Mind mapping is a creative way to brainstorm, strategize, and even learn something new. The term mind mapping was created and trademarked in the 1960s by Tony Buzan, a leading British brain expert who authored more than 100 books. The thought process facilitated by mind mapping allows your brain to work in a more natural fashion.
This technique can be used to set new goals, learn a new language, plan a meeting, manage a project, or solve any problem. It is a form of note-taking that literally maps out your thoughts.
Mind mapping has been used by the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and other geniuses, so you are in good company.
Buzan recommends following the following seven simple steps to create an effective mind map.
1) Literally begin with a blank slate
Start with a blank sheet of paper in the landscape position. Always start in the center of the page, allowing your brain plenty of free space to think and expand on each thought. There are free apps that can help you do the same digitally.
2) Create an image
Draw an image in the center of your paper. The image represents the focus of your mind map. The use of imagery opens up your imagination and helps keep your brain focused. A word, or a few words, will work as well.
3) Make it colorful
Use color. Adding color not only makes things look more attractive, but it dials up your creative energy and helps keep your attention.
4) Expand upon your main image
Branch off from your central image or idea with multiple subsections. Continue branching out on your subsections with creative ideas, book chapters, possible solutions, etc. This concept makes mind mapping so effective because the mind likes to work by association, which, in turn, leads to better understanding and retention.
5) Embrace curves
Use curved lines when connecting your thoughts. The brain does not like straight lines, it finds them boring, and boring subjects do not leave lasting memories, nor do they keep your attention.
6) Practice brevity
Use one word per line. Key words or even images help keep your mind map engaged. Add more words if needed, but avoid long phrases or lists. Instead, create new branches from that thought to add new thoughts. That’s the beauty of a mind map. It stimulates your brain to think in its preferred style, which opens the creative flood gates.
7) Get visual
Buzan’s final guideline is to use pictures and images to capture your thoughts. As a picture is worth a thousand words, it helps simplify or declutter your map.
Mind mapping offers multiple benefits. Research suggests that using this method instead of conventional note-taking can increase memory and improve learning by 10 to 15 percent. It turns long, monotonous lists of information into a colorful, highly memorable, organized graph that works in a way that is similar to your brain’s natural thinking process.
With the use of mind mapping, you can increase creativity, improve your memory, and solve problems more efficiently. This method is great for overactive thinkers who are not confined by thinking in a straight line. They can simply throw all their ideas onto a piece of paper (or on a screen) and reorganize them as they go. As the brain likes to group ideas by association, this helps encourage your brain’s natural thought process. This boosts creativity and opens up new creative pathways.
Mind mapping can be done with a pen and paper or via apps for your smartphone, tablet, or computer. The graph, at the top of this page, a simple example of mind mapping in action, was created with an app called FreeMind. Its goal is to find ways to increase revenue. It is not meant to be a serious or comprehensive guide or a roadmap, but merely an example.
Depending on your needs, one method may be better suited for you. Digital mind mapping allows you to link research and add attachments to expand your map, but may not be as robust for memory building. Using an app allows you to reorganize your thoughts easily. Using pen and paper helps build memory better because you are actually completing the act of drawing lines and connecting thoughts, which aids in recall.
Whichever way you prefer, mind mapping is a great way to tackle complex subjects in a fun and effective way.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. Visit his websites at DrPhilZeltzman.com and VeterinariansInParadise.com. AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, Pa., contributed to this article.