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Use a variety of visual techniques to help your “write” hemisphere accomplish your academic goals.

Use Visuals to Help Your “Write” Hemisphere!

As many of you know, I am obsessed with Mind Mapping. See my April 20, 2005 newsletter for an introduction to using Mind Mapping. Since I wrote that article, my obsession has grown to include any visual representation of one’s (mostly) verbal work. This would include pictures, icons, flow charts, timelines, charts, or grids. I am so obsessed about Mind Mapping that whenever I bring it up in one of my groups, a certain client always laughs uncontrollably (and you know who you are.)

Reasons for My Obsession

The reason that I find visuals so intriguing is that my clients frequently reach an impasse in their work. At those times it is critical to shock your brain out of its doldrums; activating the right hemisphere is an excellent way to do so. The right hemisphere thinks in a more visual, global manner. When you look at a picture, your right hemisphere “lights up” first. The right hemisphere thinks in a more intuitive, non-linear mode (in right-handed people and most lefties) than does the left hemisphere, and is therefore more able to be creative and inclusive.

Even if you aren’t stuck, a Mind Map or other form of visual representation can help you grasp more clearly what you’ve been writing and thinking. Thus it is an excellent way to prepare for presentations, lectures or even collaborative discussions about research. You can use it as your notes for a talk, and also present the Mind Map itself as a visual tool to help the listener comprehend your material more thoroughly. You’ll find that you and your audience will remember the material better.

Today I’m going to tell you about two types of software and some lower tech methods for revving up your right hemisphere, so that you can help your poor, overworked “write” hemisphere.


I’ve fed my obsession with Mind Mapping by purchasing the MindManager software (MindManager X5 Pro) from Mindjet Corporation. I’m finding that this software has some great capabilities, many of which would be handy for you. For example, you can manage projects by creating a Mind Map that links with both documents on your computer and with web sites. This could help you administer a grant, keep track of a dissertation, or plan a complex series of projects.

I spoke today with Laryssa Oliver, the sales representative at Mindjet Corporation, which makes MindManager software. They do have an educational discount of 50%, and, as of Friday, July 15, there will be an additional 15% discount. If you decide to order either version X5 Pro or X5, do not order it on Thursday!! You won’t get the discount until Friday.

Here is the information that Laryssa sent me on pricing. If you are part of a work group, perhaps you can take advantage of the multiple licensing discounts.

X5 Pro
1 – 4 licenses = $147.90 each
5 – 9 licenses = $140.50 each
10 licenses = $136.81 each

1 – 4 licenses = $96.90 each
5 – 9 licenses = $92.06 each
10 licenses = $89.63 each

Each license will be eligible for a free upgrade that will be released in the fall. I will also give one hour of free recorded training with the purchase of 5 licenses, and 2 one hours of free training with the purchase of 10 licenses.

Laryssa also said she would be happy to talk with anyone who wanted help in how to use MindManager in their particular set of circumstances. Her phone number is: Toll Free +1 (877) 646-3538 ext. 172


I’ve also purchased RFFlow, a product of RF Electronics. RFF flow is a great piece of software that enables you to represent ideas in a visual format easily and creatively. Click here to view samples of the many charts and diagrams you’ll be able to make using this software. I called RF Electronics and spoke to Diana regarding RFFlow. They no longer offer educational discounts – they just lowered their prices for everyone! I found out that if you get together with a bunch of people and place an order, you could take advantage of their volume discounts. You must let them know that the software will be used individually so that you get your own registration number. Here is their pricing chart:

1 – 4
5 – 24
25 – 99

$49.00 each
$39.00 each
$29.00 each
$19.00 each

Diana also told me that any professors who would like to use this software in their classes can order it to be sold in the university bookstore. The store would then sell if for approximately $20 per person.

Please Note!

I’d like to note that I am not receiving anything in return for this information – I just wanted to make it easier for anyone thinking of getting this software.

Low Tech Ideas

I’ve learned from some of my creative and brilliant clients some ways to use the graphical capabilities in our everyday programs to clarify your thinking. In Word, you can use the Formatting toolbar (click on View, then Toolbars to access.) Then you can use the text highlighter which allows you to do this in many different colors. Of course if you choose a dark color, you may want to change the font color from dark to light as I did on the word “colors”. Changing the font color in general is another way to differentiate and highlight as you edit. If you click on the Format pull-down menu and choose Borders and Shading, then click on the Shading tab, you can apply many colors or even crazy shading patterns to chunks of text, whole paragraphs, or cells in a table.

The Insert tab also allows you to add clipart or charts by clicking on Picture.

Although you may already know how to do some of this, I urge you to use it in your work to help organize your thoughts. One professor client used a color-coded table to chart all her ongoing projects and due dates. The color coding is surprisingly helpful.


A Challenge

I challenge you to use any of the ideas mentioned in this newsletter with a piece of your work that you would like to gain some clarity on. The topic can be grand and all-encompassing, or quite specific.

Here are some ideas, whether you are using your trusty pencil or one of these software packages.

  • Make a timeline of your project. Consider doing a more specific timeline for the coming month and then a bigger one for the full scope of the project.
  • Make a chart, perhaps using a spreadsheet program and color coding (or marking pens) to organize the various projects you are working on.
  • Take the next bit of writing you plan to do, and make a colorful mind map.
  • Create a flow chart illustrating how you will manage the grant that you are applying for.
  • Mind Map a case study
  • Have you started preparing for fall classes you’ll be teaching? Try using a Mind Map for one of your lectures. Have one of the branches include asking your students to create a Mind Map of part of your lecture.

Keep in mind that you will get better at these graphical techniques the more you use them. Please help out your poor left hemisphere – it needs a break! Soon it will feel refreshed and return as the “write” hemisphere.

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