Mind mapping is one of the best ways to capture your thoughts and bring them to life in visual form. Beyond just note-taking, though, mind maps can help you become more creative, remember more, and solve problems more effectively. Whether you're new to mind maps or just want a refresher, here's all you need to know about this technique.P
What Are Mind Maps?P
A mind map is basically a diagram that connects information around a central subject. I like to think of it like a tree, although it has more of a radial structure. In any case, at the center is your main idea, say, poetry, and the branches are subtopics or related ideas, such as types of poetry, famous poets, and poetry publications. Greater levels of detail branch out from there and branches can be linked together.P
Mind maps can be used for pretty much any thinking or learning task, from studying a subject (such as a new language) to planning your career or even building better habits. TheAsian Efficiency blog offers a few unusual ways to use mind maps you might not have considered: create a knowledge bank (since mind mapping software lets you attach files and add links), solve problems (such as which credit card to use), create book summaries, and set goals. They're great for teams to use as well, for group brainstorming and interactive presentations.P
Why Mind Maps Are Better Than Text NotesP
Mind maps can be more effective than other brainstorming and linear note-taking methods for a number of reasons:P
It's a graphical tool that can incorporate words, images, numbers, and color, so it can be more memorable and enjoyable to create and review. The combination of words and pictures is six times better for remembering information than words alone.P
Mind maps link and group concepts together through natural associations. This helps generate more ideas, find deeper meaning in your subject, and also prompt you to fill in more or find what you're missing.P
A mind map can at once give you an overview of a large subject while also holding large amounts of information.P
It's also a very intuitive way to organize your thoughts, since mind maps mimic the way our brains think—bouncing ideas off of each other, rather than thinking linearly.P
You can generate ideas very quickly with this technique and are encouraged to explore different creative pathways.P
In one survey, executives who started using mind mapping software said they were able to work significantly faster than before and juggle more complex projects through mind mapping. And research suggests mind mapping can improve learning and memory by 10 to 15% versus conventional note-taking and studying techniques. It can also save you time, asthe Learning Fundamentals blog writes:P
A student recently said to me -
“I thought mind mapping would take a lot of time to do but actually it saves me time because I don’t have to read my notes over and over anymore”
Mind mapping helps you to study less because you understand the information at a deep level as a result of creating mind maps. If you just read your notes over and over chances are you’ll only understand the content at a superficial level and you’re going to waste a lot of time.P
I use mind maps especially when I'm stuck on a problem or am facing writer's block. (The image above is my starter mind map for this post, created in OneNote. Yeah, it's not pretty, but that's okay. OneNote seems to be ideal for mind mapping because even handwriting is searchable, you can embed other files, and if you have a tablet PC, draw on the screen.) By starting out with the basic questions—who, what, why, etc.—and then following each thread, I'm more confident I'm not missing anything, and the ideas just seem to arise on their own.P
Think of it this way. Imagine you were asked to write down as many uses for a brick as possible. Many people would just start listing all their ideas (building a wall, building a walkway, etc.). But what if you started from a broader perspective, such as thinking about the properties of a brick. It's heavy, so you could use it: as a paperweight, to hold down a garbage bag while raking, as an exercise weight, to grill juicer chicken, etc. It's also thick, so you could use it to prop up a planter or as a doorstop. It's red, it's hard, it's rectangular, etc. That's the magic of mind mapping: Once you start, the possibilities seem almost endless.P
Pen and paper may be better because you can get your thoughts out more quickly and the act of drawing the branches out can aid recall. On the other hand, using the computer can make your mind maps searchable and include attachments. If you're having trouble deciding from among the tons of digital tools to choose from, the Mind Mapping Software blog suggests you look for these five features: the ability to add links and attachments, add notes, filter content, export to other programs or formats, and use keyboard shortcuts.P
Once you've chosen your tool, follow these seven steps and tips for making a mind map, from British author Tony Bunzan, who trademarked and popularized the term "mind map" in the 1960s:P
Start in the CENTRE of a blank page turned sideways. Why? Because starting in the centre gives your Brain freedom to spread out in all directions and to express itself more freely and naturally.
Use an IMAGE or PICTURE for your central idea. Why? Because an image is worth a thousand words and helps you use your Imagination. A central image is more interesting, keeps you focussed, helps you concentrate, and gives your Brain more of a buzz!
Use COLOURS throughout. Why? Because colours are as exciting to your Brain as are images. Colour adds extra vibrancy and life to your Mind Map, adds tremendous energy to your Creative Thinking, and is fun!
