The average person has 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts in a day. Of course, a genius might have more than you and I, but the figure mentioned was the hypothetical traffic that goes on in our brain. Our thoughts rarely go from Point A to Point B in a straight line. More likely, they flit about like a firefly caught in a jar.
This is where a tool like a Mind Map comes in use. A mind map is not a case sheet for a psychologist, but simply a diagram that helps to connect related ideas or concepts around a central thought.
Try it out if you haven’t before, it is a great idea-capturing device to bring some order to the chaos that’s our brain.
Why Mind Maps Work
By putting down ideas or thoughts on a mind map, the brain is encouraged to think from every aspect. A mind map also encourages brainstorming. It forces the brain to think in terms of relationships between ideas rather than forcing everything into hierarchies or lists.
The bottom line about mindmapping is that it’s all about “visuals” — words connected to graphical elements that makes it easy for us to take in large amount of data.
How to Create a Mind Map
There are specialized applications for creating mind maps. But the simplest tool could be a paper and some pens. The next simplest when you don’t have software installed could be to create a mind map in Microsoft Word. But first…
Simple Rules for Effective Mind Maps
- Think of the central idea and write it down in the middle.
- Think of related ideas and place them radially around the central idea. Connect all ideas with meaningful relationships. Use lines, colored lines, shapes, pictures, etc. to graphically describe ideas and relationships.
- Leave lots of space between ideas because new filler ideas and relationships will come in as the mind map grows.
- Go with the flow.
Simple Mind Maps in Microsoft Word Using Illustration Tools
Creating a mind map in Word is easy with basic shapes and flowcharts. Extended by other illustration tools like Callouts, Lines, Clip Art, and a pinch of creativity; Microsoft Word can effectively become a mind mapping tool.
Go Into Landscape Mode
The landscape mode gives the most horizontal area to work with. In a New Word Document, select Layout > Orientation > Landscape. If you want to finally print it, select the right Size in the Page Setup group.
Open Illustrations > Shapes
Most of the tools we can use lie in the Illustrations group on the Insert tab. Click on Shapes which has all basic building blocks for a mind map.
You can use simple shapes like ovals or rounded rectangles to represent the central ideas. You can easily label all shapes with a Text Box. Stretch out and connect lines and arrows to represent relationships. As all other elements, you can copy and paste shapes, thus helping to put down the main ideas rapidly as nodes and sub-nodes.
All elements can of course, be elaborated using the full range of the Drawing Tools. Drawing the first shape brings up the contextual Drawing Tools tab. The best thing is that a mouse-over on any tool gives us a live preview of how the diagram is turning out.
Format Your Shapes
To change the properties of the shape, right click on the selected shape and select Format Shape from the context menu.
Any options for Lines connects all the nodes and sub-nodes. Lines are also Shapes and their look or angles of rotation can be similarly changed from Format Shape or from the Ribbon (double click on the shape to bring up the Format tab).
Label Shapes and Lines
You can label shapes and lines with text to define the relationships. However, in earlier versions, Microsoft Word limits text orientation to vertical or horizontal. In Word 2016, go to Insert > Text > Text Box and insert a Simple Text Box, which you can subsequently rotate to your preferred angle.
Mind maps can be illustrated with images from the Clip Art gallery or from an image on the hard drive. While inserting images, use the corner handles to define the size of the image.
Creating a mind map in Word can be extended by adding hyperlinks to external sources. Though, a workaround to add notes or attachments within the Microsoft Word file is not there.
Here is a mind map that explains the various elements of what else, but a mind map.
Microsoft Word as a Mind Mapping Tool
Microsoft Word (and even Microsoft PowerPoint) is useful as a rapid tool for building a mind map. It’s better than a pen and paper, because you can easily update it by adding or rearranging the topics. You can copy it to the other Office programs and if need be, even print it out. Presenting it with PowerPoint or email sharing are added options.
Microsoft Word is not a dedicated tool for mind maps. Mind mapping tools like FreeMind have greater flexibility. Just to cite one feature, it’s not possible to collapse and open the branch nodes in Microsoft Word.
But Microsoft Word can make mind maps. Are you open to the idea? Let us know.