How to mind map your life

In general, I'm of the belief that resolutions are just targets to blow holes in. I rarely make them and I even more rarely keep them. But I still like laying out some kind of yearly plan, if only for the sole reason of deviating from it. 

Admittedly, I got a bit of a slow start this year. January seemed like a holdover from 2016 as I mopped up the spills and tried to get myself together. But now that I'm feeling a little more in control of things, I decided to do something a little different for 2017 than the standard list. I brought in a tactic I use all the time in my day job as a user experience (software/app/product/website) designer: the mind map.


Mind maps are awesome. They're a visual tool for organizing information for all kinds of things and since humans are visual creatures, they tend to work really well.

In the design world, they're often used for brainstorming, research analysis, or product prioritization. But really, you can use them for anything. It's just a visual way to group and organize information around a common subject matter. In this case, that subject matter is 2017 (or more specifically, what I want to do with myself in 2017). 

Anyone can mind map. You don't have to be a designer and you don't have to have any fancy software. You can do it on a chalkboard or whiteboard, in a sketchbook, or digitally. I did mine using, which is a tool I regularly use for my design and research work. 

My 2017 mind map


This is just the first level of my mind map. Each one of the spokes on that wheel gets more details about what I want to do and how I plan to do it, eventually getting to SMART goals.

You could go on for quite a while as you generate and organize ideas. It's up to you where to stop, but try to keep it reasonable as well because ideally, these are things you'll actually do. The goal is to prioritize and organize, so do what works for you. I chose to put three main things under each major category so I wouldn't get too overwhelmed. Other stuff went out to a "parking lot" list off to the side and I'll revisit those later (or never). 

I've been driving myself nuts lately by doing things I don't really want or need to do, which that takes time away from the things that are important to me, and this exercise really helped me organize my thoughts. 

The major things that are a priority to me are the categories in the coral boxes, so the areas of my life that I'll be focusing on this year are:

  • Family
  • Running
  • Overall health
  • Career
  • Blogging
  • Product design 

Notably gone from the list this year: taking on a bunch of freelance user experience work. I'm just not interested in that (as I mentioned in my Five Insights from 2016 post). I'd rather be working on my blog and product design as a means for extra income and because it's more fun for me.

Next up - breaking this down and creating my plan of attack (aka, SMART goals).

What about you? Do you make resolutions? Have you ever used mind mapping?