CONNECT your MAIN BRANCHES to the central image and connect your second- and third-level branches to the first and second levels, etc. Why? Because your Brain works by association. It likes to link two (or three, or four) things together. If you connect the branches, you will understand and remember a lot more easily.
Make your branches CURVED rather than straight-lined. Why? Because having nothing but straight lines is boring to your Brain.
Use ONE KEY WORD PER LINE. Why Because single key words give your Mind Map more power and flexibility.
Use IMAGES throughout. Why Because each image, like the central image, is also worth a thousand words. So if you have only 10 images in your Mind Map, it’s already the equal of 10,000 words of notes!
Or, well, here's a mind map about mind mapping:P
There's no one standard way you have to create a mind map, however. If you want to use more than key word or add more text to a branch, that's a personal choice. Go with what works effectively for you.P
For further information and inspiration, check out these mind map galleries and other resources, which illustrate the many ways you can use mind maps in your life:P
Great article. As for software I love Xmind. It's free and multiplatform. They have a Pro version with more features (nice stuff, like audio recording but it's a yearly fee so it's not worth it). I also loved Cayra, but it's abandonware. But still works well. I've been mind mapping for years and it makes studying your notes much quicker and easier to recall later since it's much more visual than pages and pages of notes.Today 10:42am
My problem with mindmaps (could be a misunderstanding from my part, or just picking the barebones implementation of the idea) is that have only one center, and no connection between nodes. And maybe, just too bidimensional.
Not sure how to represent things when you have several points of view, several approachs, and different ways to interconnect and relate ideas that are in different places of the tree. Today 10:54am
MindMeister lets you have multiple centres on the one map with node connections. Mind you, I think keeping it simple is half the point of mind mapping, and if you start going crazy with a whole bunch of centres and inter-nodal connections, you may actually end up even more overwhelmed than whence you began. Today 11:16am
The big thing that I've noticed when I mind-map is that it lets me see gaps. I'm not sure how to explain what I mean by gaps, but that's how they register in my brain; sort of a visual-spatial hole where more information should reside.
Say I'm using the map to catalog something - take farm animals as an example (not that I've done this in particular). The first round I get all the ones that come very quickly and obviously to me. But when I start looking at the map again, I can see that there are entire classes of things that I've missed, but I can ONLY see/recognize them on a map. If I'm just doing a list, I miss them entirely.
This has been invaluable to me when brainstorming for a unique solution to a problem, which my job often necessitates. I sit down and come up with all the obvious solutions, which because of money, time, politics, common sense, skill, or whatever, won't work. But then on review, I can see the gaps in the thinking, a way to find a solution that sneaks past all of the obstacles that prevent the other solutions.
If you find that you are very visual-spatial in your thinking, mind mapping can be incredibly useful in bringing that talent to the forefront. Today 3:06pm
I find these to be pretty helpful not only just for organizing content, but also for cramming that stuff somewhere into my brain. I'm in med school right now, so I'm constantly trying to "drink from a fire hose" (as the saying goes) and having a visualrepresentation of so much content helps with my recall.
I've already had a few moments of "Oh, I don't remember specifically what this is, but I remember it was in the top-right, grouped under the DNA replication stuff, so it must be related to that" and the exam answer(s) just falls together from that point.
I'm only a month in using XMind, but it seems like the best one for me so far.
PROTIP: XMind appears to be a specific port of the Eclipse dev environment (I used to be a programmer) so anyone else familiar with Eclipse might find it comfortable, too. Today 6:35pm
Mind mapping is one of the reasons I think all tablets need a real digitizer and pen to enable drawing of mind maps. Well then software that can take your drawing and convert it to a digital mind map.Today 12:01pm
Great article, thanks. I don't know that it's going to make me a mind mapping devotee, but I've never quite "gotten" it, and your article goes quite a ways towards making it a little clearer. Thanks! Today 11:30am
I tried this with students one year in place of some traditional linear notes and it really bombed. I was disappointed because I thought it would be engaging and useful, but they really didn't seem to get any thing out of it and complained the whole time.Today 6:29pm
Interesting. I was a long time Freemind user but then realized it was a lot more productive to get ideas down on paper, which got me back onto fountain pens and decent paper. I guess something that's been missing is the interconnecting of maps, reusing the material to create presentations for instance, and hopping on different devices. I realize some of this might be possible, but I needed this years ago when phones were dumb, and without much tinkering.
While I was always grateful for Freemind, it was never very polished, like most open source projects: cool concept and programming, little usability, no non programmer user participation...Today 12:27pm
Concept Map is better for me than mind maps. There are many sites where to find and discuss about the differences. If you want to try a concept map tool, Cmaps Tool the best software I have found. Today 11:20am