If you’re a self-driven entrepreneur like I am, your work and life are likely tightly woven together. Your work fuels your life and your life fuels your work. Oftentimes, the lines between the two seem to blur. We kind of secretly like that, don’t we? We love having this holistic interconnectedness, and we like being the captain of our own ship, steering it in whatever direction we want it to go.
But, being our own captain isn’t easy. We often get stuck wondering what the ‘right’ path to take is, how we’re ever going to reach a goal we’ve set, or even if our day-to-day reality will ever match up with the vision we have for our lives.
That’s why whenever I get asked questions from fellow entrepreneurs – whether it’s on a big life decision or a business problem – I answer: “FIND CLARITY FIRST.” Oftentimes – and bear with me here – the question asked isn’t about the question asked. Instead, underlying the question is a lack of clarity on why something is being done in the first place or how to bring an idea to life.
Building a life and business you love without clarity first is like walking through a maze blindfolded. Take off that blindfold and you can suddenly take stock of where you are, where you’ve come from, and where you need to go next. Clarity isn’t about getting to the end of the maze with easy breezy grace. It’s about moving forward with intention, step by step by step.
So how do you find clarity as an entrepreneur?
One of the best exercises that I know to help entrepreneurs find clarity is called mind mapping.
What is mind mapping?
Simply put, mind mapping is a writing/doodling/visual thinking exercise to get everything that is swirling around in your brain out of your head and onto paper.
Oftentimes we get so stuck in our heads that we can’t see clearly. By literally laying the contents of your brain out in front of you, you can better look at your ideas objectively, prioritize, make connections, and in the end, find some clarity.
While mind maps can take on various shapes and formats, each one typically starts with a central idea that you’re looking to gain clarity on, and then radiates out from there. Just take a look at my mind map below that sparked the idea for this very blog post you’re reading right now:
In an attempt to structure my thoughts around this topic and provide you with the most value, this is what came out of my brain and then guided my outline and writing. You can see the main topic of “Mind Mapping for Clarity” in the middle and all the sub-topics radiating outwards from it, which became the main sections of this blog. And then branching out from those sub-topics are salient points I knew would support my main topic.
This reveals the core idea behind mind mapping: bringing order to the chaos of our brains!
By mapping out your thoughts and providing a hierarchy and structure to them, you can find focus, clarity, and feel more confident in your day-to-day decisions, whether it’s in life or business.
How do I get started with mind mapping?
The best part about mind mapping is that you really don’t need anything specific to get started. Have a napkin, a pen, and an idea? You’re ready! All you really have to do is set aside time and begin.
I personally prefer the old fashioned way of mind mapping with a pen and paper. There’s something tactile and immediate about it that feels appropriate for mind mapping with the intention to find clarity. Mind mapping in a team or for grander business purposes? Try a tool or cloud-based software.
If you’re down to be analog with me, here’s a list of everything you’ll need to get started:
- A few big poster boards
- Different colored markers
- A private space
- Your favorite ambient jams
- An open mind
- An intention to experiment
How do I use mind mapping for big life questions?
Mind mapping can be extremely potent when used to find clarity for big-picture questions in your life. Let me share how it has helped me…
Last fall, I made the decision to stop working with my biggest client of the past 5 years. That meant I gave up nearly half my income and opened up a huge amount of time in my schedule. While my work with them was extremely rewarding, I had gotten to a point where I knew I wanted to go in a different direction with my life and my career. I wanted to feel like I was the captain of my own ship again and to create something meaningful on my own.
What direction that was, I was less clear on, but I knew it was time for a change. So, enter mind mapping.
One weekend when I had my house to myself, I held a “mini at-home business retreat” and I devoted my time to thinking big picture about what I wanted my future to look like. I broke out my poster boards and markers, sat down at my living room table, and spilled my brain out onto paper.
I had no plan or desired outcome for my mind mapping session, but I knew I needed to get all the swirling ideas out of the confines in my brain and (fingers-crossed) find some clarity that would guide my actions in the months to come.
The funny thing is that before my mind mapping session, I had a new idea that had become THE thing in my mind that I thought I was going to do. But after I mapped everything out, I realized that I had way more ideas and excitement around other things that I was already doing, and that my new idea wasn’t connected to them at all. That doesn’t mean I may not pursue that other idea someday, but my mind map showed me that I had other things I wanted to prioritize first.
Mind mapping helped me sort out what steps I was and was not ready to take, and ultimately led me to where I am now. I know it can help you too.
Here are just a few life situations that mind mapping could help you with:
- Navigating a career change or life shift
- Mapping out your personal goals or habits you want to build
- Uncovering your life’s purpose or guiding intention statement
- Discovering the parts of your life that are holding you back
- Identifying the qualities in your life your want to cultivate and the actions that will support them
How can I use mind mapping for my business?
Mind mapping is a crucial tool for my business and it’s something I use with my clients regularly. Some even take up the practice themselves!
The purpose behind mind mapping for business is to find clarity on certain goals or projects so you can start to plan out steps to achieve it. Say you have a new product launch in a month and you need to create a promotional plan. Map it out and write down any and all ideas that come up so you can start structuring a campaign and a plan to get. it. done.
A mind map that has helped me in the past year was one that I created to clarifying my service offerings. Through this exercise, I decided to focus on two major service offerings – branding and web design – and refine my processes for each so that they were seamless (which then spurred even more mind maps for each process!).
I also found that although I weave digital strategy, SEO, and content strategy into my web design projects, I didn’t want to offer those as stand-alone services. So instead, I decided to get really good at my two main offerings, and start to develop courses and presentations that would teach people digital and content marketing strategies at scale. This map ended up guiding all my big business decisions and investments for the past year and will take me into the next year and beyond.
Here are some other ideas that you can use mind mapping for to help your business:
- Sketching out marketing campaigns
- Narrowing down products and services offered
- Outlining content or presentations
- Drawing up a daily/weekly work schedule to prioritize your time efficiently
- Mapping out your yearly goals and focuses
- Structure solutions to a problem for clients or customers
Mind Mapping Tips & Pitfalls
It is important to remember that with mind mapping, no thought is too trivial to write down. WRITE. DOWN. EVERYTHING. Just know that your self-critiquing mind will inevitably rear its ugly head.
You will judge yourself.
You will not want to write certain things down,
You will feel the urge to edit your mind map before it’s even done.
But by editing and judging your mind map, you will be doing yourself a disservice and clarity will be harder to come by.
Instead, be kind to yourself. Act like a yogi and watch the judgmental thoughts come up, acknowledge them, but tell them to move along. OR, create a mind map of all your mental objections and pain points – that’s a totally viable map that may be just what you need!
Release any expectation of a specific outcome and be open to what comes up – you may be surprised. If there is a thought in your head – positive or negative – it is there for a reason. It’s also taking up valuable mental space. Clearing out your brain clutter and giving it a structure and home outside of your head will help you find the clarity you seek.
After all, any problem can seem like an insurmountable mountain if you can’t find the path. But through mind mapping, you’re putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that you have the grit and intention to reach the summit.