Table of contents:

What is a mind map and how to work with it
What is a mind map and how to work with it

Let's talk about how to master the skill of mind mapping.

What is a mind map and how to work with it
What is a mind map and how to work with it

Connection diagram, mental map, mind map, mind map, associative map, mind map, mind map. All these terms denote a way of fixing the thinking process, most similar to how thoughts and ideas are born and develop in our brain.

Table of contents

  • Goals
  • Instruments
  • Structure
  • Process

Why are mind maps needed

You've used plans, lists, and notes thousands of times, right? And very often something about them seems wrong. One has only to think about something more difficult than driving a nail into a wall, and problems begin. As if something is limiting you, holding you back, interfering with, contradicting the very process of thinking. The way it is.

Ideas grow and develop non-linearly. One thought gives rise to a number of others, narrower and related to some particular aspect of the problem being solved.

Our thinking is radiant. We can develop any idea almost endlessly in all directions.

Let's start with the basics. One way or another, when thinking, we start from some basic, key, fundamental problem, the subject of thinking - the central theme. This topic should be clearly defined and documented.

Non-linear radiant thinking requires the abandonment of lists and sequences. Let's try to record everything around the central object of thinking.

The key idea generates several major large ones, each of which, in turn, develops, is concretized in the form of even smaller ones. Any small thought is connected with some more global one.

Let's just mark these connections with lines, add some more graphics. You will get the same mind map, one of the versions of which Tony Buzan promoted many years ago. In fact, visualization of the thinking process has been used by people for more than one hundred years, and the mind map is just one of the simplest and most universal ways of displaying it.

Which tools to choose


In theory, a mind map needs a lot of space. A4 sheet is probably not enough, especially if you have a sweeping image style. Buying an A3 and carrying it with you is not an idea, and using only your own cozy table for mind mapping does not really fit into the realities of life: thoughts visit us everywhere.

In addition, it is more difficult to correct a paper mind map. And you will have to change connections and levels of ideas more than once.

Web services and mobile applications

Digital mind maps are more functional. They compensate for the individual handwriting deficiencies and the general curvature of the thinking hands. Digital mind maps also eliminate the need to carry around a set of colored pens or pencils and allow you to magically attach additional data to the maps.

Ideally, the program should work on multiple platforms so that you can work with your thoughts anywhere: at home, in the office, in the subway and in the country.

A bundle from an application for a smartphone or tablet (or a normally made mobile version of the site), as well as a desktop web version or a client will be minimal.

Mobile applications can be useful for capturing the "most" ideas before they disappear from memory, but it is still difficult to talk about comfortable full-fledged mind mapping from a smartphone or tablet.

Here are some popular mind mapping apps and services. Most often, such services provide a reduced in features or a temporary free plan, after which a transition to the full paid version is offered.



It is extremely easy to recognize a “native” service or application: just look at the screenshots. Do they look good and immediately understand everything? Would you paint the same way? Great, here's your candidate.

What are mind maps made of?

Mind mapping ideas deny any formality. Someone draws thought maps to the left and right, someone from top to bottom, someone with the "sun". Your task is to learn to keep pace in a form that is understandable for you to record the train of thought. The way it suits you.

The main thing is to remember what the mind maps are made of. Thanks to this, you can build maps for completely different purposes, be it a development, a blog post, a book, or just a project.

Center of the map


Any map starts with a main theme, an idea in the center. Sometimes this can be called the essence of thinking. For example, if you are thinking about a way to achieve a certain life goal, the main topic may be called “sources of income” or “quitting smoking”.

Radial maps are the most consistent with the human way of thinking. You can start shaping the map from the upper right corner and move clockwise. However, this is just a matter of preference.

First level


This includes key categories, grades and chapters related to the central issue. In the process of brainstorming, you yourself will begin to understand which of the selected topics are more important and deserve to get to the first level, and which are not so significant and can be attributed to some more global topic. Thus, the hierarchy of the map will begin to form, which can be changed in the process.

Topics of the first level have short names, because, in fact, these are categories that help to build thoughts.

If the categories are too abstract, images can be attached to them. Especially if you are building a map in a web service or application. This creates associations with the content of the categories and allows you to quickly distribute ideas among them.

Second level


The second level of themes is where ideas start to form. This can be a concretizing conclusion that completes the parent topic, or a separate idea related to the parent topic.

In most cases, the titles of the second level topics are still short and consist of one or two words.

If the map is fairly simple and contains no more than three levels, the second level can be represented by sentences or topics with notes attached to them.

Third and subsequent levels

The third and subsequent levels are the concretization of ideas. As a rule, they do not move here until the second level is completed and ordered.

But if we are talking about a topic of the second level, which, most likely, will have few “daughters” of the third level, it is better to add them right away. This way, when you get to the third level from the other categories, it will be more organized and thoughtful.

