Mindmapping takes note taking and brainstorming to a whole new level. Most people take notes linearly, one item after another in a sequential order. Unfortunately, that’s not how your brain works.
Your brain works out of order. It has many ideas that are interlinked with other ideas. Ideas have important concepts and sub-concepts, some of them related and some of them not.
Furthermore, your brain also thinks in multiple senses. Most people’s brains think primarily either visually and auditorily, sometimes with a touch of emotion or physical sensation as well.
Linear note taking doesn’t address any of that. Fortunately, mindmapping does.
Mindmapping is an innovative tool that that images, branched ideas, words and idea-linkage to form the ideal note taking and brainstorming tool.
Here’s when to use mindmapping and how to use mindmapping.
When to Use Mindmapping
Mindmapping works great for two primary purposes: Note taking and brainstorming.
You can use mindmaps to take notes in a meeting, in the classroom, while reading a book or while at a business lunch. The multi-idea format of the mindmaps makes it ideal for almost storing information on a wide variety of concepts.
By using pictures, different textures and different fonts, you store the information in a way that your brain is much more likely to remember. Six months from now, you might not remember the written text on a mindmap, but you will remember the creative doodle you drew to represent the concept.
Brainstorming is another place where mindmaps really shine. The purpose of a brainstorm is to free mental blocks and get creative juices flowing around creating new ideas.
Mindmaps allows this to happen in a way that makes it easy for the brain. The brain doesn’t necessarily brainstorm linearly. You might have three ideas about Topic A, then two ideas about Topic D, then a brilliant idea about Topic B before deciding to change your mind about something in Topic A.
Linear brainstorming in a list makes it very hard to do this. On the other hand, in a mindmap, you can easily jump back and forth.
Mindmaps also make it easy to record graphical ideas and incomplete ideas. Most ideas that come out of brainstorming sessions tend to be half-finished and can be very difficult to write out coherently. On a mindmap however, an incomplete idea is very easy to record and finish later.
In short, whether you’re taking notes or brainstorming for ideas, mindmapping works with your brain rather than against it.
On the flip side, mindmapping doesn’t work so well for things that are designed to be linear. For example, a task list, which is meant to be done from top to bottom, is better in linear form than in a mindmap.
How to Create Effective Mindmaps
Here are a few choice tips for creating effective mindmaps.
Start with a central concept or question. Write it large and clear in the middle. When you visualize this mind map later, the central concept should clearly come up in your mind’s eye.
When in doubt, write it out. Write bad ideas. Write half-baked ideas. Write ideas that might be wrong or stupid. The purpose of mindmapping is to get your brain flowing. Don’t stifle the flow by over-censoring.
Use personal shorthand. If there are words and phrases that only you will understand, don’t hesitate to use them. That’s how your brain talks to itself. The only exception is if your maps need to be shared with others.
Make it messy. Don’t worry about making it look pretty. Again, your brain thinks in a more disorganized manner than you might realize. Let it be messy and your note taking will flow better.
Leave room for later additions. If an idea or concept isn’t complete, then don’t use up all the space around it. Leave room to come back later and add other ideas or details.
Link related ideas. It might seem clear to you now that two concepts are related, but it might not seem so clear to you 6 months from now. Link ideas that are related to one another, so later you’ll clearly be able to see the most important related concepts.
Emphasize important points with images. Your mind uses images as well as words to remember. If an idea is important, draw a picture next to it. This will help your brain represent the concept visually and remember it better in the future.
Use simple words and concepts. Your brain works best with ideas that it can easily grasp. If your brain has to spend a lot of time processing before it can understand a concept, it probably won’t remember it in a few months.
Use different lines, colors and shapes. Again, the more variety, the better your brain will remember the content. Our minds in general don’t do very well with boring, rote or monotonous concepts.
Step away then come back refreshed. If you’re brainstorming, step away once you’ve ran out of ideas and come back later with a fresh mind. The ideas will often flow much more freely than if you tried to force yourself to carry on. The same is true with note taking. Take the important concepts now, then come back later to add the details.
Mindmapping results in more retention, more creativity and more idea-flow than traditional note taking or brainstorming. Try it for 30 days to see for yourself.