Archive for the ‘Problem Solving and Achieving Goals’ Category

The Value of Mind Mapping and the Benefits of Using Mind Mapping Software

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I’ve found a number of software applications recently that have increased my productivity enormously. I was checking out some of the Apps available for the iPhone when I came across a mind mapping App. It reminded me of mind mapping which I hadn’t thought about for ages, and I wondered if mind mapping software for the computer would be useful.  At first it seemed a silly idea, why not just mind map on a piece of paper.  But I’m incredibly messy – my handwriting can be almost illegible, even to me, if I don’t take care in writing and I can never find the kit in one place – paper, colored pens or pencils – and so I never get round to it.

After a quick search I discovered several contenders and narrowed the selection to a program called NovaMind.  I downloaded the 30-day fully-enabled trial version and used it every day, pretty much all day long, all 30 days.  It’s a fantastic way to take notes, to think through things, brainstorm ideas, and to plan for projects.  It’s a visual presentation and involves using color and symbols, along with phrases or key words.  The NovaMind program is intuitive to use, is very versatile and works smoothly.

Example 1 of Mind Map Created Using NovaMind Software

Example 1 of Mind Map Created Using NovaMind Software

A search for mind mapping on the Internet quickly gives the main ideas about how it’s done.  The map begins in the center with the heading of the topic being considered, and from that point everything else branches out. It’s a visual representation of ideas and facts and it illustrates their relationships and relative importance. It’s phenomenal just how quickly it’s possible to review something in depth with a mind map.

Mind mapping experts suggest that key words are used rather than phrases, because the brain responds quickly to a key word and it makes it easier to remember.  It might be more effective, but I very much like having full phrases.  Not sentences, but enough words that I don’t have to guess my original meaning when I wrote the map.

Another liberating thing about a mind map is that you can go back later and add to it very easily, without disturbing anything already there.  The magic of having mind mapping software is that it always stays neat and legible, and it isn’t necessary to redraw it if it gets out of proportion or is too big for the paper you started it on, because the software handles all of that for you.  It’s also possible to link to web pages and other files and to specific branches in other mind map files.  I use it for everything now, both work-related and personal.

Example 2 of Mind Map Created Using NovaMind Software

Example 2 of Mind Map Created Using NovaMind Software

A mind map is also visually easy to remember, and makes for a great tool for memorizing information.  The key to memorization is to review the topic frequently, especially for a short period right after studying it for the first time, and then periodically afterward until it’s successfully stored in long-term memory. It doesn’t take long, but the periodic reminder is key in moving the information from short-term to long-term memory. Once this has been done, the memories are securely stored in our long-term memory and no further review of the material is necessary, regardless of how much time passes.

Example 3 of Mind Map Created Using NovaMind Software

Example 3 of Mind Map Created Using NovaMind Software

Mind maps make the review a quick and simple matter. The visual layout and color helps because apparently the fastest way to put something in long-term memory is by mentally photographing it.  If we can successfully take a mental snapshot in all its detail, then that’s it, we’ll remember it long-term.  If not, then we need to create associations within our mind to help integrate the new information into our memories.  Color, symbols, pictures, drawings, spatial arrangement, links – all present in mind maps – help to create these associations.

Some years back I read a book about mind mapping and made a few small maps on paper.  I found them intriguing and potentially helpful, but I didn’t use them often. Now I create new mind maps just about every day, and go back and refer to them almost as often.  Without the software I simply wouldn’t do it nearly as much or as effectively.

Example of Summary Mind Map Created Using NovaMind

Example of Summary Mind Map Created Using NovaMind

I’ve even created mind maps of mind maps, linking the branches of the summary mind map directly to the more detailed mind map file. This allows me to keep track of what subtopics I have on a given topic, otherwise I wouldn’t even remember what information I have in the computer. Organization isn’t my strong point, even in the computer, and if it were all done on pieces of paper, or in a book, I’d be totally buried. To my surprise and relief, having the software has enabled me to tackle all sorts of projects efficiently and effectively.

Mind mapping is a tool that seems so basic as to be, well, for the simple-minded.  It’s a deceptively simple concept and, at first, might seem like overkill, but any help we can get with problem-solving, organization, and having a great place for just thinking up creative ideas, is a boost up.

If you haven’t toyed with mind mapping, you might just want to give it a try and see if you like it.  If you have, do you use it regularly?  what about it do you find it useful? what’s your favorite way to mind map? do you use mind mapping software? do you have any special tips you could share?  I’d love to hear from you, if you’d like to leave comments about mind mapping or whatever means that you’ve found beneficial for making sense of ideas and facts.

