Saturday, October 18, 2014

Visualize, Organize, Achieve


You know you have a problem. It has always been there. The problem relates to organization. And memory. And procrastination. And learning. And finishing. And starting.

Are you happy about our own creativity, yet flagellate yourself over your failure to follow through? At times do you fight yourself over what you have to do and how to do it?

If any of this rings true, you may find some tasks as daunting and hard as climbing a mountain. Achieving your goals can seem like an unattainable dream. You may feel a constant pressure to accomplish things that just seem to pile up.

While you may feel this problem everyday, the problem really isn’t you! The problem is that your tools for learning may not match how you naturally think.


The cause of this “problem” is that you (and me), like more than half of the population, are right-brain dominant, visually oriented divergent thinkers. This means we are creative, but have a brutally difficult time following the established path to finish things. Being a divergent thinker is a blessing and a curse. We can see so many possibilities in any given situation, that acting on one can be tough.

I liken our way of thinking to driving a 4X4. We divergent thinkers prefer to take new uncharted paths and approaches to solve problems, but by doing so, we often run into a lot of dead ends, and the going is always slow! That being said, there is no feeling more exhilarating than the creative discoveries we make along our uncharted roads.


  • Would you believe there is a solution that can make learning and working easier for you without compromising your natural creativity?
  • Would you believe it is simple to do?
  • Would you believe that becoming a self-starter and a finisher are traits right at your fingertips and that procrastination could be a thing of the past?
  • Would you believe there are tools and strategies for learning that MATCH how you NATURALLY think?

To make learning easier, the visual learner needs specific strategies that help him harness his creativity and become more productive and efficient. These strategies must be transferrable, and lead work in diverse settings and situations.

For this type of learner, Visual Thinking is the answer. It can unlock the intellectual potential of a struggling learner, who is so bright, but for whom the techniques primarily taught in school, do not work.

What is Visual Thinking and How do I do it?

Visual Thinking is a method of organizing information graphically in diagrams, semantic webs and mind maps. The approach is effective for writing papers, studying for tests, memorizing vocabulary, taking notes, brainstorming and managing projects. It is particularly useful when a student needs more mental clarity.

Some of the best techniques involve using specific mind-mapping or visual thinking software like Inspiration®, MindJet® or The Popplet®. These programs offer many advantages for efficiency and learning, but visual thinking strategies using pencil and paper are still very effective.

Step 1: Visualize

The basic idea behind Visual Thinking is that you use words, pictures and symbols that visually represent all of the different pieces of an idea. This is a creative brainstorming process. You fill your page with words and pictures that relate to the main topic.

Step 2: Organize

The next step is to group those ideas in categories that make sense, and link them with arrows. This process organizes your idea visually and spatially. It also clarifies the hierarchy of topics, sub-topics and details. The process allows you to see your idea develop. In some areas, it is likely that there will be a lot of information. This is good. It means that this part of the topic is well understood. In other areas of the diagram, there will not be much information. This is a valuable thing to observe too. It means that these areas need more attention.

Step 3: Achieve

Once you have a good map of your idea, it guides your final product – whatever that final product may be. If you need to write an essay, the map serves as an outline or guide. If the goal is to study for a test, the creation of the map is central to mastering the material. If the end product is a presentation, the visual organization of the diagram refines the content and message. There are myriad ways of utilizing Visual Thinking for productivity. These are just a few.


Visual Thinking is a strategy that is transferable and useful throughout one’s life. As one masters the strategies of organizing ideas visually, it becomes a skill to build on. For a child in elementary school, Visual Thinking is effective for writing a paragraph. For a high school student, Visual Thinking can be used to prepare to write an essay. For a college or graduate student, it is just as valuable for writing a thesis. For a professional, it is an effective tool for making a presentation, planning a meeting or developing a business plan. It is also the best strategy for note taking that I have ever encountered.


To learn more about Visual Thinking, you can contact me directly. We work with schools, organizations and individuals to help integrate and master Visual Thinking principles, strategies and software to improve achievement, confidence and productivity in school and at work.

Contact The Visual Leap
For more information, contact The Visual Leap at

About the author

Jesse Berg, MSIT, MEd is the founder of The Visual Leap, LLC, a company dedicated to teaching visual learning and integrating visual learning solutions in education and industry. He has trained thousands of individuals how to diagram and mind map ideas and works extensively in large urban School Districts training teachers how to integrate technology and visual learning into the curriculum. Berg also partners with The Cooper Learning Center in New Jersey where he runs training sessions in Visual Thinking for children and adults with ADHD, Dyslexia and other learning differences.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why do I feel so overwhelmed? What can I do about it?

Some weeks, some days, some hours, we all feel the pressure of life, until we become aware of a clenching jaw, a furrowed eyebrow, and maybe even grinding teeth.  I feel my stress in my brow. Maybe you feel it in your gut.

Regardless of where we carry our stress, we all have complex lives that pull us in too many directions. Today I want to share a strategy I use to get out in front of stress by gaining clarity on the forces that are causing it. This strategy helps me become the driver of my world, and not the slave to it.  It is easy, and I think it can help you too.

The strategy I use is called mind mapping. It is a visual thinking strategy that allows you to figure out what you have going on in your life, what you have done, and what you need to do. The result is a picture – a mind map – that clearly shows you all of this.   

Below is the mind map of my week. Further down you will see a link to a template you can download and use for yourself, and a video that shows how I created this, which I hope you will watch and try.

If you look closely at this mind map, you see that it has branches for WORK, FAMILY, HOME, ATHLETIC, SPIRITUAL, JUST FOR OTHERS, JUST FOR ME.  These are my key categories for a balanced life.  Yours may be different.  Make your own categories that make sense for your life. 

My map shows me that I was somewhat productive at work and very busy with family.  It also shows me that I exercised enough, and even had a little fun.  Upon reflection, I remembered that I picked up a litter one day, making the streets a little nicer for others.  

While I DID NOT get million other things done, this map PROVES to me, VISUALLY, that my week was pretty balanced.  Overall, I was MORE productive, conscientious, family focused than I may have felt in many individual moments – especially moments when I felt overwhelmed by the High School application process or guilty for watching TV instead of writing this BLOG!!!

Weekly mind maps are beneficial on many critical fronts. They will help you:
1.     Show you why you feel so busy;
2.     See what you have done;
3.     Feel good about your progress;
4.     Combat feelings of guilt over and laziness and procrastination;
5.     Gain a plan of action to prioritize what you have to do.
6.     Replace feelings of overwhelm with a tangible reality of what you can do.

Life can make you crazy, and it can hard to get a grip on why.  For a great solution, try mind mapping.  It is a fast and fun way to engage your creative, visual, right brain in the process of self-reflection and analysis.  It can help you put yourself in charge of your busy, crazy life.

Make a "My Week" Mind Map.  Sketch it out from the template or make one yourself.

Give yourself credit for what you did this week, and share how it went for you. 

Contact the author at