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Do Your Own Vision Mapping:

An Alternative to Brain Dumping

The clock sounded like a hammer banging on my head while I scribbled away, trying to figure out where to write my extra thoughts in my Cornell-style notes. My mind was running a million miles a minute. I couldn’t focus on what my teacher was saying as she droned on about the importance of organized notes. 

School was often like this for me. My teachers would show me the way to organize my thoughts and my thoughts would FREAK OUT.

I’d often wish my brain could just magically think in ordered lists. I always felt so disorganized!

Luckily, I was a bit of a rebel. I knew that writing out my ideas in a ordered bulleted list with clean white spaces on the sides was NOT going to work for me. 

My thoughts were more like a network of rivers and less like a railroad track.

I knew that my notes would always be a “mess”. I would just have to find another way to make it work so that I could actually use them.

So I’d write the notes the way the teacher told me to, but then I’d tweak them… 

The margins were filled with arrows, bubbles, drawings and reference marks connecting to pieces of the list. 

I highlighted information that went together in the same colors across the page. 

Finally I found a way to communicate with myself that worked for me.

Fast forward to the day I decide to start a business. I promptly downloaded all of the free worksheets I could find on Pinterest, filled out content calendars and worked through checklists, but the same feeling started to creep over me. 

These are the same kind of organized checklists that don’t work for me. How am I supposed to stay focused and bring something new and game-changing into the world if I can’t corral my thoughts?

After a few months of struggling to stay organized I re-introduced myself to my old way of note-taking. 

And that’s the form of note taking I’d love to share with you this week. I call it Vision Mapping.

How Vision Mapping Works

Vision mapping works well for situations when your ideas pop up in random order while you’re thinking or when you’re trying to find the rational way to do something that’s mainly intuitive (like creating an experience or making an emotional decision).  

We start by writing in the middle of the page and working our way out, similar to a mind map. The main difference is that we’ll also be telling ourselves a story at the same time.

Vision mapping is a way to doodle out your ideas so you can clearly see any gaps, room for improvement or new ideas. The ones I create for clients are goal-based and help us create a clear illustrative brand. This way your ideas are down on paper and they can be easily organized.

The ones I’ll teach you to do this week use the same method I use with clients, with simpler illustration (shapes, lines, arrows, etc).



This Week’s Video Lesson

We did this week’s lesson is LIVE! There’s something magical about learning at the same time as other women in the same boat! 

Since it already happened you can click here to see the replay.



Step One: Name Your Goal

Your entire vision map will use your goal as the main guide post. So it’s important to figure this out first. Think about what your main goal is. That target can have many pieces to it or can be one simple goal. Try to stick to one goal per vision mapping session for clearer results.

For example, if your goal is to make more money so you can go on a trip with your kids, then your vision map will look through the process your audience takes to buy your product.

    Here are some other examples:

    • Simplifying an offering
    • Making more money
    • Working less hours
    • Getting more of the right clients
    • Creating a community
    • Building an audience
    • Prepping for a Launch
    • Figuring out whether or not to pivot

    If you’re not sure which goal to move forward with, just pick one. The end goal doesn’t matter as much as whether it resonates with you in a way that compels you to achieve it



    Step Two: Tell Yourself a Story

    Now (to continue with the example above) it’s time to use your goal to create a story about your dream customer/client and how they will give you more money.

    Tell yourself a story about your dream client. Go through a scenario of how she found you, felt an instant connection, felt hesitant about the cost of your offering, saw how amazing your results were, then bought your offering and told all of her friends about it.

    For this example, I’d draw two little people (stick figures work great!) to show the start of the relationship between you and your client. Now we wonder… why is she in your neck of the woods? What is nearby? What is she looking for? Put the answer to that as the next step.

    Let’s say she isn’t feeling like herself after giving birth and is looking for something to help her feel whole again. For some reason she can’t eat the same food anymore without feeling totally yucky. So she’s wandering around Pinterest-town looking for foods without cheese maybe. She’s not sure if that will work, but it’s a start. (Now I’d draw an arrow from the stick figures to a Pinterest logo). 

