How to Plan with Mind Map

By: HR Division

PLANNING can save time, reduce rewriting, and help you get your message across!

If you usually just jump in when you have a major writing project, think about using some of these planning techniques next time to see if it makes your writing easier. First, we’ll give you the basics of mind mapping and then we’ll remind you about basic outlining techniques.

brainMind Mapping

If you’re like most people with a writing assignment, you start at the top of the page or top of the screen and just start writing! Then sometimes you get halfway through a paper, report, memo, etc., and realize that you should have said something else first. You go back up and insert a new paragraph or sentence and then realize that it sounds funny so you have to rewrite the original lead-in. This can go on and on — sometimes your final result gets confusing or disorganized — but you may be sick of it at that point and just send it off as is!

Do you ever find yourself staring at a blank screen or blank piece of paper and just can’t get started? You go get a cup of coffee. Or you check your e-mail, or make a phone call — anything to avoid that blank screen waiting for you to SAY SOMETHING!

What if you could take five minutes to organize your thoughts, give your writer’s block a jump start, and save yourself a lot of headaches in the future? That’s what mind mapping is all about! There are several kinds of mind mapping, but we’ll focus on using it as a jump-start for your writing. First take a look at a couple of examples to see what we mean by mind mapping. The examples are print versions, but you can certainly take out some unlined paper and a pencil and get the same results. As a matter of fact, using paper and pencil (with some colored pens or highlighters to organize and group similar items) probably works best for this technique.

Mind Map Example:
Thank You Letter
mind map Step 1:
The writer here wanted to send a memo to all hard-working staff for a job well done. So, first, he took a blank sheet of letter paper (no lines) and turned it sideways (landscape view).
Then, he wrote the subject in the middle. Next, he just started listing random points that he wanted to make in his thank you memo around the subject. At this point, he was just brainstorming — coming up with ideas — so he didn’t worry about grouping them or what comes first, second, etc.

mind map with colored boxes
Step 2:
Then, he took a look at what he had written and decided that those were all of his main points. He drew some lines to connect them to the main subject to link them as main points.
He then got out some colored highlighters and highlighted any that he felt were related in the same color. See the colors on the illustration to see how he grouped them. (If you don’t have colored pens or highlighters, you can just circle and mark with letters for the related points such as “A” for “you made possible”; “B” for “notice efforts” and “new programs”; and “C” for “2nd largest increase” and “more and better services.”)
mindmap with additional points Step 3:
As he brainstormed, he thought of a couple of other secondary points that he wanted to remember to add under two of the main points he had listed. So he added these secondary points and connected them to the related main points (“notice efforts” and “new programs”).
He decided to stop there, because he wanted this memo to be direct and not “ramble on and on”! He looked at the main related points and decided how to organize them before writing. He decided to put the “you made it possible” idea in the first paragraph; the “2nd largest increase” and “more and better services” in the second paragraph; and the “new programs” and “notice efforts” points in the third paragraph.Take a look at the simple, direct memo he quickly wrote as a result below:

Final Letter

Dear __________:

Thank you for a great year. This was a banner year for our agency and you made a difference.

Last year we received the second largest increase in revenues in recent history. In turn, we showed the people of our state that we could give more and better services to those who need our help.

We started new programs that not only help people, but also give us greater visibility. I am happy to say that the public and the legislature are beginning to notice your efforts.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.



mind map with concerns section Optional Step:
In some situations, you might find this additional step very helpful. After you have completed a mind map for a writing project, add one more item to your map: Concerns.
Think about any concerns your reader(s) may have about what you are writing. Then add any points that you might not have thought of in your original map. For example, let’s say that you are applying for a job with a lower salary than your current pay. Ordinarily, in a cover letter for a job application, you probably wouldn’t mention salary. But, after thinking about the hiring person’s concerns, you might add “why take cut in pay?” to your mind map.

In fact, you realize that a hiring person might be thinking, “I won’t even call this person for an interview. She probably won’t stay long since she’d want to find another better-paying job.” So, you might add “won’t stay” to your mind map. And when you write your cover letter, add a short explanation of why you are applying for a job with a lower salary (changing careers, desiring less overtime or better hours, etc.).

This addition is probably something that you might not have thought to include if you had just sat down and “started writing” a typical cover letter.

Next, we’ll remind you about some basic outlining techniques.


You probably remember how to do an outline, but you probably don’t often take the time to do one!

If the mind mapping technique does not appeal to you, think about taking a few minutes to complete a rough outline before you jump in to important writing tasks. With the great cut-and-paste, automatic outlining, and other features available to us when we write using our computer, it’s a lot less painful than it used to be (for those of us who learned to outline with pencil and paper).

If you need to review outlining techniques, you may access one or more of the online references listed below.

Just remember that some up-front planning (outlining or mind mapping) will save you time and make your writing more effective in the long run! Try one of the techniques the next time you have a large writing project and see if you agree.Source: The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)