Mind Mapping with member Amanda Lathrop

  • Does it feel like you have too many spinning plates?
  • That you’re not keeping track of all of them?
  • Is it easier for you to think visually than to sit-down-and-write-an-outlined-list?

It might be time for you to experiment with mind mapping!

Tap Into Your Ideas + To Do’s Using Mind Mapping, with Special Guest Amanda Lathrop

Kelly Pratt, founder of the so do it! Society, interviews entrepreneur Amanda Lathrop about using mind mapping for tracking all the different parts of her life.

Kelly Pratt: Today we’re talking with Amanda Lathrop, who is a member of the So, Do It! Society and the owner of Lead Sheep Productions. Tell me your tagline again…?

Amanda Lathrop: Discover the past and preserve the future.

Kelly Pratt: Discover the past and preserve the future. I love that.

Amanda helps people (to) record their histories through talking and telling stories, and using the images and photos and so on of their past. And, she is brilliant at that! She also uses Mind Mapping, and that’s what we’re talking about today.

I’ve been using Mind Mapping since about 2006. I can’t wait to hear how you use it, and how it popped into your life.

Amanda Lathrop: I use it because my life is very crazy! I use it to keep track of all the different parts of my life, and all the different things I do, have to do, would like to do some day…

For those of you who don’t know what a Mind Map is, this is an example from a book that I have. It’s basically getting everything out of your head and onto paper, or digitally; there are apps for it, too.

“I use Mind Mapping to get everything out of my head. I run my own business. I am Single With Dog, but I also help out my extended family a lot. I take care of my two nieces, took care of my grandmother while she was sick, and keep a lot afloat. Using my Map helps me to get that all out of here (points to her head) and into something that I can actually use.” — AMANDA LATHROP

Entrepreneur Amanda Lathrop shows viewers a sample Mind Map.

Kelly Pratt: Do you use Mind-Mapping to only get (stuff) out of your head, or do you use the Mind Map (itself), when you’re done?

Amanda Lathrop: I use my Mind Maps, yes. The things that I have actually accomplished, I color in.

Kelly Pratt: When you first do a Mind Map, you start with just a black box in the center. Then, as you accomplish things — it’s sort of your To Do list?

Amanda Lathrop: Yes. I use it when I sit down to make my To Do list for the month, or the week.

Kelly Pratt: Oh, ok. Wow. You actually use that as you go. I am unfortunately somebody who uses a brain dump to just dump, not to look at it again!

How did you get started with Mind Mapping?

Amanda Lathrop: I was in the fifth grade.

Kelly Pratt: Oh wow.

Amanda Lathrop: It was New Year’s Eve, and my grandmother and her husband had a Mind Mapping book (she holds up a couple books for the camera). And that night, New Year’s Eve, we sat at the kitchen table and mind-mapped our New Year’s resolutions!

Kelly Pratt: Wow. So this goes way back! I noticed the name of one of the authors as Tony Buzan (not an affiliate link).

Amanda Lathrop: Yes he’s a big person in Mind Mapping!

Kelly Pratt: Yes. He’s got an app and a community that is really big in the Mind Mapping world.

One of the books Amanda’s grandfather showed her when she was a Fifth Grader was by the inventor of Mind Mapping, Tony Buzan.

So, in fifth grade, that’s what, age 10 ? What would you Mind Map back then?

Amanda Lathrop: I think we Mind Mapped what we wanted to do for the year. (Mine was probably) get good grades.

Kelly Pratt: Did you keep doing that as you grew up?

Amanda Lathrop: I did it more intermittently, and then when I started my own company (picks up her smart phone), I found this guy wasn’t working for me as a calendar, so I got a paper planner. That’s when I started really getting hooked again (on Mind Mapping).

Kelly Pratt: Woman after my own heart! When I was in my 20s, paper planners were what everyone used. I’ve tried to go (points to her own smart phone), and I do use electronic planners for scheduling appointments. But in terms of helping me to remember — I’m a very visual person, so using a paper planner is really critical.

Paper planner people are very particular about their paper planners! It has to be right, and in the So, Do It! Society, I was inspired to launch one for sale. I’ve been designing (my own) paper planners for years, so I created the So, Do It! Planner.

Amanda has had a lot of influence on its design, and one of the things (is for it to have) a big spread so that we could visualize things after we do our trimester planning.

I imagine when you go to your Mind Map and you’re planning your week or your day, you don’t put everything from it on your To Do list?

Amanda Lathrop: No, no. I do quarters, which is three months.

