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How to Read a Mindmap Properly

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How to Read a Mindmap

Here at Asian Efficiency, we’re a little obsessed with mind mapping.

Believe it or not, in my spare time I make mindmaps for a lot of things – processes, book summaries, consolidating information, vacation planning…

I often send these out to friends and contacts of mine, and one of the most common questions that I get is “well, it looks great… but how exactly do I read this thing?”

This short article is going to show you exactly how to do that – properly – and get the most out of reading mindmaps you’ve created, or that other people have given to you.

Quick Summary

  • Mindmapping is NOT a right-brain-left-brain thing: it’s a just a skill set that can be learned.
  • In general, start at 12 o’clock and go clockwise.
  • Reading levels and meta data is a little more complex.
  • Different people create mindmaps with their own idiosyncrasies.

For the purposes of this article I’m going to use a Mindmap that Thanh shared recently in our article on Asian Efficiency Mindmaps:

Leverage Points Mindmap with Relationship

Click for larger image.

You can download the mindmap here. You’ll need MindManager to open it.

Skill Set, not Brain Type

Before we get into the details of reading a mind map, I want to make something very clear – mindmapping is little more than a skill, like learning to read or write.

Because of the way that mind mapping is taught to the general public (as some sort of mystic and rare ability), most people wrongly assume that you need to be a “right brainer” or “creative type” to use and read (and understand) mindmaps. The reality is far from this – most people who I know use mindmaps on a regular basis (including myself), are very much logical thinkers – it’s just a skill that we’ve developed over time.

The Simple Way of Reading Mindmaps

The easiest way to read a mind map is to start at 12 o’clock, and go clockwise.

The reason for this, is that when mind mapping is taught, most people are told to put their first node in the top-right, and work clockwise around. The vast majority of mind mapping software available on the market today, also defaults to creating the first node in that top-right position, working clockwise.

Taking the Leverage Points mindmap as an example, you would start with the “Defined” node, and work your way clockwise to “Finding Leverage Points”, “1. Wants”, “2. Strengths” and so on.

The Complex Way of Reading Mind Maps

Of course, there is more to it than just that – but that is the basic idea!

Let’s take the “Defined” node from the Leverage Points mindmap. In linear note form, it looks like this:
* intersect
—– high value activities
—– natural strengths
—– wants
* things that yield wide beneficial impact across your life
—– the sweet spot
* push you towards your goals
—– and happy while doing so
—– IME this is the extent of the “do what you’re passionate about and success will come” myth
—– sometimes from necessity though
———- sufficient reason is enough
* uses
—– do activities where you have optimal leverage
———- bigger impact and results
———- every single day
—– identify what aren’t leverage points and remove/outsource them

What this tells us is that mindmaps are very similar to bullet point notes, with multiple lower levels of information. In this case, we would start by reading the first tier of “Defined”, go to “intersect”, and then note the data attached to that – “high value activities”, “natural strengths” and “wants”. You’ll note that the latter 3 are child data related to “intersect”.

Once you’re done reading the information within “intersect”, you move onto “things that yield wide beneficial impact across your life”.

Leverage Points Relationship Example

Click for larger image.

Now if a Mindmap contains a relationship or callout, you want to read those along with the nodes. For example, in this screen capture I’ve added a relationship between “high value activities” and “3. High Value Activities”:

What this indicates is that there is a relationship between the first bit of data, and the entire node of “3. High Value Activities”. It is really up to the reader as to whether they want to continue reading normally (clockwise), or to jump to the other location in the mindmap and take in the information there first and return later.

This also applies with any photos, images, diagrams, or meta data markers included on the mindmap.

Different Types of Mindmaps

The last thing to note about reading mindmaps effectively is that a lot of readability comes down to who designed and created the mindmap in the first place. We have a number of upcoming articles about effective mindmap usage and design, so we’ll explain more there.

It’s fairly difficult to make mindmaps complicated, so with that in mind, there is no reason whatsoever for not being able to learn or read from a mindmap, just because it’s in the mindmap format.

Next Actions

  • Go forth and read mindmaps!
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2 Comments

Posted by george  | December 23, 2012 at 9:53PM | Reply

What made me stop using mindmaps was the difficulty in printing on one page and not knowing how to print over several pages. Some mindmaps got so large and unwieldy that it came out in tiny print when printed on one page. Articles on mindmaps tend to get carried away on making mindmaps large and fancy and then forget to inform the reader on the important thing, at least for me, which is how to print out the mindmaps.

Posted by More  | October 30, 2013 at 3:47AM | Reply

I just can’t wait to try these mind mapping stuff.
I’m having difficulty figuring out what i’m gonna do with my ideas lately, thanks a lot for the the enlightenment.

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