Raise your hand if you tend to get distracted during class, meetings or conversations. Keep your hand raised if you forget what you were doing in the middle of doing it. Keep your hand raised if somebody gave you a task and in the middle of them explaining it you blanked out. Keep your hand raised if you often feel directionless and don’t know which step to take next in life. Is your hand still up? Mine is. Don’t worry, I know how you feel and I’m here to help you and teach you how data visualization and content mapping can help point you in the right direction.
I know what you’re thinking, “Libby, what are you talking about? How can a 21 year old college student possibly offer any advice in how to de-clutter my life?” Never fear for I am a certified professional. Okay not really, please do not look at the messy life behind the curtain, but trust me when I say that I’ve used this method and it works well enough for me so all I can do is recommend you give it a shot too and hey, who knows? You might just like it.
The method I’m going to explain goes by many different names: data visualization, data storytelling, data mapping, compartmentalization and so on, but they all lead back to the same set of directions. Let’s use the example I did this method on: my graduate class (ICM 501). I knew I was getting a lot out of this class but I wasn’t sure how to articulate it and honestly I wasn’t sure I really knew what those skills were exactly.
If you’re following along at home and doing this with your own class, life, relationships etc. this is how I started my map. Firstly, I broke my class down into the four most basic groups based on what I had learned the most about. For example one of my first few branches was simply: technology. From that I branched it off into subcategories of the places where the new technologies I learned and used were applied in. So one branch followed like this: Technology – Project Management – Distractions- TimeDoctor.
Still with me? Not too hard to follow along, right? What? You still don’t trust me!? Well don’t take it from me, take it from Nicole Martin in her New York Times Article that states that,
“Data storytelling can be a difficult task, but it is important. Telling the story with data can help drive your organization to success in the digital field and keep you ahead of the game.”
You tell ‘em Nicole. As visual learner I find data mapping to be an amazing way to look at things in a new point of view and restructure based on what I see.
Data visualization is applicable in a number of scenarios. Referencing back to my own map made for my graduate class I have branches covering topics like lifestyle, design, reading, time management and reflection. A map can really help you to break down things like classes, relationships and projects down to its bear essentials.
But Libby, you say, I don’t have time to create a self indulgent map, sure the benefits are incredibly high, but this won’t impress anyone! Oh really? Nicole begs to differ,
“Telling a great data-driven story can be useful for both stakeholders and your customers and can drive better decision making within an organization and also drive conversions with your customers. By using data visualization to make key observations about your customers and their wants, it can help with lead generation and customer retention.”
Dang, you say. I know reader, I know.
I genuinely throw my support behind this method. A lot of the time I have a relatively poor memory and I knew I was getting so much out of my graduate class but I simply couldn’t remember everything. Data visualization such as the data map I created helped to de-clutter my mind and put everything back into perspective. It helped me to remember helpful tools from the beginning of the semester and little pieces here and there I learned along the way that I would have forgotten about if I hadn’t written it down. I plan on applying this method to other aspects of my life. I’m curious to see how a data map could help improve relationships with my friends or if looking back at all I’ve learned in the past could help me look forward into the future.