It sounds a bit Sci-Fi but the use of visual diagrams has been around for centuries. A mind map means you take information from your head and organize it visually in a diagram.
How do you Mind Map?
Mind maps work best with a single concept or question.
• Draw one circle in the centre of a large piece of paper (or on a device if that’s your thing)
• For your major themes draw boxes, arrows or branches coming off the circle.
• Have your minor themes coming off the boxes, arrows or branches you have just drawn
Structuring a Mind Map: Example
Going retro, I think of a spider diagram.
The body of the spider is the main point or question e.g. what were the causes of the English Civil War?
The legs are the major themes such as…
• Leg 1 = Money
• Leg 2 = King Charles I’s personality
• Leg 3 = Religion etc…
Finally, the minor themes drawn from each leg may be…
• Leg 1 = Money - The ship Tax.
• Leg 2 = King Charles I’s personality – Appointing William Laud.
• Leg 3 = Religion – The rise of the Puritans
How can I use Mind Maps
- Organize your lecture notes. If it’s a good lecture it will be segmented into themes. So, put the title of the lecture e.g. ‘The powers of the UK Parliament’ in the centre and expand out with what you hear and think as it happens
- If someone asked me to do a mind map about Keynesian economics I would have a circle in the middle and nothing else! It’s hard to have a detailed mind map about something you know little about. Starting one shows you where the gaps are but if branch 2 looks a bit pathetic get researching
- In a world of clicking and scrolling there’s something liberating about free drawing with stationery, glitter pens and highlighters.
- Use them as a planning session. It’s more creative than a list and will help you prioritise and manage overwhelm. Find out more tips about managing overwhelm.
My Ten Top Tips for Successful Mind Maps
- Don’t over think or over style it. If your mind map becomes a mess make your concept smaller. For example, the causes of the English Civil War could be four mind maps covering four individual years.
- Have a notepad exclusively for mind maps or integrate them into an exclusive notepad for each module.
- Buy notepads with pages you can easily scan. Create a copy and stick it on the wall at a later date
- Read your mind map one hour later – do all the drawings, mini-notes and scribbles make sense? You don’t want to look at it before a big test and think ‘what did that red box mean again?’
- Share your mind map with a friend, maybe you’ve forgotten a branch
- Don’t go for perfection. Yes, you want it to look engaging and bright but if you ran out of room for a thick branch so the last one looks a bit odd - so what. Only re-draw if a) it will help you clarify your thoughts b) you think you’ve got major gaps or c) in reflection it’s not going to serve you very well for revision or writing that exam question.
- Remove distractions. Maybe use the Pomodoro Technique to time yourself. What is this? Find out here.
- Don’t use technology if it will slow you down. You want to get your ideas out of your head, assemble them and allow free flowing ideas. Spending ten minutes trying to perfectly line up an arrow with the oval shape in Photoshop will take your mind away from the task.
- If you want nicely designed Mind Maps sign up to Canva (it’s free) you can create glossy looking mind maps, but you don’t need to
- There are lots of free mind map templates out there. Many are quite corporate but can be adapted. Don’t pay for templates.