Mind mapping is gaining popularity both as a concept, and as a method of organizing thoughts and understanding ideas. While it’s not necessarily a new process, it is not as widely used as many other organizational structures, like outlines or flow charts. While those tend to be very linear, mind maps are more based on groupings of ideas around a central theme, that can be further divided or arranged depending on need.
What is mind mapping?
Mind maps are diagrams used to help visually organize information. Generally, you would start with a central idea or theme, in the center of the map. Sub-sections will branch out from the center much like the branches of a tree, but will be arranged all around, instead of just going up and down. Mind mapping uses lot of color, doodles, and varying sizes of text, in order to arrange the information. Colors can help to group parts of a larger idea together, and using different sizes can help differentiate subsets of information, or more important parts of the map.
Why should I use mind mapping?
Many people find it difficult to begin using mind maps, simply because they are unused to the concept, but it’s definitely worth it to learn. A 2002 study found students that used mind mapping to help them study found a 10% increase in the ability to recall information. It also speculated that if students were more familiar with the process and more motivated to use it, they might gain as much as a 15% increase. The fact that the information is organized visually and you need to invest thought into how to arrange it, makes it easier to recall. You are not just copying words down, you’re thinking about what they mean and where they fit in the map. It’s also important to realize it’s not the map itself that helps you learn, it’s the mapping. Simply studying a map that someone else has created will be no better for you than copying notes off of a board. You have to take the time to understand how the ideas should be arranged, in order to gain the benefit.
Where do I start?
The simple answer is you start in the middle of a blank page. You begin with a keyword, idea, or subject you are trying to understand or organize, and you branch out from there. Much like an actual tree, your branches closest to the center will be heavier with supporting broader topics, and as the ideas are broken down further, should turn to smaller lines. Using a different color for each main idea will help you figure out how to place new keywords or images into your map. If you like the idea but aren’t convinced of your drawing abilities, you can look into software that is designed to help with the process. It will allow you to link documents, websites, images, or other digital content to your map, making it easy to gather your information or ideas in one accessible place.
Basic steps to creating a mind map
- Decide on a central idea and write it down
- Add branches
- Add keywords to the branches
- Color-code your branches and sub-groups
- Add images to your map to help you solidify the ideas
By the time you’ve finished your map, you should have a full understanding of the central idea, and how all of the sub-ideas relate to and interact with the main idea.
Here are some examples of mind maps that may help you gain a better understanding of how they work. Don’t be discouraged if you are worried you aren’t a good enough artist. It’s not about how pretty it looks; it’s about using your own brain to map out the idea. No one else needs to see it, and as long as it helps you understand it, it’s a great map!
Sophia Beirne is a writer at Career FAQs, Australia’s leading portal on online learning and career resources. She is interested in new eLearning industry trends and leadership development.