Quick course on how to make a mind map

Great to have you here!
This is the first step in winning back those 4 hours per week by mind mapping!

Before we start with the quick course, it is important to understand what mind mapping is, what it can do for you and when you can use it. Below is a short explanation of what mind mapping is.

What is Mind Mapping?

As Clay Shirky says: “it is not information overload it is filter failure!” Tony Buzan, the originator of mind mapping, developed a note taking, memory and reading technique based on how the brain functions. If you expand this definition into the digital age, one can add storage and organization of information as well. The mind map (on paper or digital) presents an overview and a summary of knowledge using words and images by stimulating both sides of the brain (creativity and logic).

When one applies mind mapping it improves functions such as memory, reading, learning, note taking, brainstorming, decision making and analyzing. Digital mind mapping expands into visual information management. Ever since the introduction of mind mapping it has come a long way and nowadays it has become more and more mainstream. There are various different tools to mind map on the market. Mind mapping has found its way in the educational system as well. The process of mind mapping involves a combination of colors, images and a visual spatial arrangement. Two important drivers are association and imagination. The mind mapping technique helps to associate due to the combination of images and words.

This organic and radiant way of structuring information uses hierarchy (main and subtopics along branches), colors, images, icons, relationships and links to sources. Information is noted in main and subtopics which makes it possible to filter. Mind maps can be made by hand (manually) or by using software on tablet, desktop or smartphone.

quick course-view

Steps to learn Mind Mapping

Apply these 5 simple steps and you are on your way to make your first mind map by hand. You are only going to save time if you apply mind mapping to various work aspects and also in your personal life. Please find some suggestions below. Please feel free to share other uses in the comments field below.

At work

  • Making notes in a mind map of a presentation or a meeting
  • Write down your weekly projects and add tasks; check them when you have completed the task
  • Prepare a presentation or pitch
  • Write a report or an article
  • Organize information

Personal life

  • Plan a weekend trip or vacation
  • Decide which new car/ tv you are going to buy


What do you need?

  • A piece of blank paper
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Colored pencils or fine-liner markers
  • Distraction free space
  • Music helps for inspiration

Goal & Target group

Before starting with the central topic, determine the goal and target group of this mind map.

Compare these two goals:

  • Goal 1: to share your thoughts you have collected at an event with your colleagues.
  • Goal 2: note down your thoughts of the event for personal use and application.

There is a difference in making the mind map for each goal. For goal 1 the colleagues were not present at the event so they need more context. In the case of goal 2, you were present; the mind map can be more personal and creative. My advice would be to pick a topic you know a lot about or pick a project you are starting on. Then it is relevant for you to make a mind map. In the latter case, you even finished a task after doing this quick course so you gain time as an added bonus!

What is your mind map about?

The central idea/ topic is the starting point of your mind map and covers what is noted in the mind map. It is similar to the title of a book.

Place a piece of blank paper landscape wise. The central idea should be in the centre of your paper and it should include an image on the topic. The image draws attention and it also triggers associations, since our brains respond better to visual stimuli than words alone.

Take some time to make it personal (depending on the chosen goals and target group). If you spend some extra time at the start it will strengthen the connection you have with the content in your mind map. Tip: If you think you cannot draw anymore, please still try and make an image. Don’t judge your creative skills, after a few more exercises you will see improvement in your ability to draw. Everyone can draw!

What is your mind map about

Branching out

The central topic is finalized. If you have drawn a nice image your mind is running with associations on the chosen topic.

Now tap in your creativity and draw your first branch. Preferably start at 1 o’clock and draw a branch towards the right. Do not draw a straight line. Our minds favor organic forms and shapes over straight lines. Make the line from thick to thin by making two lines who end at the same point. See the picture below. Ideally the length of the line is as long as your keyword.

You have a choice now. You can either add more theme/ main branches and then start exploring branch per branch, or you can start with the first theme/ main branch and explore further by adding child branches to it. The structure of the mind map comes naturally after adding some more theme/ main branches.

Mind mapping is brain friendly since you are able to continuously add (child) branches. The radiant and organic way of working is much different to linear working.

Branching out

Structuring your thoughts

As mentioned in step 2 you will need to add keywords to the branches. For each branch you draw you will need to add a keyword or an image (step 5).

Using one keyword per branch is one of the main principles of mind mapping. Keeping it at one word per branch sparks off a higher amount of associations compared to multiple words or even phrases.

For example, if you add the word ‘bike frame’ you are restricted to just add aspects of the frame. If you add the word bike you can radiate out on the word bike and add on frame, bell, tire and so on.

Keeping it to one keyword per branch also makes it easier to condense and chunk information into core themes and topics. Using keywords also triggers connections in your brain and allows you to memorize more information. When you keep on adding more branches, ideas and keywords, your brain freely draws new associations.

Structuring your thoughts

Draw your images

By now you are looking at a colorful mind map. You have a central idea, several theme/ main branches with keywords and child branches.

Images have the power to convey more than 1000 words. The brain processes images directly and act as visual stimuli to recall information. In most cases, images are universal and therefore overcome language barriers but do keep cultural differences in mind.

Draw your images

People have often said to me, that pictures are for kids. Well, we all started working with pictures and drawing before we learned a language and started writing. Nowadays we live in a society in which visuals are ubiquitous. Think of social media such as Pinterest, Instagram but also Facebook and LinkedIn. People are attracted to pictures and images more so than text and our minds are comfortable using pictures to organize and recall information.

But I cannot draw anymore?

Well, you probably have unlearned drawing in favor of writing and other skills. Everyone can learn to draw again. Just start by listening to your gut and make the drawing. After a few times the drawing keeps getting better. It does not have to be a Van Gogh painting as long as it conveys the information or message.

Besides images you can also use icons (small images with an even more universal message).

Color your branches

Mind mapping stimulates whole brain thinking because it brings together a wide range of skills from logic to creative and from words to images. By now you have drawn a mind map with several main branches, child branches, keywords and images. Colors make images more appealing and engaging compares to monochrome images. Colors help your mind to structure information since colors help link the visual with the logical and help to create shortcuts in your mind. Colors also have special meaning; depending on culture of course. For instance yellow and red are signaling colors. If you want information to be noticed in a mind map I suggest to use red, orange or yellow. If you have information in a map such as meeting attendees then I would suggest making the branch grey.

Every main branch gets its own color. Do not make two branches the same color unless they are linked to each other.

Color your branches

Finishing up

Well done – you have created your first mind map! Now, make some finishing touches. If you chose a work topic or any other relevant topic, you have not lost time! You have probably gained time since you now have a good overview of the topic.

Please share your mind map with me if you like feedback!

Winning 4 hours back?

Now start with your second mind map on a work topic and you will become quicker in structuring and remembering information. For the third mind map, prepare a presentation and you will see how quickly you can make a nice mind map presentation. After creation of 20 mind maps you will really become quicker in applying the technique. If you read a book for business or study, make notes in a mind map so you can easily review afterwards. When you go to an event/ meeting, make notes and apply the key learning you normally would have missed out on.

The next step

A next step is learning to mind map digital with software. If you are interested I can help you with that. Please contact me.


Sources: imindmap.com, various other sites and own experience.