists. In addition, Notes permit you to insert multiple URL links associated with subtopics.
Hint: Within your Notes, use bold-faced type to create subheads to visually organize your Notes into separate topics.
4. Break large maps into categories
Always be on the lookout for ways you can subdivide a large map into smaller categories.
The alphabetical arrangement I used in the Content Management Institute example, of course, will not always work. For example if you are using a mind map to display a list of popular tourist landmarks in America, you could organize your map according to the:
- Cities where the landmarks are located
- States where the landmarks are located
- Regions, i.e., East Coast, Southwest, Middle Atlantic, etc.
- Types of destinations, i.e., famous streets, national parks, theme parks, baseball stadiums, etc.
A few extra moments spent choosing the right structure for your maps can pay big dividends later on.
5. Use View commands to only show what you need
MindManager 12 for Windows offers a variety of View options. They make it easy to focus on a particular part of a topic, or subtopic, while limiting the distractions that are otherwise caused by the larger map.
For example, if you’re only interested in contributors whose names fall into the G to M range, select G-M topic, followed by the View> Show Branch Alone.
After you’re through, select the View>Show Other Branches to return to your map original view.
6. Replace large maps with linked maps
When the number of subtopics in the 4 major topics grows too large for comfortable viewing, use MindManager’s Convert to Linked Map command to create a new map containing the original subtopics.
To convert a map topic into a linked map using MindManager 12 for Windows:
- Right-click the topic.
- Select Send to, followed by New Linked Map.
After converting a topic to a linked map, you can subdivide your new map without being overwhelmed.
7. Search for duplicates before entering new topics
Inserting a duplicate topic is always a problem. Instead of manually searching through various topics looking for duplicates try using MindManager’s Search In All Open Maps command – it will certainly save you some time.
8. Add Icons & Markers so you can Filter your maps
MindManager’s various Icons, Resources, Markers, and Filter features makes it easy to update your maps as your information needs become more sophisticated. These features eliminate the need to change the fundamental structure of your maps.
- Importance. If desired, you can use MindManager’s Task Priorities icons to visually indicate the relevance or importance of various contributors. You can also use Flags to indicate contributors you want to pay special attention to in the future.
- Topics. There are several ways you can use Resource Markers in the future to categorize topics frequently addressed by different contributors. You can also use Fill Colors and Text Colors to indicate topics or areas of specialty.
- Filtering. After adding Resources or Markers to topics and subtopics, you can use MindManager’s View>Filter command to only display the categories you want to view. For example, by using these filters you could display only contributors who write about Content issues, or who write from a Fortune 500 perspective.
9. Use templates and Map Parts to save time
Mind maps are great learning tools. After creating the map for the Content Marketing Institute project, I decided to save it as a template. Templates are great, as they are reusable and can save lots of time. For example, I have used this particular template for studying the contributors of other blogs, including the Social Media Examiner and Personal Branding Blog.
Currently, I’m combining these maps into a single, consolidated, Idea Dashboard which I’ll be sharing in a future post.
For a different project, studying the content lessons of important blog posts, I’ve been using Map Parts which make it easy to create subtopics for important topics. MindManager’s Map Parts provide a structure for consistently entering the same categories of information associated with important blog posts.
10. Exporting Maps to Microsoft Word
One of the biggest payoffs of mind mapping occurs when you export your finished map to Microsoft Word for editing and formatting. When you export to Word, the Notes appear following each of the topics.
In the case of the Content Management Institute project, after exporting, I could easily compare each of the contributor’s profiles regardless of whether I was reading onscreen or from printed copies.
Bonus: Using Keyboard Shortcuts to save time
I’d like to close by emphasizing the importance of keyboard shortcuts as an essential mind mapping productivity tool. Once you start using keyboard shortcuts to navigate from topic to topic, or to select, add, delete, edit type, or access other frequently used commands, you’ll find the true power and speed these tools offer.
You can find MindManager’s keyboard shortcuts for the Windows and Mac versions in the Help menu.
What are your favorite productivity tips and best practices for working with large mind maps?
What have I omitted that you find indispensable to your success? Share your favorite productivity tips as comments, below.