Use Mind Maps to Achieve Your Goals

Use Mind Maps to Achieve Your Goals

Why is it that the beginning of the year always feels electrical with the excitement of *this year* being the one where you achieve all of your most important goals? Like most people, starting on New Year’s, I spend time thinking about my goals, write many of them down, and start taking action. While I am happy with the progress I’ve made in the past, I’ve had the feeling that many of my goals seem to lose momentum after a few months. Starting a couple months ago I began researching how I could effectively be reminded about my goals on a daily basis, but not be overwhelmed by tons of information or underwhelmed by boring goals written on a piece of paper.

Goals Mind Map Logo

My research has paid off. I’ve leveraged my interest in information visualization, organization, and mind maps to create a unique approach to goal setting, and I want to share this technique with you. The entire process of getting your goals into the mind map takes 4 steps:

Step 1 – Find Your Purpose and Passion
Step 2 – Create Your Vision
Step 3 – Download the Mind Map Template and Install Mind Mapping Software
Step 4 – Write Down Your Goals

The mind map template I’ve created serves two purposes:

1. Give a quick overview – All of your goals can be easily printed and viewed on a single 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper. Goals are organized by a particular area of your life (Physical, Financial, Relationship) and allows you to be reminded to keep a healthy balance. And, all goals have visual markers to show their priority in relationship to each other.
2. Save detailed information – Since the mind map will also be saved on your computer, you can add much greater detail than the printed version. This detail includes specific information for how you will achieve your goal (who, what, when, where, and why). And, also allows you to write down your longer-term goals, and even keep a personal journal.

The Internet and Blogosphere is literally filled with thousands of e-books, articles, blogs, and websites with tons of information on how to set goals. I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel for this article, so I’m just going to give some pointers to some of the more useful resources I’ve found. OK, so let’s get started.
Step 1 – Find Your Purpose and Passion
Many people (my past self included) usually start setting their goals, and don’t spend a lot of time figuring out who they are, and if these are the things they really want. It’s like the analogy of making progress climbing the ladder, but only finding out that your ladder was up against the wrong wall the whole time. The point of finding your purpose is to locate the one thing that your absolutely passionate about in life, and then realign all of your activities and goals to that purpose. Here are some great links:

Steve Pavlina – How to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes
Curt Rosengren (Passion Catalyst) – The Occupational Adventure Guide
Personal Development Ideas blog – Discover Your True Self

Step 2 – Create Your Vision
Once you’ve uncovered your true purpose and passion, you should be feeling a lot clearer about the direction you want to take. Let’s take it one step further and create your vision. You’re vision is the long-term plan for what you *really* want in your life. Visualization is key, and there are some fantastic techniques you can use.

– Visualization
Instigator Blog – Achieve Your Goals With 3 Types of Visualization
– Written Vision Statements
Radical Mutual-Improvement – Write your ideal scene
– Vision Collages (Treasure Map)
Curt Rosengren (Passion Catalyst) – Treasure map
– Video Vision Statements
I’ve started blogging about this recently. Malcolm Cohan has created a fabulous way to make your own video vision statement. I’d highly recommend this!
Malcolm Cohan’s Website
Eric Blue – Vision Statement: The Power of Goal Visualization
Eric Blue – My Personal Vision Statement

Step 3 – Download the Mind Map Template and Install Mind Mapping Software
I used MindManager to create the mind map template, however I can recommend some other (and free) mind map applications.

