I had first learned about Mind Mapping when I took a time management course called Priority Manager back in 2005. That course covered Mind Mapping as a tool for time management and personal productivity. At that time I did not really feel that there was much use for it, and I used it very sparingly. Fast-forward six years later, Mind Mapping is not only something I use every day, but a way of life. After slowly implementing Mind Mapping and it’s principles over the years, it has now found itself a home in everything that I do. Thanks to Mind Mapping, I now enjoy increased levels of creativity, efficiency, productivity and information retention.
Everything I do from planning to organizing is all done through some sort of Mind Map or Mind Map variation. Even the very blog post I am writing right now is written from a Mind Map that I created to specifically cover all the topics related to Mind Mapping that I wanted to discuss. Contained within this post are all the details you will ever need to know about the Mind Map. You will learn of its history and how you too can reap all the benefits I have personally experienced from its use. This is a very lengthy post so I have decided to split in up into sections. I have also used bolds and bullets wherever applicable to highlight all the key information.
I am a firm believer in Mind Maps and every day that goes by, I learn more of the power and uses of this simple yet powerful technique. Go ahead and read this post in one sitting or in small sections but do take the time to read it in its entirety. You will soon be well on your way to enjoy all the amazing benefits of Mind Mapping like I have.
What is a Mind Map?
According to Wikipedia’s definition, “A Mind Map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks and other items linked to an arranged around a central key word or idea.” Please see the figure below for an example of a mind map.
The term Mind Map has been credited to Tony Buzan. His book titled “The Mind Map Book,” contains all his research and information about the subject. The book was written in back in 1994 and contains within it all the foundational information about Mind Mapping. I believe that Mind Mapping has evolved a great deal since the book’s release date. The information contained within this post strives to make it more applicable for our times.
I believe that a Mind Map is a visual representation of how the brain sorts out information. In the center of the Mind Map, you have a keyword or an image. Radiating from the center are more keywords and images that relate to the middle one. It shows its association and link in the exact way the brain makes its own links and associations. From those keywords and images are more layers and it can keep going without any end or until the desired result is achieved. If we had all the time in the world to sit down and Mind Map a topic and keep adding to its keywords and images, we would have created links and associations to all the information that we can recall from our memory banks. The Mind Map would be so vast that it would never be finished. This is because the very act of Mind Mapping brings about new understandings and relations. Pretty amazing isn’t it? Mind Mapping is the key to unlocking the power of our brain in the most efficient manner!
What are the advantages of Mind Mapping?
The brain sorts out information in a way that is non-linear by nature. It uses different senses and stimuli to take in and comprehend our environment. That being said, it is fair to say that if we can mimic the flow of how the brain handles information, we will find it a lot easier to accomplish tasks such as studying and planning. By Mind Mapping, we can work with information a lot easier and more efficiently. Many times we use methods to perform tasks that a Mind Map can do better. The perfect example is linear style note taking. While it is still a good way to comprehend and retain information, traditional linear style note taking is very limited because it does not engage the right hemisphere of the brain. However, it does a great job working with the left hemisphere of the brain. The trick is to engage both. The left side of the brain is responsible for handling information in a logical and sequential order. The right side of the brain is move visual, intuitive and artistic.
Mind Mapping engages both parts of the brain allowing you to tap into more resources in a very efficient manner. By creating Mind Maps, you engage more of the brain resulting in higher levels of output and mental stimulation.
Just some benefits Of Mind Mapping
- Efficiency. Mind Mapping takes a fraction of the time to do when compared to other tasks performed to achieve the same desired results.
- Brain Engagement. Mind Mapping engages much more of the brain in a more natural manner.
- Natural flow. Mind Mapping involves organizing information in the way that our brain flows ideas to the surface making it a lot easier and more natural.
- Creativity. Mind Mapping stimulates and encourages creativity.
- Mental health. Mind Mapping can be beneficial for mental health and well-being.
- Confidence. Mind Mapping increases levels of self-confidence because it unlocks human potential that might be suppressed or not encouraged by other methods.
- Organization. Mind Mapping might not look as organized as bullet points or numbered data but it is a visual representation of how our brain sorts out information. Therefore it a more intuitively organized way to present information.
- Details. By Mind Mapping you will bring to the surface details that you might not have been aware of easily.
- Fun. Creating a Mind Map is a lot more fun than other methods for information organizing and presentation.
- Applications. You can Mind Map for many different reasons. Everything from planning, brainstorming to writing and project management.
- Mental Exercise. Mind Maps can be created regularly to exercise and stimulate your brain to perform better.
- Lower stress levels. I find Mind Mapping has lowered my stress levels because it helps me think in a way that reduces confusion.
