If you struggle with managing details, volumes of information and data, why not put the latest research on visual mapps to work? According to Stanford University research, visual maps help reduce meeting time by 36%! And a simple chart can speed decision making in groups by 19%. If you’re interested in shorter meetings and faster decisions, start using visual maps to reduce the stress of too much information.
 
You don’t need to be “an artist” to start using visuals for your own thinking, streamlining a meeting or enhancing a training. You can create a map today following these five core principles.
 

 Just ask yourself:

 
* Do you want to focus attention?
* Do you want to simplify complex data?
* Would you like people to quickly say, “I see what you mean!”?
 
 
Whether you’re drawing a sketch on a wall chart, making a map on a proposal or drawing a diagram on a napkin over coffee—an overview map is a quick and portable tool to reduce the stress of too much information.
 
A visual map is a quick, portable tool—just think of how at a glance, a sketch shows a process or system. Complex concepts, volumes of information can be shown in a single picture. A colorful diagram slashes overwhelm and clarifies what’s important. This can help you get a grip on your workload, train an employee, coach a colleague and clarify your own thinking. A map can take you from swirling chaos to a solution-focused pathway.
 
Principle One: Give the Big Picture.
Show a visual overview map. Adults get engaged when they can see the big picture up front. If you are not 100% comfortable drawing icons, no sweat! Just use key shapes to represent concepts you are depicting. A circle, a square, a triangle, a spiral and an arrow can tell a complex story. And you can easily pick up a marker and draw those.
 
Principle Two: Less is More.
Limit the sections of your map to maximum 7 units. Research shows that it is easier to remember 5-7 items. This is why it’s easier for you to remember a 7-digit phone number. If you have had the experience of getting a new area code in your neighborhood, or have to remember different area codes for your phone, fax and cell phone—you’ll know what I’m talking about. Ten is just too much!
 
Principle Three: Use Color to Link Concepts.
Think of designing your message in the same way a city architect designs a subway map. If you’ve been to London, Washington DC, or Paris—you’ll know that it’s easy to follow the colored lines showing subway routes and get where you are going.
 
Make it easy to see where you’re going. Make it easy for yourself or for the person you are communicating with: a student, colleague or customer. Color pathways create clear trainings, presentations and communications. The receiver sees where they are and where they are going. Use the same color to identify the lines of connection between topics
       Principle Four: Repetition Builds Retention.
Don’t be afraid to use and re-use the same icons, colors and shapes. It helps your brain remember and connect. Show an icon and word message on the overview map and repeat the image/message on a poster. This makes your job easier. You don’t need more icons. You need more repetition. Reinforce colors, shapes and icons from the overview map by repeating the same colors, shapes and icons in posters.
 
Principle Five: Structure Involvement.
Give yourself or participants a visual template to support thinking, drawing, and writing during a presentation, training session or coaching conversation.  Break down complex problems with a problem-solving template. Have participants write in their own responses. Creating dialogue helps participants feel heard, acknowledged and respected.
 
This works for group interaction and you can apply the same principle to your own thinking. Set up the framework and then give yourself time to reflect and fill in the answers.
 
An overview map provides the big picture as well as showing what isn’t known yet. It’s a relief to know that your map reflects a living process. The framework of a map is a place to record questions, problems to be solved, and research topics.
 
Use these Ideas with Yourself!
Get some practice using visual diagrams to reduce your stress levels. Practice making a map when you want to quickly capture a torrent of ideas– out of your head and onto paper. If you are short on topics, apply this technique to your weekly planning, problem solving and career goals. The more you get in the habit of using visual mapping principles in your own thinking, the easier it will be for you to use this for training, coaching and presenting.
 
Use a Map to Communicate with Others!
You don’t need to have fancy equipment—a piece of paper, a section of butcher paper or an easel chart will do. What’s important is that you use the principles as part of your communication tool kit.
 
Whether you are communicating to potential customers, co-workers, trainees, new hires or long time employees they are sure to notice your extra care. They will appreciate the time and effort you take to create a big picture map. They’ll notice that your presentations are clearer, easier to remember and easier to apply. They’ll be more engaged in your sessions and you can expect to see that they will remember what you presented.
 
And isn’t that what communication is about—reaching your audience. Getting your message across with less stress for the person receiving it and in a way that they can remember and apply!
5 Principles to Reduce Stress with Visual Maps
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