Mindjet MindManager 6 (Free 5-day Trial/Commercial)
FreeMind (Free/Open Source)
ConceptDraw MindMap (Free 30-day Trial/Commercial)
IMindMap (Free 30-day Trial/Commercial)
Now you’re ready to download the goal mind map template:
Online Preview

Online Preview Using MindMap Viewer (flash)

[Right-click and select Save Link As]

Goals Mind Map Template (.mmap)

(63KB, Mindjet MindManager format)

FreeMind (.mm)

(24KB, MM format)

Goals Mind Map Template (.xml)

(246KB, XML format – can be imported to other programs)
Goal Mind Map Template
Goal Mind Map Template Closeup

Step 4 – Write Down Your Goals
OK, this is it, the moment you’ve been waiting for! Fire up your mind mapping software, and load the template you just downloaded. To make your goal mind map most effective, I’d recommend setting a few guidelines when settings goals:

1. Balance in your life is important. I’ve created 8 major areas for categorizing your goals, ordered from right-left: (1) Physical/Health, (2) Career, (3) Contribution, (4) Finances, (5) Rest/Play/Hobbies, (6) Relationships, (7) Mental/Emotional, (8) Spiritual. These are not set in stone, so feel free to rename or modify these categories.
2. Try not to have more than 5 goals per each area.
3. S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Based) guidelines should be followed
*Who: Who is involved?
*What: What do I want to accomplish?
*When: Establish a time frame.
*Where: Identify a location.
*Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
4. Assign each goal a priority within each respective area.
1 = Most Important: Critical!
2 = Desired
3 = Nice to Have
5. Focus is on short-term goals, but long-term goals are listed to keep perspective. Write down 3 year, 5 year, and lifetime goals.
6. Emphasize between 1-3 Top goals for the year. These take precedence over all others.

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23 Responses

  1. Argey says:

    Have you looked at 3D mindmapping? Topicscape does that. It’s best for organizing information for projects, or reference sources because each node can have many files linked to it (none of this spider’s web of links to multi-part web articles cluttering up the mindmap).

  2. Eric Blue says:

    I’ve updated the post to include some minor formatting changes. And, made it a bit easier to find and download the template.

  3. Eric,
    Good article utilizing goal setting with mind mapping. I have long wrote and talked about goal setting, and now have recently started working with mind maps. This makes another great resource.

  4. Hi Eric,
    Using a mindmap to manage your goals is a great idea. I downloaded the template to try it out. Thank you!

  5. Terry Slinde says:

    I am just a new user of Mindmanager. I like your goals map and tried to dwnload both. It won’t download. All I get is web page full of this PK����-e6;6�g��`��,���bin/6D942D2E-A71A-430C-A06B-FC20A3DD8919.binŔKHTQ����j:�c�ڸ�””�܄��]�6�z��hQ�MO�2� u|M>��(dI�hH1�\�� Ej

  6. Eric Blue says:

    Hi Terry,
    You should be able to right-click on the link, and then select ‘Save Link As’. You’ll then be prompted to enter a filename and location to download.

  7. Eric Blue says:

    For future reference, I fixed the .mmap download so you can just click on the link to save. No need to right-click and ‘Save As’.

  8. Adam says:

    For goal setting and goal tracking applications, GoalEnforcer beats any other mind mapping software out there. Check it out

  9. Mind Maps as Personal Dashboards
    Up until now, I’ve used mind maps for a variety of things: brainstorming, study aid, goal setting, note taking, and product research.   Recently, I’ve been exploring the idea of using mind maps to help consolidate all of my information relate…

  10. clyde says:

    This is a great article thank you for making it avaiable.
    I’m having trouble using the template…how can I import the template into freemind?

  11. Tom Evans says:

    This is wonderful stuff – great minds & all that
    Could I share with you and the readers of this blog an MP3 visualisation that I recorded that helps seal any mind map (computer or hand drawn) in your memory and cellular neuroology ?

  12. ELFaure says:

    The goals link to the Freemind *.mm file format goes to an XML document.

  13. ericblue76 says:

    The Freemind *.mm file format is actually XML. What you’ll need to do is right-click, then Save As to save to your hard drive. Then you can use FreeMind to open it.

