Mind maps are powerful visual diagrams perfect for facilitating brainstorming sessions. They allow unrestricted space to lay out and organize your thoughts. Best of all, a completed mind map offers you a higher-level perspective of your ideas in general. You’ll likely gain important insight into your life just by writing out all of your goals in one place.
Ready to create your mind map for the year? Let’s get started.
Building the foundation of your mind map
Start by dividing your life into its different components. For example, you may want to create a category for your family and friends, career, personal passion, finances, romance, mental and physical health, travel, and good ol’ fun.
You can have as many categories as you want. The goal is to have the structure of your mind map reflect the structure of your life.
Exploring your full potential
Once your categories are defined, begin free-writing any thoughts, feelings, or observations about each.
To inspire ideas, ask yourself:
- What’s most important to me about this part of my life, and why?
- What would success ideally look like to me?
- What’s the one thing I would change if I could?
Maybe, you’re interested in taking a cooking class this year. Maybe, you realize stress reduction needs to become a higher priority in your life. As you make these observations, write them down.
Diagrams are a powerful brainstorming tool that can inspire untapped creativity, so don’t edit your thoughts as you expand your map to encompass the full potential of where your year (and life) could go. The sky is the limit during this step, so go big and small.
Refining your mind map structure
One great thing about mind maps is your ability to keep refining the diagram structure as you discover patterns. For instance, look at the ‘finances’ section on the mind map example above. One branch includes the goal of paying off 1/3 of student loan debt. But what if you have several student loans and different payment strategies for each one? Or, what if you have a credit card and medical debt as well?
If you realize you have several debt-related goals, you could create a new general ‘debt’ sub-category linked to ‘finances.’ Then, you could add branches for each type of debt or the loan provider. You’ll end up with more precise goals, such as:
- Pay off 1/3 of federal student loan debt
- Consolidate private student loans
- Increase medical bill payment by $100 per month
- Pay the remaining balance of the car loan in four months
Don’t assume you need to stick to your original layout. Change the diagram as needed to continue breaking down your ideas. The more you dissect your goals, the easier it’ll be to turn them into actionable goals later.
Defining realistic goals
Once you’ve thrown around every idea and observation you can think of, you can begin paring down each section. Prioritize goals using two measurements:
1. How much of a positive impact will this have on my life?
2. How attainable is this goal?
You want to get down to a few core goals for each section. Focus on goals that will have the greatest impact on your well-being while also being realistic.
Yes, saving $1,000,000 this year would be hugely beneficial to your life, but for most of us (though not all!), this goal is unrealistic. If saving for retirement or college or paying off debt is important to you this year, think about what you could realistically contribute to this goal before committing to it.
Keeping your goals in mind all year
The last thing you want to do is create an amazing set of well-defined, achievable goals that would improve the life of you and your loved ones, and then forget about it for the rest of the year. Once you’ve defined your goals, it’s time to act on them.
Split each goal up into actionable tasks and give yourself deadlines. Track your progress and continue to check in throughout the year to see how you’re doing. If you really want to get organized, you can even put your goals into a project management app. Remember: your goals won’t achieve themselves; you have to make a plan and stick to it.
Maintaining and re-evaluating your progress
As the year progresses, you may discover that some of your goals are no longer realistic or desirable. That’s okay. The mind map is for your personal growth, and it’s only useful if it provides an accurate picture of your ambitions. So, decide on a time to periodically review your targets.
Let’s say you have a goal to enter a specific career field. After doing some independent research or talking to professionals in the industry, you might decide it’s not right for you. Another scenario is a change in finances that causes you to adjust how much money you can put toward debt. Don’t look at these changes as failures; just reassess the situation and consider how you can continue making progress toward a more attainable goal.
The most important thing is to keep moving forward and holding yourself accountable. With a plan in place, find a way to keep your mind map handy for the year. You can do this in whatever way you’d like. Try:
- Printing it out and hanging it up in your home office,
- Printing it out and putting it in the front of your favorite notebook,
- Making it the background image on your phone or computer, AND/OR
- Setting a calendar reminder once a month with your mind map image attached.
Just do something, anything, to make sure you’re continuing to revisit your goals and measure your success as you make this year the best it can be.
This post was originally published on January 6, 202o, and updated most recently on January 13, 2022.