Nothing makes me happier than getting my head around complicated issues and feeling mastery over my chaotic, 21st-century life.
And nothing helps me organize my scattered, Internet-addled brain cells better than mind mapping. Put simply, mind maps are a form of fluid, visual note-taking arranged around a core idea. Essentially, they allow you to dump the contents of your frontal lobes and rearrange them into sensible relationships.
Let’s say you’re planning out a case strategy. To create a mind map, you can use a blank piece of paper and a writing utensil, or you can go the software route. I tend to use software because I like to rearrange my diagrams a lot, and doing so with a pencil and eraser results in ripped paper and annoying little rubber bits all over my desk.
At the center of your mind map diagram you might write something like “John Doe Case Strategy.” You would then start plopping down ideas brainstorm-style, adding them to the mind map and structuring them hierarchically. You draw lines from the central idea to the supporting ideas. It’s a little difficult to describe a visual tool with the written word, so here’s a video that shows mind mapping in action and how a lawyer can use this tool.
You’ll find that you quickly see everything going on in the case all at once, making even the most stressful and challenging problems seem manageable. You’ll also notice a progression from the abstract concept (in the middle of the map) to concrete action items (on the edges of the map), which can be queued up in a to-do list, ready for action.
Personally, I find the online software MindMeister incredibly powerful and convenient. I can share ideas with others and collaborate in real-time with people in remote locations. It’s free to try, so take it for a spin and see what you think.
Other forms of mind mapping software include Mindjet and Freemind. And, if you find you really like this way of thinking, Prezi is an online presentation software that’s built around mind mapping.
Larry Port is the Founding Partner and Chief Software Architect of Rocket Matter, a web-based legal practice management and time tracking product.