Do you ever wish that learning could be easier? Sometimes, it’s a struggle to get new information into your memory. Learning and studying become a drag when you just can’t seem to hold onto what you are learning.
Your mind does not process information in a linear fashion, but that’s how you take notes. It doesn’t ‘see’ in only two colors, but traditional notes are only your ink and paper color. You don’t think in sentences scrolling past your eyes, but read a single word and many associations spring to mind.
It’s time to explore a new way, mind mapping, for a more efficient learning journey.
Tony Buzan, the creator of the modern Mind Map, says, “Mind maps utilize all our cortical skills and activate the brain on all levels, making it more alert and skillful at remembering. The attractiveness of mind maps makes the brain want to return to them, and again encourages the probability of spontaneous recall.”
In other words, mind maps awaken all our mind’s capacity to learn and our brains love it!
What is a mind map?
When you create a mind map, you take a bunch of information and draw a diagram. It works with your brain’s natural way of relating many ideas to a single main topic. First, you place your main topic in the center of the page. Then you think of the main themes of that subject and draw them like branches radiating from the center topic. Smaller ideas and concepts attach to the branches like twigs on a tree as they relate to the branch. You use lines, symbols, words, color, and images as they come to you to draw your mind map. The seemingly random way you hear, think and associate pieces of information goes onto the page in way that relates those pieces to each other, and to the main topic.
So, how to build a mind map? We’ll try to describe in words how to do this, but why not grab a piece of paper and draw one as we guide you through?
First: The main idea, subject or focus—crystalize it in a single word or image.
Let’s pick a topic—something we all can relate to. Food.
Okay, write the word FOOD in the center of your paper—turn it so it’s in landscape orientation. Make it big and bold! Draw a circle around it.
Second: The main themes will now radiate from the central word/image as branches
From your circle, draw your first branch—a line—straight or bent.
Third: Define a branch with a key image or key word.
Write the word “Protein” along the line, fairly close to the center topic.
Fourth: Topics related to your branch are represented by ‘twigs’ on the branch.
Draw a few twigs on the branch. Add some protein names on the twigs—eggs, tofu, fish, beef, etc.
Yes, you now have the start of a mind map! Your twigs could have twigs, too. Eggs, for example could have twigs that are labeled ‘scrambled’, ‘fried’, etc. This goes to show you how you can keep adding information to topics on a mind map. Maps can be as large and branching as needed.
Choose another branch and draw it out—vegetables, fruit, dairy, grains, snacks, drinks. Have a little fun.
WORDS: Mind Maps use single words to identify branches and twigs.
Branches and twigs should be identified by just one or maybe two words. That single word that will trigger all of the things you know about it. As you review your mind map, your memory will supply everything you know about each item in a way that works for you.
IMAGES: Mind maps need pictures.
You may have noticed that the graphic on this blog entry has some images on the ‘twigs’. Mind maps need pictures. Our minds really ‘see’ in images. It’s crucial to the way we think.
What comes to mind when you think of “Protein”? Bulging biceps? A chain of amino acids? Try sketching it next to your protein branch. (You don’t have to be Rembrandt to do this…it’s your mind map, after all.)
COLOR: Mind maps use color to organize and define topics.
Define your branches and images with some color. It stimulates the brain. If you have some highlighters, markers or crayons nearby, color something—one of your images, a branch, anything. Color your central topic circle.
Is your mind map taking shape now? How many food categories and specific foods crossed your mind with this exercise? The only limits to mind map creation is time and the size of your paper!
Here are some great applications for mind mapping as a student.
- Lecture notes – Mind mapping for lecture notes will free you up to listen and distill information. When you write a word on a branch or twig, you will be hearing and associating the professor’s information about it.
- Study notes – As you read your textbook, your notes can be maps instead. Mapping will keep you engaged while tackling those long chapters.
- Essay/Report writing – Organizing your writing will be easier in map formation than outlines.
- Exam review – You can use all the maps you made to study and zero in on the facts you may have forgotten. If a twig has a word on it you don’t remember, you’ll know you need to learn why it was important enough to write down.
There are software programs to create mind maps that you can use; however, the tactile experience with paper, pen and color will engage more of your mental activity and help you learn. You can look up examples of mind maps online to show you how they look. But, remember, your mind map is your own creation and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
So, grab some paper, pens and colors and give mind mapping a try. Even first timers have great learning success with this technique. We think you will too.