“I found that when I planned per month, I always planned way more than I could do. When I planned per year, it’s like you said: you make it and then you put it away and you go on with your life! Three months seems to be where I can get to most of what I wanted to get done.” — AMANDA LATHROP

I have a lot of stuff on this quarter, because it was a big brain dump! But, I’m now intentionally saying that I’m not going to get to that this quarter and then moving it to the next quarter.

Kelly Pratt: We look at that in the Society as “progress not perfection.” You know some stuff just needs percolation, and it helps to put it on your list (or Map) so that it’s present in your mind.

Amanda Lathrop: I have a system where I start with a quarter and make my Mind Map, and that’s all my ideas and thoughts about the quarter. Then I take it and put it into my monthly calendar, based on my headings (she shows her calendar and headings on screen).

Other things on the Mind Map might stay there as, ‘Yeah that was a great idea, but it’s just not going to happen right now.’

Kelly Pratt: How long did it take you to do a quarter’s worth of a Mind Map? Is that an all day process for you, or can you get that done in an hour or two?

Amanda Lathrop: My last one took me about an hour or two. I usually have an itching to do it. I’m always thinking about — I’m not a very good NOW person, I’m working on that! I’m either in the past with my clients or in the future, ‘What’s going to come?’ So I’m always itching to do it. I already have pages for the next quarter, and I put Post It notes on them so I can write ideas as they come to me.

“My Map shows everything I can think of, or want to do. What I actually put into my monthly To Do list becomes a real thing to HAVE to do.” — AMANDA LATHROP

Is your brain’s “junk drawer” too full? Amanda Lathrop rids herself of the distraction of her “mental ephemera” by using Mind Mapping.

Kelly Pratt: So you have blank pages in your paper planner that are waiting for your next quarter. You are helping yourself (wrangle) what I call “mental ephemera.”

I think of our brains a little bit like a junk drawer where there are so many things that we should actually throw away, or at least put in its place. The definition of the word “ephemera” is the thing that you’re supposed to use once and throw away, like a ticket stub or receipt or something like that. So much of our lives are those little things that we are supposed to deal with and get rid of! I know in David Allen’s Getting Things Done process, the GTD, he calls those, “open loops.” I call it “mental ephemera.”

What you’re doing with your “mental ephemera” is when you think of something that you want to do in your next quarter, you add it with a Post It note on the blank spread for your next quarterly Mind Map. That’s a really good idea!

Amanda Lathrop: Yes, the idea is there, but then when you get to that point, you can ask if it’s still something you want (to add)? Does it fit with everything else you’re doing, too?

“Writing it down stops two things: 1) it shows you how much you really do get done, and 2) it makes you realize that you don’t have as many ideas or stuff to do as you thought you did! It’s (the ephemera is) just running over and over and over and over again. It feels like it’s a mountain, and really it’s just a hill.” — AMANDA LATHROP

Kelly Pratt: I also think it helps you to know that you’ve taken that bit of inner monologue, ‘OK, I got to remember, I got to remember…!’ and you have made it safe. You’ve made it safe by putting it at a place where you can go and find it again.

So, Do It! Salons of up to 9 women take place over 13-week trimesters and meet in-person every other week.

So, Do It! Salons of up to 9 women take place over 13-week trimesters and meet in-person every other week.

By the way, the So, Do It! Society is a place where you get things done. We have Salons, which are in-person groups, for women who have something that they’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It can be writing a book, it can be launching a planner – which is what mine is right now – it can be paying attention to your own health.

The definition of a salon is: the gathering under the roof of an inspiring host, using conversation for support and education and basically making your life a lot better. That’s what salons were back in the 17th, 18th centuries and that’s what they continue to be.

In a Salon, it’s face-to-face (groups are 9 women, maximum), and in our Society which is a private, online community found at sodoit.mn.co, we do (support and education) in community using “talk to think” like we’re doing now, and more.

But the So, Do It! Society Planner will help us gather that “mental ephemera” and provide a place to keep it safe and know where to find it. We’re making a conscious effort to print them using a woman-owned business. We’ll be printing them in the US, and they will be print-on-demand to start, so that we can change them and make them better as we discover new ways to improve the process. If anyone wants to check out our planners, make a comment below, or join the Society!

What are you looking forward to in the new year, Amanda?

Amanda Lathrop: For those of you who don’t know, my grandmother, who was my best friend, passed away right before I did my last Mind Map. I was having trouble with what do I plan on, like I’m just lost right now. So I wrote down words that I thought she would want for me.

