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Mind Maps

A Powerful Approach to Note-Taking

(Also known as Mind Mapping, Concept Mapping, Spray Diagrams, and Spider Diagrams)

"Mind Map" is a trademark of the Buzan Organization. Record ideas memorably with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson. Have you ever studied a subject or brainstormed an idea, only to find yourself with pages of information, but no clear view of how it fitted together? This is where Mind Mapping can help you. Mind Mapping is a useful technique that helps you learn more effectively, improves the way that you record information, and supports and enhances creative problem solving. By using Mind Maps, you can quickly identify and understand the structure of a subject. You can see the way that pieces of information fit together, as well as recording the raw facts contained in normal notes. More than this, Mind Maps help you remember information, as they hold it in a format that your mind finds easy to recall and quick to review.

About Mind Maps

Mind Maps were popularized by author and consultant, Tony Buzan. They use a two-dimensional structure, instead of the list format conventionally used to take notes. Mind Maps are more compact than conventional notes, often taking up one side of paper. This helps you to make associations easily, and generate new ideas. If you find out more information after you have drawn a Mind Map, then you can easily integrate it with little disruption. More than this, Mind Mapping helps you break large projects or topics down into manageable chunks, so that you can plan effectively without getting overwhelmed and without forgetting something important. A good Mind Map shows the "shape" of the subject, the relative importance of individual points, and the way in which facts relate to one another. This means that they're very quick to review, as you can often refresh information in your mind just by glancing at one. In this way, they can be effective mnemonics - remembering the shape and structure of a Mind Map can give you the cues you need to remember the information within it. As such, they engage much more of your brain in the process of assimilating and connecting information than conventional notes do. When created using colors and images or drawings, a Mind Map can even resemble a work of art!

Mind Maps are useful for:

Brainstorming - individually, and as a group. Summarizing information, and note taking. Consolidating information from different research sources.

Thinking through complex problems. Presenting information in a format that shows the overall structure of your subject. Studying and memorizing information.

Drawing Basic Mind Maps

To draw a Mind Map, follow these steps: 1. Write the title of the subject you're exploring in the center of the page, and draw a circle around it. This is shown by the circle marked in figure 1, below. (Our simple example shows someone brainstorming actions needed to deliver a successful presentation.) Figure 1

2. As you come across major subdivisions or subheadings of the topic (or important facts that relate to the subject) draw lines out from this circle. Label these lines with these subdivisions or subheadings. (See figure 2, below.) Figure 2

3. As you "burrow" into the subject and uncover another level of information (further subheadings, or individual facts) belonging to the subheadings above, draw these as lines linked to the subheading lines. These are shown in figure 3.

Figure 3

4. Then, for individual facts or ideas, draw lines out from the appropriate heading line and label them. These are shown in Figure 4. Figure 4

5. As you come across new information, link it in to the Mind Map appropriately. A complete Mind Map may have main topic lines radiating in all directions from the center. Subtopics and facts will branch off these, like branches and twigs from the trunk of a tree. You don't need to worry about the structure you produce, as this will evolve of its own accord.

Tip: While drawing Mind Maps by hand is appropriate in many cases, software tools like MindGenius, iMindMap, and Mindjet can improve the process by helping you to produce high quality Mind Maps, which you can then easily edit or redraft. (Click here for a full list of Mind Map software.)

Using Mind Maps Effectively

Once you understand how to take notes in Mind Map format, you can develop your own conventions for taking them further. The following suggestions can help you draw impactful Mind Maps:

Use Single Words or Simple Phrases

Many words in normal writing are padding, as they ensure that facts are conveyed in the correct context, and in a format that is pleasant to read. In Mind Maps, single strong words and short, meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excess words just clutter the Mind Map.

Print Words
Joined up or indistinct writing is more difficult to read.

Use Color to Separate Different Ideas

This will help you to separate ideas where necessary. It also helps you to visualize the Mind Map for recall. Color can help to show the organization of the subject.

Use Symbols and Images

Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words, so, where a symbol or picture means something to you, use it. (You can use photo libraries like iStockPhoto to source images inexpensively.)

Using Cross-Linkages
Information in one part of a Mind Map may relate to another part. Here you can draw lines to show the cross-linkages. This helps you to see how one part of the subject affects another.

Visual Example
Click on the thumbnail below for a great example of a Mind Map that has high visual impact:

Key Points
Mind Mapping is an extremely effective method of taking notes. Not only do Mind Maps show facts, they also show the overall structure of a subject and the relative importance of individual parts of it. They help you to associate ideas, think creatively, and make connections that you might not otherwise make. Mind Maps are useful for summarizing information, for consolidating large chunks of information, for making connections, and for creative problem solving. To use Mind Maps effectively, make sure you print your words, use different colors to add visual impact, and incorporate symbols and images to further spur creative thinking. If you do any form of research or note taking, try experimenting with Mind Maps. You'll love using them!

