Organising your thoughts is never an easy thing to do, and with good reason.

As I understand it, most people have a logical part of their brain, that provides them with sequence and order and narrative (i.e the voice in your head that formalises what you are thinking) and another, more creative part that jumbles stuff about and create connections between things in new and innovative ways. When your creating something often your thoughts won’t come in a logical order, so you need a way to record them in a different way. That’s why there is a technique called mind mapping.

I’ve been aware of mind mapping for a long time, but I never really bought into it until recently. I’m not sure what has made me more open to it, but perhaps it’s the combined influence of a load of texts that I’ve been reading about education, psychology and creativity. Anyway, there is a case for always doing your first mind map using traditional materials (i.e. pens and paper) because it facilitates a more creative process, but in the absence of the necessary time I’ve found a piece of software called XMind a very good alternative for getting ideas down fast, and presenting them in a variety of ways.

XMind helps express ideas and relationships between them in a quick, visual way

This is useful to help you with your own creative processes, but I think it’s also useful as a communication tool, to express for example what is required of a project, or what the aims of a project are. If a mind map isn’t exactly what you want here are other sorts of diagrams you can produce using XMind. For example, you can use top-down type diagrams to represent hierarchies, and I’m currently using fish bone diagrams to help me plan my lecturing for next session. (Yes, I do actually plan those things!)

An example mind map from XMind

A basic version of Xmind is available for free from www.xmind.net. I think that it is well worth checking out.

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