  • I wrote down to be Healthy,
  • Successful – she was very, very supportive of my business – and,
  • I also wrote down what she would call, “‘sponsibilities” all those things around the house, and the things I want to get done.

I started with those four. I start with the time (the quarter), and I put four headings: four boxes (on my Map). I’ve been doing words that I want to describe my life. I want to be happy. So, what does that mean to me?

“My suggestion is when you do this, yourself, don’t put down something like Lose 10 Pounds. That’s not a concrete thing. What does it mean? For instance, what does it look like to be healthy? I break it down into two sections: mentally healthy, and physically healthy. Those are all in boxes, because that’s the way I think; you can do whatever you want. And then I put in circles, actions. So to be physically healthy I’m going to… Eat paleo. Or I’m going to do yoga, or I’m going to do a breathing exercise. ” — AMANDA LATHROP

To be mentally healthy, I do self care. What do I do for self care? I take a bath. I spend time with friends. And then I put the friends that I want to spend time with: Christina, Kelly, Nikki.

These become To Do items (for me), the ones in circles.

You get them by saying I want to be healthy, physically healthy. What does that mean to me? Add details. Keep breaking it down until you have something specific you can write on your calendar: ‘I’m going to have lunch with Nikki.’

Kelly Pratt: How important is it for you to do this analog, pen and paper, as opposed to finding an app for that?

Amanda Lathrop: You can see this just took me about a minute. If I had to learn an app, it would take a lot longer!

Kelly Pratt: I’m an artist as one of my labels. So, I want it to look pretty. I would have to set aside my Artist Self to do this… We’re using art supplies and paper and pen to do some internal work. We’re not making art, right?

Amanda Lathrop: Well, you could… What I would do if you’re having trouble is do this (first draft) and then go back. Once you get everything out, draw pictures of your friends, drop in pictures. Make it pretty after you get it out of your head, so that you use it.

Kelly Pratt: So, it doesn’t have to be artistic. We’re not creating collage. We are creating something that when you look at it, it helps you to feel a certain way. The way you’re doing that with your Mind Map is you’re using words.

A sample Mind Map, courtesy of Creative Commons.

I like how you said, ‘Don’t say lose 10 pounds,’ say maybe, ‘Health,’ and maybe say, ‘how do I want to feel?’

Amanda Lathrop: Yes.


Kelly Pratt: A construct I discovered in about 2010 is something from the Hindu world called the Purusharthas, and they break the life down into four “aims of life.”

The Hindu Purusharthas, the Four Aims of Life. Source: Chapter8IndiaProject

One is Dharma. That’s your duty, your purpose in life —

Amanda Lathrop: “‘Sponsibilities’!

Kelly Pratt: Yes, responsibility!

Then they talk about Artha, which is the what do you need in order to perform or reach your dharma. In our cases, (maybe this means) ‘All right, I need a car. I need money. I need an apartment.’ But if say, your Dharma is to be a Fisherman on a beach in Tahiti, perhaps your Artha is only a fishing pole and maybe a tent. Artha is the stuff that you need in order to reach Dharma.

The third thing is Kama. Many people have heard of (the) Kama Sutra — all of that sort of sensual piece of it; but it’s also fun, dancing, getting out there and enjoying the world.

The final thing is Moksha, or enlightenment. So it’s four areas of life.

Amanda Lathrop: That’d make a great Mind Map!

Kelly Pratt: I know! Moksha is the freedom piece of it: the liberation, freedom from – what do I want to have freedom from? I want to have freedom from balancing my checkbook every day! Whatever. As well as, I want to have freedom to do this.

I really like this construct (of these 4 aims) instead of (Mind Mapping only) Personal | Work areas, because like you said we don’t talk (in the Society) about balance. Balance means equal parts (and, they aren’t!). We talk instead about harmony, movement, and ebbing and flowing.

Amanda Lathrop: I’m really enjoying the words I want to use to describe my life. For instance, ‘If someone described your life, what would they say?’

Another idea is, in your circles, use a verb. So for my business…

Amanda Lathrop shows host, Kelly Pratt, an example of her Mind Map for her business goals during “Talk2Think,” a weekly online, live show for members of the So, Do It! Society.

Kelly Pratt: Do you keep these all in your planner?

Amanda Lathrop: Yes. It’s all on the back pages of my planner, or in the So, Do It! Planner, you could do it on the visualizer pages.

(Amanda searches her planner)

Business verbs! These are the verbs I put in that I have to do every day:

  • meet people,
  • market,
  • create,
  • admin,
  • sell,
  • and learn.