- Brain balance. Over time we can tend to use more of either the left or the right side of our brain causing us to go off balance in our way of thinking. Since Mind Mapping engages both parts of the brain, we are able to center our thoughts a lot better.
How to create a Mind Map
You can create a Mind Map in two primary ways. You could do it by hand using paper and coloured pencils, or you could do it on a computer using MindMeister. There is also free software called Freemind. Either way will accomplish the task. I personally like to do everything I possibly can on a computer because I find it to be faster and necessary corrections can be made more easily. Also the information can be scaled into other Mind Maps or related software a lot easier. When you do it by hand, you are a little more limited because of factors like size of paper and accessibility to your previous mind maps. I highly recommend that you get in the habit of doing it by computer. You will find it to be a lot better in the long run. For our example, we will be using computerized Mind Maps. There a lot of Mind Mapping software out there but my favourite is MindMeister. MindMeister is Free for up to 3 Mind Maps, and for this post I am using the MindMeister software.
Steps to Mind Mapping
- Place your topic in the middle. This is will be your topic of focus.
- Add and image. It can either be an image that is included with the MindMeister account (If you are using MindMeister) or your own. The Important thing is to use an image. This way you engage the right hemisphere of your brain allowing you access more information stored in your brain and increase your creativity.
- Add your sub Keywords. Add as many or as little as you would like. I like to use seven. Seven is the maximum amount of information that can be stored in the “Working Memory.” Working Memory is the ability to actively hold bits of information in the mind. Working Memory is the reason why we decided on seven digits for phone numbers.
- Place images besides your keywords. You don’t need to place them for all but the more images you use, the more you will engage the right hemisphere of your brain.
- Use different colours for your keywords. You can either categorize or group your keywords by colour. The important thing to remember is that the different colours will engage more parts of your brain. I use different colours for keywords in each of my Mind Maps to ensure that my brain gets maximum engagement.
- Use keywords predominately versus key-phrases. We do this to remove creative restrictions and allow is to naturally expand further on our keywords. Mind Mapping should be as non-restrictive as possible. A key-phrase is a sentence. A sentence is restrictive because it can be too specific and not allowing much room for creativity.
- Use both Keywords and images. Keywords will engage the left side of the brain and images will engage the right side of the brain. Combined, will give you maximum brain engagement.
- The images do not need to be fancy; they just need to be relevant to you. I also recommend that you use images that carry within them emotional meanings. Images that are humorous or tug away at emotions can help make the Mind Maps more effective. The most important thing is that they are relevant to you.
- Use as much colour as possible. Colour will engage more parts of your brain and will therefore benefit you greatly.
The more Mind Maps you create, the better you will get at it and the more positive affects you will receive. Just like with anything, doing it for the first time may seem a little awkward. This is to be expected because it is something new. Mind Mapping is however very easy to integrate and get used to because it is the way the brain sorts our information. It is a very natural thing to do once we incorporate it.
Mind Maps for everyday life
It took me a while before I finally incorporated Mind Maps to the extent I have today. Now everything I do in my life involves a Mind Maps or a Mind Mapping type of process. The benefits from Mind Mapping make it all worth it. The biggest thing you can get out of Mind Mapping is the paradigm shift. It’s the way of thinking. It is thinking in a way that is non-restrictive, efficient and creative. Now even the way I organize my thoughts is based on Mind Mapping principles. For example if I get a thought about something I need to do or of something I focus on, I simply think of the next image or keyword that comes up next. This prevents me from spending too much time on the minutia, making for a more action oriented approach. Below are examples of ways you can incorporate Mind Maps into your everyday life.
List of ways you can use Mind Maps
- Project planning. You can use a Main Map to plan your projects. Doing so will help make sure you have not forgotten key details about what you are working on.
- Taking notes during lectures and presentations. You can create a mind map and branch out the points covered so everything is organized and grouped
- Writing. You can use mind maps to organize your work before you write. You can make sure that you have all the information is covered and organize it better.
- Party Planning. You can include in your mind map the list of guests and tasks you need to do plan your next event or party.
- Day to day tasks. Create a Mind map to plan your day to day tasks to make sure that no details are missed and everything is done efficiently
- Lifestyle. One thing I have done personally is to make a Mind Map for my lifestyle. It includes all the areas of my life and the things I enjoy doing and need to do to make sure I am achieving my goals and balancing out my life.
- Decision making. You can use a mind map to better make decisions. You can easily map our pros, cons and the relationships of each. Also you will be able to stimulate thoughts and ideas that you would have otherwise overlooked.
About the Author: Joseph Rodrigues runs SpeedReadingZone.com and is the founder of a Toronto based IT business. He is also an instructor for Iris Reading. He credits a lot of success in the world of business to Speed Reading Information.