Do you have a lot on your mind and no matter how many lists you make, you just can’t seem to get it all down on paper or feel settled about having things under control? Planning and running an event takes a tremendous number of details, but unless you’re one of the small few who can distill your thoughts down to clarity before they reach your notebook, then you may want to consider a different approach: mind mapping.

Tony Buzan developed mind mapping in the 1970’s to help people tap into their creativity through an approach that mimics the function of the human mind. Rather than thinking with mere words in a straight line, this new way uses imagery and allows for movement in different directions so you don’t get stuck in tunnel vision.

Here’s a brief look at how to mind map:

Step 1: Put your central idea in the middle

Mind mapping begins with a single topic and flows out in all directions as you brainstorm. You may want to think through everything you need to do this week, all the elements of a specific event, or all the work that needs to be done for a single client.

Step 2: Add branches for the primary elements

The primary elements are the key categories that make up the central idea. If you’re thinking through your week, the primary elements could be Payroll, Hiring, Prospecting, Family and Wedding. If you’re working on an event, your starting branches may be Staffing, Food, Decor, Sampling and Gifts, among others. Your key client may require you to think about Finances, Requests, Complaints and Projects.

Step 3: Continue adding branches for related ideas that are secondary, tertiary and beyond

Each key category in your mind map will have a little or a lot of relevant information. Simply add each new piece with a new branch. Your map can be any number of layers deep, but if it starts getting unmanageable, then consider breaking it up into separate mind map sessions.

Sample Mind Map:

mind mapping for event professionals

The Next Level

Here are a few recommendations by Buzan to help make your mapping process even more effective.

Tip 1: Incorporate lots of imagery and colour

Your brain thinks in pictures, so why do we so often limit ourselves to just words and written lists? Instead of just expressing your central idea and branches with words alone, find an image that best represents the thought to inject some new power to your map.Colour is an easy way to inject energy and interest into your work. When your brain is bored, it becomes less creative. Enliven the process with lots of colour in your branch lines, words and images.

Tip 2: Use curved lines for your branches

Our minds don’t think in straight rigid lines. Therefore, we should use curved, flowing lines in our mind maps in order to promote creativity and the freedom to think openly.

Tip 3: Choose only one word per branch

According to Buzan, when you combine words together, you pigeonhole yourself into a specific direction. However, choosing a single word to represent the branch allows you to think more diversely, possibly going in directions you didn’t expect.

We all suffer from information overload; at least sometimes. The next time you feel swamped by a monstrous to-do list, take a few minutes to regain control and clarity through mind mapping.