Mind Mapping
This page is meant to inform you about Mind Mapping and provide ideas that can help you create and benefit from Mind Maps.

What is Mind Mapping?

Mind mapping is a highly effective way of getting information in and out of your brain. Mind mapping is a creative and logical means of note-taking and note-making that literally "maps out" your ideas. All Mind Maps have some things in common. They have a natural organizational structure that radiates from the center and use lines, symbols, words, color and images according to simple, brain-friendly concepts. Mind mapping converts a long list of monotonous information into a colorful, memorable and highly organized diagram that works in line with your brain's natural way of doing things. One simple way to understand a Mind Map is by comparing it to a map of a city. The city center represents the main idea; the main roads leading from the center represent the key thoughts in your thinking process; the secondary roads or branches represent your secondary thoughts, and so on. Special images or shapes can represent landmarks of interest or particularly relevant ideas. The Mind Map is the external mirror of your own radiant or natural thinking facilitated by a powerful graphic process, which provides the universal key to unlock the dynamic potential of the brain.

The five essential characteristics of Mind Mapping:

The main idea, subject or focus is crystallized in a central image. The main themes radiate from the central image as 'branches'. The branches comprise a key image or key word drawn or printed on its associated line. Topics of lesser importance are represented as 'twigs' of the relevant branch. The branches form a connected nodal structure.

What is Mind Mapping? (and How to Get Started Immediately)

A mind map is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts. It is a visual thinking tool that helps structuring information, helping you to better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall and generate new ideas. Just as in every great idea, its power lies in its simplicity. In a mind map, as opposed to traditional note taking or a linear text, information is structured in a way that resembles much more closely how your brain actually works. Since it is an activity that is both analytical and artistic, it engages your brain in a much, much richer way, helping in all its cognitive functions. And, best of all, it is fun! So, how does a mind map look like? Better than explaining is showing you an example. This is a mind map about conveniently enough mind mapping itself. It presents, in a visual way, the core elements and techniques on how to draw mind maps. Yes, I know this may look a little too messy initially, but bear with me: once you break the ingrained habit of linear note taking, you wont look back.

Benefits and Uses

I think I already gave away the benefits of mind mapping and why mind maps work. Basically, mind mapping avoids dull, linear thinking, jogging your creativity and making note taking fun again. But what can we use mind maps for?

Note taking Brainstorming (individually or in groups) Problem solving Studying and memorization Planning Researching and consolidating information from multiple sources Presenting information Gaining insight on complex subjects Jogging your creativity

It is hard to make justice to the number of uses mind maps can have the truth is that they can help clarify your thinking in pretty much anything, in many different contexts: personal, family, educational or business. Planning you day or planning your life, summarizing a book, launching a project, planning and creating presentations, writing blog posts -well, you get the idea anything, really.

How to Draw a Mind Map

Drawing a mind map is as simple as 1-2-3:

Start in the middle of a blank page, writing or drawing the idea you intend to develop. I would suggest that you use the page in landscape orientation. Develop the related subtopics around this central topic, connecting each of them to the center with a line. Repeat the same process for the subtopics, generating lower-level subtopics as you see fit, connecting each of those to the corresponding subtopic.

Some more recommendations:

Use colors, drawings and symbols copiously. Be as visual as you can, and your brain will thank you. Ive met many people who dont even try, with the excuse theyre "not artists". Dont let that keep you from trying it out!. Keep the topics labels as short as possible, keeping them to a single word or, better yet, to only a picture. Especially in your first mind maps, the temptation to write a complete phrase is enormous, but always look for opportunities to shorten it to a single word or figure your mind map will be much more effective that way. Vary text size, color and alignment. Vary the thickness and length of the lines. Provide as many visual cues as you can to emphasize important points. Every little bit helps engaging your brain.

Final Thoughts
Mind mapping is an absolutely fascinating and rich topic this post only scratches the surface. If you want more reference material now, Wikipedia is always a good starting point. Mind mapping is a passion for me, and it is one of the strongest drivers behind this blog. I plan to explore it in much more depth publishing mind maps, providing tips, talking about computer mind mapping, and much more. Just make sure to keep visiting (or better yet, subscribe). In the meantime, please give mind mapping a chance try it out. Follow there handy tips and see the results for yourself. Dont worry too much about doing it the "right" way just make it fun. To inspire you, one more great mind map from Buzan Centre Australia on Creative Intelligence.