Descriptive phrases can be used at this level as needed.

It's not worth doing more than four levels. Otherwise, the map will be inconvenient to read.

If you need detailed descriptions or further elaboration, go to the attached notes.

If the map turns out to be too large, it is preferable to divide it according to "floating" themes or create a new map, the link to which is in the main map. Apps like MindMeister let you do this.

Additional funds

For mind mapping, applications that support additional tools are more preferable: notes, callouts and links. This is well implemented in advanced applications such as,,,, and. The latter has a relatively high cost, it is justified only if you really need all the huge number of functions that the application offers. For beginners, a simple Coogle or MindMup is suitable, or you can try the free versions of the programs.


This is a great way to remind yourself of the end result of developing an idea. You may well create a mind map that in a week will become incomprehensible even to you. Typically, notes are attached to topics as shortcuts with pop-up text. To see the content, you need to hover the mouse pointer or click on the note.


These are short notes that are usually highlighted in color, and their contents are immediately visible. Callouts can be used as pointers or explanations in cases where creating another level to the topic does not make sense.


These are pointers between map elements. They can be used simply as reminders to yourself, or they can link different ideas, notes, and callouts at different levels. This makes the map more logical if the connections between two or more map elements are not obvious or peculiar. In addition, links help avoid duplicate topics.

How to build mind maps



The process starts with an idea. Sometimes this is a random idea. When you fix it, new thoughts appear. Along the way, an idea jumps across to another topic.

It all happens like an avalanche, and that's why the mind map is so good. You are not looking for the right place to write, but simply capturing the idea somewhere near the central theme.

It is possible to determine the place of these ideas later.


In fact, in the process of actively filling the map with ideas, excessive attention to the correct hierarchy is unnecessary. It is only necessary to move topics if the current scheme contradicts the train of thought. Digital mind maps allow you to perform such manipulations instantly.

Often, a second-level topic not only moves to a more suitable parent for it, but also becomes a higher level itself. This happens when you suddenly realize the value of a random background idea. Sometimes these moves make sense, sometimes they don't.

The beauty of digital mind maps is that once you've finished your brainstorming session, you'll have plenty of time to think things through and fine-tune with minimal effort.

Sketch upcoming map revisions with links, callouts, and notes. Leave yourself a breadcrumb trail to reestablish your train of thought.

Most applications allow you to work with so-called floating themes. These themes are not tied to the central one and create additional maps in the current project.

The ideal use for a floating theme is to turn it into a temporary storage, buffer, transit platform for ideas that find it difficult to find a place on the map right now, but which are not important enough to become Level 1 themes. These ideas will either find their place on the current map, or move to another, or become central themes themselves.


When all thoughts and ideas are transferred to the map, you can sort them. It's easy to do. Moving from the center to the periphery, you will see inconsistencies, ways to improve, places where topics need to be moved, raised or lowered in the level. In fact, at these moments you continue to brainstorm. You created the concept and now naturally improve it.

If your map includes concepts that need to be presented in an ordered list in the final, then now is the time to tackle that. As mentioned above, you can start filling the map from the upper right corner and move clockwise. Intuitively, you'll want to put the first idea on the list there, and then descending. As you can see, you already have a sorting algorithm. When the map is put in order and all the ideas that have come with a delay have been entered into it, you can start examining the map.


It is very easy to check a mind map for flaws, but this is only true for its creator, and only in the short term. At an early stage, the map quickly becomes incomprehensible, and therefore the main task here is to make sure there is no nonsense for whoever sees the map next.

As the map is created, some of the ideas in it lose meaning and value. Verification allows you to detect and filter out such ideas.

Verification follows the same principle as sorting: from the center to the periphery. We take one branch and go through it. Is everything meaningful? Wonderful. Found an outdated thought? Delete. Is the thought more appropriate in another thread? Move.

From time to time you may come across duplicate ideas in different branches. Their presence confuses you and will do the same to those who look at the map later. Eliminate repetitions, leave the idea where it suits best, or look for other ways to get rid of replications.

Checking will help you realize whether the idea is really worthwhile. If you have doubts or are at a dead end, then you need to either forget about this map, or return to it later.


Polishing makes the card useful. Once you've reached the level of visualization you want, you will make the map understandable to others. From now on, your intangible idea is ready to turn into a very real working project.


Many of the applications above allow you to turn a static map into a dynamic presentation. MindManager and MindMeister allow you to bring your mind map to life, and the display mode in MindMeister additionally implements zoom effects and highlighting of specified parts of the map. iThoughtsX and ConceptDraw can export a map file to a PowerPoint presentation, and iMindMap can also create a 3D map image. Most of the popular services allow you to share maps with colleagues and friends and set editing rights.

Modern technologies have made mind mapping even more powerful, functional and more accessible. An uncontested technique in terms of the efficiency of extraction and fixation of ideas on digital steroids.