I’m in the midst of brainstorming several project ideas and I wanted to share a particularly valuable tool that I use with you. It’s called mind mapping.

I’ve given you a peak inside my brain in the image above. At first it may just look like chicken scratch to you (actually, even after you understand mind mapping it may still look like chicken scratch due to my handwriting). But once you understand mind mapping you will see that the chicken scratch has helped me breakthrough the analytical blocks of my left brain and allowed me to approach the subject of retreats from a non-linear perspective.

First, it’s helpful to understand that the left hemisphere of your brain controls your rational thinking, while the right hemisphere is responsible for your creative processing. The right hemisphere lives in the present moment, while the left hemisphere is busy calculating and making things logical for us.

If you’ve ever thought that your imagination wasn’t as powerful as your rational mind, here’s a fact that may “change your mind.” The left hemisphere can process about 40 bits of information per second, while the right hemisphere processes 11 million bits in the same second. Talk about an upgrade!

Sometimes we experience mental blocks where we can’t get beyond the logical processes of our left brain. This is where mind mapping can be very useful. When we mind map, we gradually bring the possibilities that our right brain sees or feels into the verbal and actionable left brain.

Breakthrough with Mind Mapping:

1.) Write the topic you want to mind map in the center of a blank page and draw a circle around the word/words.

2.) As quickly as possible, and without censoring yourself, draw a line off of the circle (like the rays of a child’s drawing of the sun) and write the first word, image or phrase that comes to mind as you consider your main topic.

3.) If one of the items feels to big, drill down on that word or phrase by drawing lines off of it and writing down the elements that relate to it.

4.) Don’t stop until you have at least 5 seconds with no thoughts or images related to the main topic.

5.) Review what you’ve written and play around with the different words that surround the main topic. You will likely get a hunch to take something further. Think of the exercise more as play, and less as a problem you are trying to find a solution to. Look for the magic in your mind map!

As you can see from the image above, I didn’t create sub-lines for my central mind map. Instead I ended up listing different words and phrases that related to how people perceive a retreat. I don’t recommend making lists because it can put you back into your analytical left brain a bit too much. In this case, I just went with my gut and it worked for me.

You can even use mind maps to plan your day. Just put the date in the center of the page and let your brain go free with tasks and thoughts. When mind mapping my day, I like to draw separate lines off of my main circle and create smaller circles for short-term and long-term tasks. It’s another way to dump your to-do list on the page without making a “list.” Often this helps me prioritize my tasks better and recall things that I had forgotten.

Give mind mapping a try and let me know how it works for you by commenting below.