Kelly Pratt: Oh nice. That would be worth a snapshot and posting in the Society! I think people would really like to see that.

Amanda Lathrop: Keep asking, what do you actually do in your business? In my success (area) on my quarterly Mind Map, I put in those verbs and what am I doing to act on each of them.

Kelly Pratt: I’ve always been what I call a “visual journaler.” I’ve always added glued-in things — Mind Mapping really came into my life when I started I started training as a coach.

One of my mentors, Pam Slim, suggested something that she uses called Xmind (not an affiliate link), and it’s a free online software.

I think like Mind Mapping: I think like what you’re drawing, but because my mind moves so fast, sometimes writing it isn’t fast enough for me. And, I change my mind a lot! I am what we call a Quick Start: I change my mind a lot, and I’m very visual, so this particular software works for me. I’ll show you guys a couple examples.

A couple of years ago, I was working on my first web site and everyone was saying ‘Do your About Page.’ That just didn’t feel like who I was, and so I thought, ‘Why don’t I do a Mind Map of my life?’ That is easier for me when I look at something than reading a bunch of text. I used a Mind Map using Xmind to show who I am now, who influenced me, basically how I got to where I was. This was my About Page on my website.

Kelly Pratt executed the About Page on her eponymous website as a Mind Map. (created with Xmind.net)

I also use Mind Mapping when I work with clients on ZOOM which is what we’re on right now. To sketch out, what is it that we’re trying to do? For instance, I’m working with A.J. Frenzel, who is a member of our Society, on creating a booklet and some worksheets about her process. She’s a Money Doula. She’s amazing, by the way. As we were talking, I was illustrating. This is how I take notes, whether clients see it or not. It really helps me to keep track of what they’re doing, and it helps them to see what my thought process is and it helps them.

(Kelly attempts to change what’s being shared on-screen).

Kelly Pratt: There are all sorts of mind maps. The kind you’re doing is a clockwise map.

Amanda Lathrop: Yes.

Kelly Pratt: The one I was showing for Money Doula is a vertical time line where it goes down and branches out on either side. There are also ORG Charts which everybody has seen. You never know what kind of a Mind Map is going to illustrate the idea that you’re having!

One that I can share in the Society is (author and public speaker) Michael Port’s. Michael Port writes about how to attract the right clients to your business, and he published his entire marketing stream process in a Mind Map. It’s gigantic: here’s where the clients first come in, if they go here/then they go here, if they do this/ then they go here, if they don’t do this/ then they go here and they’re out. He used Xmind to do it and made it public, so that people could use that. Here’s a link to a PDF with an abbreviated version.

Amanda, I’m going to start copying you! I hope that’s ok.

Amanda Lathrop: That’s ok! For everyone, I showed my Mind Map in our Salon and everyone went, “WHOA!”

Kelly Pratt: I start with a Map, because that’s how my mind works. That’s how I can think. Sitting down and typing out in Word? That’s not my mind. Sitting down with a spreadsheet? Don’t think that way. It’s very hard for me.

But here’s the trick, you guys. If you think in a Mind Map (like me), Xmind will export into Word, into an Excel spreadsheet, into PDFs, all the rest of it. If that’s how you can get your ideas down on paper… Oh, it’s such a relief. Then you can export it into a format for your banker or whoever needs to see it.

Amanda Lathrop: What I like, too, is that if I’m working up here (on my Map) and I think of something else for down here, I can just put it down there. It’s not like a list where there’s not room to just move things (without redoing the list).

Kelly Pratt: I love the idea of starting with a big blank piece of paper and then if I need to move it to a clean — there’s Xmind, and I know Tony Buzan has an app, too — I happen to really like Xmind, and I’m just going to say, “Start there. It’s FREE. You can upgrade if you want.”

Amanda Lathrop: Or, simply use paper and pen!

Kelly Pratt: It’s really fun, and I would love to take your comments over in the Society! You can join the Society – it’s $9.99 a month and the first month is free – at sodoit.mn.co.

We are a bunch of women who are not waiting until we retire, or until our kids go to school to get things done, to get those personal projects off our back burners! It’s not just about work. It’s a holistic community of women who are doing things now.

So, c’mon over, we would love to see you, and we’d love to hear how you’re using Mind Mapping in your life.

Amanda Lathrop: If you try a Mind Map, let us see it!

Kelly Pratt: Yes! Yes, post it and we’ll get the conversation going over in the Society! Thank you for joining us today. Thanks so much, Amanda, for sharing your process with us, and we will see you in the So, Do It! Society.