  14. harry says:

    You may want to check out, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

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  18. […] M: I guess the topic of health is universal and more straightforward: you need to get rid of pain by eating healthy, working out more, taking your meds or improving your sleep. Health is more common to track nowadays (my mom has high blood pressure, so she checks it at least twice a day and writes down results in her paper notebook). Eric: Tracking your health and body metrics is an interesting topic.  At the QS conference in May, David Asprey (biohacker and author of Bullet Proof Executive – gave a great talk on self tracking and lab testing.  People are starting to go to independent labs directly for tests they would normally have done through a doctor.  These labs will take blood samples, check for vitamin deficiencies, and even design special diets based on what you need.  Another interesting company is 23andMe (  It does personal genome sequencing by taking a saliva sample and gives a detailed diagnosis on health risks and genetic traits. M: Why don’t doctors do that during annual physicals? Don’t people trust their doctors or can’t afford medical services and hence prefer a DIY version? Eric: Some doctors are more progressive and open to sharing more data with their patients, and other more traditional ones aren’t there yet.  People are definitely taking power into their own hands in terms of health and well being. As costs come down and people become more interested in taking charge of their own health I think the DIY trend will continue. M: But self-tracking is more health focused than other things. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a comprehensive app that tells it all… Eric: Many self trackers focus on monitoring health, mood and stress. But there are even gadgets (NeuroSky) and apps that can track your brainwave activity when you meditate (checking for focus levels and beta, alpha, theta and delta activity).  This isn’t something I regularly track, but is more of an experiment at the moment. Personally, I’ve tracked a lot of areas in my life, not just health related things.  Years ago I started off with my personal memex project to build a single app that tracked all aspects of my life: a place to write down memories and help with recall, my travel journal, research notes, and eventually made it a place to track my workouts.  I still use it quite a bit, but I it required a lot of manual data entry.   For me the appeal of Quantified Self and the new health-related gadgets is the tracking is mostly transparent and data capture is done for you automatically. M: So what do you work on now? Eric: I’ve been focused on consolidating and analyzing my self-tracking data from a number of gadgets (Fitbit, Zeo, Withings, Garmin, etc.).  The challenge with many of the vendors is that data is usually transferred to their own site, but they don’t always allow you to easily get access for your own analysis.  You’re locked in to the reports and graphs they provide and sometimes have a limited view of historical data (Fitbit only shows 30-days of past data). Some companies have created APIs to get data, but it can be difficult to consolidate all of this to a central pIace.  I found it very helpful to analyze data (sleep, activity, gps/location etc.) from all of these sources and create my own customized reports and charts that have really helped with discovering patterns and staying active.  This project is called TRAQS (Tools for Reporting & Analysis of the Quantified Self –  My plan is to make the app available to the general public very soon. M: Why do you think QS is so crazy popular on the West Coast? Eric: Well, it originated in San Francisco which is both very tech and health-centric. When I went to QS Conference, there seemed to be a lot of health/personal development enthusiasts. I think the appeal of QS is the combination of technology, health, personal development, and the DIY vibe appeals to many hackers. M: It feels that people bring their personal discoveries to another level by sharing and creating social good. Thank you, Eric, for your time and this great information on QS! PS I checked out Eric’s blog and was very impressed with his post 5 years ago on mind mapping and goal setting. […]

  19. Hi Eric,
    I found this post and love the 4 step process.
    What do you do with the maps during the year? When I create a map I print them and put them on my office wall to look at on a daily basis.
    For me, the map is also a guideline for the day to day activities. It helps me focused on my mission and goals.
    How do you review your maps at the end of the year?
    Look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

  20. McFly says:

    Thanks for this interesting article on mindmapping. I enjoyed the perspective of a real world project and how it developed from a seed idea to completion. Many times examples miss the fact that the intent at the end of the day is to get something accomplished.
    I also want to thank you for including list of mindmap software to your article.
    I’m using mindmaps for learning, preparing client meetings and presentations. I found ConceptDraw MindMap a quite useful tool for scribbling short notes about ideas and thoughts. It’s full of features and its export function makes it easy turn your mindmap into documents. I’m really looking forward to hear more stories about mindmapping in the field of conflict resolution.

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