Do you know how to do mind mapping? Not quite yet? Then you’ve found the right post! You know, everyone talks about mind maps although not everyone gets the most out of this old-as-time technique (well, maybe not as old as time but as old as pencils). In the 1970s, Tony Buzan developed the whole concept of Mind Maps taking different old visual representation techniques as a base and summarizing the concepts that made them so useful. But before getting into how to do a good mind map, we should better start explaining why to use it, shouldn’t we?
Why do a mind map?
When we start thinking about something, any idea, person, object or situation, our brain puts it in the center, focuses on it, and starts connecting it to other ideas, memories, facts, feelings and thoughts that have any relation with it. It means that we don’t think in a linear fashion, as was said but, in Buzan’s words, it’s more like a “radiant thinking”. Of course, in order to do this, our brain uses images, not words. Therefore, when we use visual representation techniques, such as mind maps, we are helping our brain to think better and faster by letting it work as it’s used to. Also, creating a mind map makes you use both hemispheres and give you a more complete approach to any idea; not to mention that it’s clearly much more fun to create and easier to read than any written text!
How to do mind mapping
Since the last years, you can do a mind map using specific software and different apps, although in this article, we’ll focus on how to do it on paper using a few color pencils or markers: pure old school.
First of all, you need to get a clear idea of the main topic; it means that it can’t be a long phrase but just a one or two word concept. When you know exactly what you want to do your mind map about, then you just need to get yourself a landscape oriented blank piece of paper, a few color pens and a little while to get your brain working. In the center of the page, write the main topic and draw a circle around it; if you wish, you could also draw something that represents it. In fact, the more images, drawings or even photos you add, the better, since research has proved that imagery and words together help to improve memory, creativity and cognitive processing.
From that main idea, start branching out the sub-categories that you associate with it and connect them using thick colored lines. Successively, you’ll go forward with these new ideas (sub-categories) adding new concepts related to them. If you are using mind mapping for creative purposes, just flow with the process as if it was a brainstorming and draw, use colors and symbols to boost your imagination. On the other hand, if you are using it for note taking or for preparing for an exam, don’t forget to use colors to separate ideas or categories as it has been shown to be a potent memory enhancer. Mind maps are also very useful to explain ideas and projects as well as for meetings and planning.
Tips for great mind maps
Now that we know the basics of mind mapping, it’s time to go a step further and learn how to do great mind maps and make the most out of them.
- Use thicker lines for the main categories and thinner lines for the ideas related to them. You may also use upper and lower case prints to show hierarchy and importance.
- Each word, concept or image must be on its own line; it should be clear enough to be read without great efforts.
- Don’t use lined paper; it may lead you to think in a linear fashion and make it more difficult to you when you try to find new associations and get creative.
- Attempt to use as least three or four different colors; it’s a way of getting your left brain to work and it will also help you to organize and memorize categories.
- As long as you can avoid them, don’t use abbreviations; you want your brain to read the full word once and again for it to find as many associations as possible.
- Draw colorful symbols to identify categories; you may use a thumb up for positive aspects and a stop signal for the negative ones, for instance. You don’t need to be Michelangelo to draw them and they will enrich significantly your map.
- Your imagination is your only limit for mind mapping; where to use it, what to write and draw on it, etc. just try any idea that come to your mind. Did anyone say that smells have no room in a mind map?
- Focus on the main idea and flow with the process; as long as you remain centered in the process, try to not control every aspect of it and you will be surprised by all the associations your mind can find itself.
- And above all, have fun creating your mind map; the more you enjoy the process the easier it’ll become to your brain finding new ideas, recalling what you learnt and understanding all the concepts and relations.
During this article, we focused on how to do mind mapping and we started the classic way, just using pen and paper, but we’ll continue this topic very soon talking about mind mapping techniques and some programs and apps to create digital mind maps such as Freemind.