mind-mapping your niche (part 1)

This is post #7 in the series: CHOOSING A NICHE

So what is mind-mapping anyway? And how can it help you narrow in on, and then develop and build, your blog’s niche?

Tony Buzan, in The Mind Map Book, points out that the mind-mapping process uses many mental skills from both the left and right sides of your brain: language, words,and symbols; numbers; logic (listing, analysis, association etc); rhythm; colour; imagery (visualisation); and spatial awareness (dimension, seeing the whole picture).

If we can involve all of our brain in developing our blog, surely we’ll be more successful, right? We want to use all our mental skills: decision-making, thinking, creativity and innovation, problem solving, planning, memory, dealing with change, communication and presentation, and analysis.

We want a way to organize our thoughts and ideas in a creative, innovative way. But traditional methods like narrative notes, lists, and outlines actually use less than half of our brain’s abilities. A mind map, on the other hand, is a way of learning and gathering data in an integrated, radiating, organized manner that uses much more of our mind’s potential.

A mind map is drawn on a flat, 2-D page, but represents a multi-dimensional reality which encompasses space, time, and colour. A mind map, like your brain, hooks together (forms associations) between many, many different ideas. Creating a mind map for your blog provides you with a database or library that you can return to as often as you like for information. It also keeps you focused on your blog’s niche, structure and purpose. And you can add new information whenever you wish.

A mind map is constructed in a radiant form (moving out from a central point, growing, associating, developing). These are the key features of a mind map:

  • The key subject of attention is placed in a central position, and ideally is presented as an image (picture) or by a single key word (or possibly a short phrase).
  • The main themes of the subject radiate out from the central image as branches. These branches feature a key image (or key word) printed on an associated line.
  • Topics of lesser importance (sub-topics within the main themes) are also represented as branches attached to their higher-level branches. The sub-topics may also have further sub-topics attached to them.
  • The branches form a connected structure.

You may have used a simple form of mind-mapping in the past, with the same general format, but using just words or even phrases or short sentences.  You probably started by brainstorming, using free association to build a scattered list (like you did after reading yesterday’s post, right?).  Then you used that list to create a quick sketch of associated word ideas.  And then you perhaps chose some key themes with a clearer hierarchy.  Here is an example of  how I could use that simple mind-mapping format to help me develop the niche for this blog.

First, the brainstorm list:

And then a draft mind-map:

(Note: you can click on the pictures to see them in larger size)

Now it’s your turn!  Get out the brainstorming exercise you did from our last post.  Choose the one main/key idea you have decided on for your blog:  your niche.  If your idea is in the form of a sentence or phrase, choose the one key word that best describes it.  Print it in the middle of a blank sheet of paper.  Draw a circle or square around it.  Draw about 4 to 7 lines radiating out.  At the end of each line write a key word which describes a major theme of your main idea.  Circle those words.  Then draw 3 or 4 lines out from each of them, and repeat.  If you aren’t sure what to do, look at my example for some ideas.

And don’t worry.  There isn’t one perfect, right way to do a mind map.  Your mind map will be unique to you, just as your blog will be.    Tomorrow we’ll continue our mind-mapping exercise, giving you some ideas on how to develop your mind map to make it a truly long-term useful and practical guide for your blog and its niche.

Question of the day: How did your basic mind-mapping go?  How did it compare with other methods you may have used in the past, like making an outline or a written description or list?  Tell us about your mind-mapping experience in the comments below.

Tip of the day:  When you mind-map, relax and let your creativity loose.  Don’t try to do it “right” – rather let your mind have fun.  See it as an adventure.

Put it into action:   I hope you’ve already put it into action!  If you haven’t yet – do it now!

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