Getting your thoughts down on to paper can be incredibly helpful when you are attempting to tackle a task. Just taking that intangible jumble of great ideas and getting them to where you can visualize your thought process can be all you need to get started on a task that you’ve been putting off. Mind mapping is an excellent way to accomplish this and jump start the entire brainstorming process so that you can start putting thoughts into words and words into action! Learning how to create an effective mind map can help you develop a skill that you will use over and over again.
We’ll give you some history, techniques, and mind mapping examples paired with other visualization tools so that you can come away from this with a brand new skill that will ultimately improve your cognition, recall, and productivity.
The Rise Of The Mind Map
Mind mapping is not a particularly new concept; the idea of using a visual “web” of sorts to help organize your thoughts, ideas, and actions has been around for quite a while. The “radial tree” mind map as we know it was commonly used in semantics exercises long before the 20th century even rolled around. In fact, examples of early “mind maps” go as far back as the 3rd century! It was Tony Buzan, however, that popularized the term “mind map” and introduced it to the mainstream. On his 1974 BBC show Use Your Head, he often used mind mapping examples to illustrate how the practice could be used for problem solving and self-improvement. He even went on to develop mind mapping software called iMindMap that’s been touted as a great way to improve recall and even increase your ability to speed read.
Now, many people use mind mapping praise its ability to enhance their productivity, think outside of the box, and defeat procrastination. But what is it, exactly? Let’s take a look at some mind mapping examples and other visual conception strategies.
The Mind Map
Simply put, a mind map is a graphical representation of a group of information. It is a diagram that revolves around a primary word, idea, concept, image, or task. Of course, this very general description can apply to a number of different diagramming techniques, so let’s take a look at what sets mind maps apart from other visualizations.
Start with a blank slate:
First, to create a true mind map, you want to use a blank piece of paper, poster or canvas and put your central idea, task, or word right in the middle. According to Buzan, starting in the center of the page will allow you to flow freely in any direction from there, allowing for unlimited cognition and growth. It is also recommended that you use a representative image as opposed to a printed word for this central key word, because the visual recall associated with an image is greater than with a word.
Use color to stimulate your brain:
Next, you have a color coding system. There are no hard and fast rules or strict color coding system when it comes to mind mapping, and in fact, you are encouraged to develop your own unique style as you become more comfortable with the mechanics of mind mapping. The only thing you must remember is that an effective mind map uses multiple colors to group like items or thoughts. Grouping with colors allows your brain to associate the items as belonging in a group with one another and improves visual recall. Most experiences mind mappers recommend at least three colors, but you may use as many more than that as you might require.
Know how to make the mind map’s lines work for you:
Another important aspect of the mind map is the use of lines. Every item in a mind map must be connecting to another through the use of a line, and in mind mapping, they are organic, meaning they don’t need to be rigid and stiff but can bend and twist as needed. In fact, it’s recommended that you avoid using straight lines altogether, because they are boring and read as white noise to your brain. The other thing to understand about the use of lines in your mind map is that the more important a concept is, and the closer it is to your central image, the thicker the line should be. As you head out toward the peripheral branches, your lines should become thinner, so that your brain can differentiate between the thicker lines that connect more important concepts and the thinner ones that connect less important ones.
Establish a hierarchy:
Hierarchy is another way that you can differentiate the relative importance of the items in your mind map. By situating more important things near the top of a visual hierarchy, or by using numerical order or an outline in your branches, you can stimulate your brain and train it to immediately recognize the items that are of the most importance to you.
Go for an image rich mind map:
You should also use images and symbols in the outer branches of your mind map, not just in the center. Each image, word, symbol, or idea should reside on its own line in order to isolate specific concepts during the memory recall process. If you choose to write the word, it is suggested that you print the word as opposed to using cursive for the sake of clarity. You can also use lower case or upper case letters to further establish a hierarchy of importance in your mind map.
Develop your very own mind mapping style:
As you look at other mind mapping examples, you will see that not every single mind map adheres to every single point in this list. Most of these have been developed to allow you to scan your mind map and process the information very quickly, but there is the last and most important thing to keep in mind as you are beginning to explore mind mapping: you must develop your own style. After all, the only person with a brain like yours is you. You will learn and come to know best how to visualize your thoughts so that your brain can read them most effectively. While most people use a simple sheet of paper to develop their mind maps, there is plenty of great mind mapping software for you to learn and take advantage of!
Other Mind Mapping Examples
There are a number of other visual diagramming techniques that you can use that are not technically mind mapping examples, but can go a long way in helping you become comfortable with diagramming and eventually assist you in developing your own mind mapping style. In fact, some of the similar mapping techniques that we will discuss here go hand in hand with traditional mind mapping examples and in many ways, influenced the development of the mind map as we know it today.
Radial Tree Mapping
Traditional tree mapping looks a little bit like a pyramid: it works from the top down, with the important or central theme at the very top of the diagram, with concepts, ideas, and words cascading down. You are probably already familiar with the traditional tree map, especially if you are a geneology buff: it’s the same type of mapping used for family trees. A radial tree map, on the other hand, begins with the central idea in a circle and has branches that radiate out from there in as many tiers as are necessary. The difference between a mind map and a radial tree map is that while the same general concept is employed, mind maps do not extend out past the 2nd tier of a radial tree map.
A concept map is very like a lot of the mind mapping examples that you will encounter, but it has a few major differences. First, a concept map can encompass many ideas, words or topics, while a mind map is typically restricted to one central word or image. Because the concept map is so pervasive, it is also not restricted to a “radial tree” type of hierarchy or layout, which means that you can interlink multiple conceptual branches together. This particular type of mapping is a wonderful way to tackle unfamiliar concepts or ideas, which makes it ideal for note taking in an educational setting.
Semantic network mapping, as you probably recall, was one of the early types of maps that the father of mind mapping, Tony Buzan, drew his inspiration from. Semantic networking is based in the idea that some knowledge is better understood when it can be related to other, like concepts. It is for this reason that semantic networks usually are grouped a little more frenetically than you might see with certain mind mapping examples. It has no central idea, word, or image, for instance, and instead might have various inter-machinations and multiple ideas with no clear hierarchy between them.
With all of these additional mapping examples, and the previous mind mapping examples, you should now have a greater understanding of how you can use visual diagramming and mapping can be used to make a clear, tangible outline of your thoughts. There are a great many ways to use mind mapping or other visual mapping, so the only question left to answer is what you will do with your newfound knowledge!
There are many ways that you can use mind mapping to achieve any number of tasks or goals. For instance, imagine how mind mapping could help you get all of the fabulous ideas for a novel down on to paper! You might finally have the starting point you’ve always needed to start writing and get your book published and sold. Or, you could pair some mind mapping techniques with a course on whole brain learning, and open up all kinds of new avenues to explore. Mind mapping isn’t restrictive or meant to be used on only one type of thing. You could use it to visualize the vocabulary of any language that you choose, which will ultimately make learning and memorizing that language much, much easier! It’s entirely up to you, but whatever you choose to do next, make sure you give mind mapping a try–you may never want to go back to the old way of doing things!