    Now what should she find?

    You could go very simple and say that she’ll need to find something that relates to her food problem. Then she’ll see that you can solve it, and then hire you to help her. Or you can get more detailed.

    Maybe, she sees a pin with a welcoming vibe about it. The colors are soft and the caption talks about feeling out of touch with yourself after baby. It doesn’t feel like the overwhelmingly peppy weightlifters that she doesn’t vibe with. So she clicks and is led to your blog post about cheese-free foods. She sees a recipe that looks delicious and saves it to try out later. 

    What happens after the blog post? What would she want to know more about?

    Maybe a button to set up a consult call. Or maybe she’s not quite sure she has a problem with food yet… so you add something more inviting. What’s your favorite way to chat with clients? By teaching them? Cool…

    At the bottom of your blog post she sees an invite for a free virtual class for figuring out her problem foods with a food elimination process. She signs up for the class. By signing up she’s added to your email list where she gets comforting emails about your story with mismatched food, your amazing new discoveries and other recipes and tips along the way. 

    She really likes your story so she attends your class, where you share about the elimination process and invite them to join you for a consult call. She’s so ready to feel better and so she sets up a call. Within a week she’s your next dietitian client. Congrats!

      As you tell yourself the story draw out the path. Then move onto the next step. 

      TIP: If coming up with a path is just stressing you out so much that you can’t write anything down, go check out Brit Kolo’s marketing personalities to get some starter ideas to run with

      Step Three: Play Detective

      Now it’s time to ask yourself A LOT of questions about the story you just created. 

      First, look through your map and find the messy spots. Are there places where your client didn’t have a place to go next? Is there anywhere she’s waiting without any interaction from you? Would she prefer more or less interaction?

      Go through each step and think about whether that’s actually what your client wants.

      Then (if your goal is to make more money) look at the cost of each step and the cost of the final offering. How many people can fit into each part of your map? In the example, the class could hold an unlimited number of people. Maybe you have 15 consult call slots available this month. So you’re goal will be to get 15 signups for a call from the elimination class.

      How much would you make if all 15 calls ended in booking your offering? Is it enough for your vacation goal? If not, you need to raise your prices. (PS. If this scares you check out Denise Duffield-Thomas, she’s great at explaining this stuff!)

      Find out how many of those 15 people need to sign up for your offering for you to reach your trip goal.

      Keep working through your map, adding in little bits and details to see where things might not line up in real life. 

      For the other goals you may ask questions not about the cost but about how to reach the most people by talking about a range of paint points. Or how to automate some of the process so you can work less hours. If you don’t know the answer just circle that part of your map so you can use it in the next step.

      See how the detective phase can help you fine tune here?

        Step Four: Your Next Best Move

        If your map is looking messy right now you can go ahead and redraw it for yourself. Use as many pages as you need. Each time you’ll feel more clarity. 

        Now look through your vision map and find the places where you didn’t know the answers. Circle them.

        Find the places where you did know the answers, but you haven’t created them yet. For example, if you want to teach a free class to help people see that you’re an expert in your field and warm them up for a consult call, but you haven’t created that class yet, circle it.

        Now write a list on the side of all the things that you circled. The goal here is to write them in their smallest task size so you can have more successes on your way through the vision map. Even though the list will look longer, it will be more satisfying to work through (especially for visual people). Check out this visual as an example:




          And wa-la! You have things to brainstorm and actions to take to: 




          • close any gaps in your client journey
          • or work less hours
          • or grow your audience
          • or pivot your business
          • and more!


            The Littlest Guide Shop is all about support and education. If you are wondering what illustration can bring to a project, what branding looks like for a small business/ solopreneur or just want some support brainstorming just click the photo above.

            Can I help you find something?


            A Note from the Illustrator:

            If you are working on making more professional looking designs and come across a specific question for designing your graphics feel free to shoot me an email or comment below. I’m happy to help! And if you’re ready for some custom illustrations for your graphics, you can set up a vision mapping session with me. I’d love to chat with you and sort out your goals for the best return on illustration.