Mind Mapping is something that I've recently gotten into, and I've found it to be hugely useful in all of the projects that I'm involved in. A Mind Map is a bit like a flowchart that has all categorizations of importance stripped out of it; it's very useful for quickly getting down all of the ideas or tasks surrounding a particular project or topic.
The map starts at the center of the page/document, and non-linearly stems out from there into different branches - each branch representing further & further refinement of the overall project or topic. The result has an organic feel to it; something like roots of a tree ... But, it's probably easier for me to just show you an (extremely complex) example:
image by Adam Sicinski
The main idea with Mind Mapping is that you're getting all of your ideas out of your head and onto the paper or document as fast as possible. The goal is to make the actual mind mapping process as easy and effortless as possible so that you come as close as you can to automatic-note-taking while you brainstorm. I guess it would be a bit like recording your thoughts straight to paper, or typing a document using only your thoughts ... sort of a nod towards Automatic Writing but tailored to suit the conscious mind.
The benefit is that you can brainstorm on a particular project or topic, and not have to worry about forgetting about that awesome idea you had five minutes into an hour-long brainstorming session. Not only are all of your thoughts & ideas fully documented along the way, they're also naturally sorted into logical & useful tree structures that share a relationships with your central project or topic.
It's backtrackable brainstorming ... brainstorming with 100% recollection.
Mainly, you can sift through this list of free Mind Mapping applications (both Mac & PC), as well as this list of both free & paid Mind Mapping applications over at Wikipedia. I'd suggest that you try at least a few out before you settle on one, because each application has its own nuances that can make mind mapping that much more useful (or agonizing). The biggest factor in your decision should be the application's ease of use; find the software that allows you to enter & organize your thoughts as easily and quickly as possible.
My primary computer is a MacBook Pro, so I've only had first-hand experience with Mind Mapping software that's available for MacOS. Some of my favorites, for other Mac users out there, are FreeMind, MindNode, and OmniGraffle. For the iPhone, iBlueSky looks like a fantastic Mind Mapping iPhone app, but I've had fantastic first-hand experience with MindNode Touch.
FreeMind had the simplest data entry, but it currently doesn't work (without Rosetta) in MacOS X Snow Leopard unless you easily hack it by quickly copying a file. Because of that bug, and because I wanted a tighter integration between my computer and iPhone experiences, I decided to go with MindNode Pro (on my laptop) and MindNode Touch (on my iPhone). The iPhone synchronization between both MindNode apps is fantastic - I can easily work on the same mind map on both my laptop & my iPhone with barely any fuss. It's on par with the synchronization between Things Mac & Things iPhone, which is no easy feat (more on Things, and to-do lists later).
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