Think you know how to mind map? Think again!

Mind mapping is a force to be reckoned with, and if used correctly it can have a gloriously positive effect on your academic achievement, attitude, and memory retention. But used poorly, it can cost you a load of time and energy you don’t have.

In fact, mind mapping is so good that it’s been proven to boost memory retention! According to a study analysing the impact of using mind mapping on medical students from the Queen Mary University of London Medical School, the use of mind maps helped boost retention by 10-15%. So, it’s probably no surprise to hear that visual aids have been found to improve learning by approximately 65% too.* And, did you also know we can process visuals a whopping 60,000 times faster than text?!

What is mind mapping?

Mind mapping is a powerful technique to help you visually develop or organise ideas, thoughts and information. Principally, mind mapping is a combination of images, keywords or phrases and colour in a visual-spatial arrangement. And this technique can significantly improve knowledge recall, especially compared to traditional methods of note taking and learning. Mind maps can also help you understand and make sense of complex information by breaking it down into smaller and more manageable and comprehensible chunks.

How to map!

There is a right way and a wrong way to mind map, you say? 

Yes, there is! We will now highlight the four most important steps to creating an effective mind map.

  • Step one - get all your ideas, thoughts, and information down in keywords or phrases. 
  • Step two - figure out links and connections between the different concepts. 
  • Step three - expand on your initial ideas, to flesh out in more detail.
  • Step four - personalise your diagram. Not only will the diagram be more visually appealing but combining visual and written cues will strengthen your memory of the diagram itself, and thus the information in it.

(A little word of warning here though: have you heard the saying ‘less is more’? Don’t go too crazy with colour and pictures. Firstly, you can end up spending all of your study time decorating your mind map and secondly, it could become too difficult to absorb the information if its overly arty. So, limit yourself to just a handful of colours and images, and only where they add value.)

We have also heard the above four steps described as: Chunking, Organise, Connect, Doodle 

This can help you remember these four important steps to creating the ultimate mind map. Mind mapping like this will save you time and ensure you learn in the most efficient and effective way.

What does an effective mind map look like?

Usually, you will have one central topic with, as many or as few as you like, connecting branches coming off it. (Concept maps usually show multiple complex ideas). 

While you previously may have created mind maps the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, in this very digital world, there are ways of creating digital maps with software like Inspiration to help make the process and ‘art’ of mapping even simpler, quicker, and easier to look at.

The brilliant thing about mapping online, with software, is that its easier and more efficient and you can even include hyperlinks for associated learning/information and drop-down notes for additional facts.

You can also arrange and rearrange your branches as you go, as ideas and notes begin to connect to others; not so simple or visually appealing with a rubber or Tipp-Ex! However you choose to mind map, the overarching aim is the same: to improve learning, planning and thinking.

A little light history

The history of mind mapping can be traced back to the 3rd century, when examples of what look like mind maps were created by Porphyry of Tyros to capture the concepts of Aristotle. Later on, between about 1235-1315, there are records of philosopher Ramon Llull having used the technique, and it’s even reported that Leonardo da Vinci used mind mapping to take notes.

Although it’s impossible to say with any real certainty exactly who created the concept of the ‘mind map’ initially, the man most frequently recognized for bringing mind mapping into the mainstream is Tony Buzan. And despite tinkering with mind mapping tools for 40 years it wasn’t until his international bestseller “The Mind Map Book” was published in 1996 that mind mapping, as a creative thinking approach, really took off.

Click here if you would like to learn more about Inspiration and how it could help your thinking, learning or work projects.

Inspiration is an approved product for the Disabled Student Allowance and Access to Work.


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