Share

What Does An Artist Need To Know In Today’s Technological World?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

This seems to be the time when ebook readers and very small portable computers are starting to really catch on, not to mention all the ways it’s possible to read content on smart phones.

I recently read an article, The End of Book Publishing As We Know It, on Michael Hyatt’s blog.  In  the article there’s a video showing a slim, portable, color-format reading device Time Inc has developed for magazine content.  It allows for audio, video and normal text print content to be accessed very easily all in one place at the touch of a finger.

Time (no pun intended) will tell just how much these new devices and combinations of media will affect the conventional publishing industry, but it is already true that the publishing industry is experiencing tremendous changes.

There are many new opportunities available for the individual in this evolving technical environment.  Software applications at relatively low prices have made it possible for individuals to learn how to accomplish things that used to only be possible for experts with very costly equipment.  One such area is the ability to print a book using, for example, Adobe InDesign or even one of the applications made freely available by online book printers such as Blurb.

The tricky part that comes with having direct access to performing these highly specialised tasks is that in order to create quality products there’s a great deal for an individual to learn.  It’s crucial to assess which facets will be important to forwarding one’s own work.  There are a variety of reasons for limiting just how much you intend trying to learn to do:

  1. learning a little of everything results in doing most things in a mediocre manner because there just isn’t enough time to truly develop more than two or three things fully and deeply
  2. time spent on one thing means less time spent on another which could be more important in achieving your goal
  3. you might end up spending much more time than you intended doing something you really don’t enjoy very much

So it’s really important to pick and choose what to learn, finding the balance that allows you to move forward with your goals, but doesn’t drain too much from your primary ambition and passion.

My primary passion is stories.  I think I could do without many things, but not stories, and stories with pictures, well, I just think that’s the ultimate.  I love movies, but have no interest in being directly involved in the film industry.  So I’ve been concentrating on understanding what it is about the visual elements that go into art that make it successfully communicative, and what elements are important to a story to make it really interesting and exciting.

I’m still experimenting with just how my passion will express itself in my art.  To try to get closer to this, I’ve been delving more deeply into color theory, composition, technique, and all types of art from fine art to illustration, cartoons, animation — everything I can set eyes on.  I’ve experimented with digital painting, and more watercolor and egg tempera painting techniques.

I have also been studying writing, visual storytelling and story-boarding, and am writing a couple of fiction stories to see where they go. For the more practical side of how to communicate the art, and possibly stories, during the last year I have completed courses in all of the Adobe Creative Suite applications.  My year’s subscription with Total Training will end on January 1st and so this spurred me to complete the InDesign and Illustrator courses during these last few weeks.  I have also studied web design, print design, composition, layout, and a little about typography.

So that’s it for the heavy-duty studying for me, thank goodness!  Now I need to develop my artwork so that it expresses my passion – and I’m not quite sure what that is yet in terms of style or subject.  I think it might be bound up in expectation, and if I can let that loose, my style should just be there. When I write I have no expectation and my writing style seems to be there just simple and unsophisticated, for better or worse.  I haven’t yet reached that with the art.

So here’s to the New Year, bringing new discoveries and challenges.  If you have any comments on what you think it’s important to learn in today’s environment, and/or if you have any advice on reaching your own style, I’d love to hear them.

Share

Optimizing The Way We Spend Our Time

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Advice I found useful from David Allen’s book: “Getting Things Done”. Some things in our lives are beyond our control, but understanding what is within our control and taking steps to optimize our efforts helps us to reach our goals.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share

Managing Tasks, Time and Balance

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

How to reduce stress in our lives by maintaining balance between work, hobbies, exercise, and leisure, and most of all, by having some fun each day.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share

Managing Goals

Friday, July 13th, 2007

How to beat stress resulting from too much to do and high expectations of ourselves.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share

Do What You Like To Achieve Success

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

If you really want to be successful: do what you like. To achieve your goals: have fun, be happy, plan, and be persistent at it.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share

Setting Goals to Achieve Our Dreams

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Displaying short and long-term goals, so we see them daily, increases our conscious awareness of our goals and hastens our success.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share

Looking On The Bright Side

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Focusing attention on beautiful things creates a positive environment for ourselves. Taking time to go out into nature relaxes and revitalizes our minds and bodies.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share

How To Discover Our Passions

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Asking ourselves questions and writing answers can help us become successful. Emerging patterns in our interests and passions help lead us to what we enjoy and enables us to set and achieve practical goals.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share

Thinking Our Way to Success

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

The importance of positive thinking, and knowing how we think and feel, in order to achieve success.

(click on the title for the full article and comments)

Share