Author Shireen Stephen helps you out. Scroll down to read an excerpt from her book The 4-Week Memory Challenge.
Mind Maps are an invention of Tony Buzan who is also known as the Master of Memory.
It is a simple system of learning which aids understanding of the subject matter through concepts and connections.
It is a system of taking down notes graphically in such a way that it activates both left and right hemispheres of the brain.
When both sides of the brain are activated, memory and understanding improve.
Mind Maps can be used for poems, speeches, concepts, brainstorming, timelines, meetings, presentations, and remembering entire chapters of information on one single page.
Taking down notes during a lecture is important as they act as filters that help you concentrate and prioritise key areas and disregard irrelevant information that your textbook may provide.
Notes aid in understanding and act as a means of quick reference to revise before an exam.
They facilitate an overview of a topic and since they are your own interpretation of information, they are memorable in themselves.
However, many students feel the need to write down notes verbatim during a lecture.
Even if these notes are written in shorthand, the kinaesthetic act of writing them down may distract you from the auditory act of listening and grasping everything that is said.
If the notes are taken down as a mind map, you will save time on writing every single word that is said, be able to focus more on understanding the lecture and have valuable, legible notes!
Mind maps have a few distinct advantages over normal note- taking.
One such advantage is that it makes use of your full range of cognitive (thinking) skills, including imaginative, spatial, verbal, logical, associative and visual skills.
As you can see, it employs all the pillars of memory in just one technique.
Another advantage is that it aids in boosting your brain’s natural ability to radiate thoughts from one main idea.
Your brain thinks on many dimensions and this is facilitated by mind maps.
Normally, when you take down notes, once you start a sentence, you need to be able to finish it, and therefore, your thought process only moves in a linear manner (single direction), whereas mind maps are non-linear and provide a basic structure to enable a stream of ideas to flow unhindered in any direction that you see fit.
With normal notes, you will have to read everything to revise it even if you list it out point-wise.
With mind maps however, if you glance at the map once, it will activate quick connections and themes so that you don't waste too much time reading the notes.
The benefits of mind maps are as follows:
1. They help in clearly defining the central core of a topic and its main themes.
2. They depict the relative importance of a topic at a glance.
3. They give you an instant overview of the entire chapter in your textbook on one single page and this will save time when you are revising for an exam.
4. Unnecessary words are not included.
5. You can use colours to depict themes, sub-themes and connections.
6. It combines both left and right parts of the brain while thinking. This means that you will remember the subject matter better than if it was written in full sentences.
7. They use all the pillars of memory such as association, images, location and imagination and make use of auditory, visual and kinaesthetic senses, and therefore, enhances memory to its full potential.
8. They help you map out your thoughts and brainstorm to work out a solution to a problem.
The nature of the structure allows an easy addition of more information.
9. Each map is unique and this itself will aid in memory.
Describing mind maps in the note form that you are currently reading defeats the whole purpose of mind maps, since they are depicted in a more pictorial, colourful way and not in the form of continuous text.
Information may also be depicted in the form of images.
Here are a few basic principles to follow while making a mind map:
1. Always start with a central theme.
This can be the title or it can be an image that represents the title.
2. Try to use as many images as possible since they stimulate creative thought, draw the attention of the eye and aid in enhancing memory.
3. Use only one or two keywords per line.
Each word or image should be on a line which connects other lines.
This is something like a flowchart except that the labels or images will be on the connecting lines and radiating in different directions.
This provides the basic structure of the mind map.
4. Use different colours for different themes. Colours are used to highlight and accentuate important information.
5. Let your mind run free.
Try not to fetter it with unwanted or unnecessary information.
Use all the pillars of memory.
How to make a mind map:
1. Start with a blank sheet of paper, preferably A4 or A3 in size and unruled. Turn it sideways (landscape).
2. Write down the main topic or the keyword at the centre of the page. This can also be a diagram or image of the central topic that you are studying.
3. From the central figure or keyword, draw branches radiating in different directions to signify subheadings.
4. Add sub-branches radiating from these branches to show subheadings of each branch.
Again, these are drawn or labelled in different colours.
5. Use curved lines rather than straight lines.
Curved lines encourage creative thinking while linear lines encourage thinking only in one direction.
6. Every time you add another word or image, draw a branch from the key words to connect with it.
No matter how many branches you create, it should be possible to journey back along those branches to reach the centre.
7. Label the branches and sub-branches clearly and make sure that the images represent the subject matter clearly.
8. Branches may interconnect, depending on the strength of associations between them. Use arrows to connect linking ideas.
9. Make your map as colourful and beautiful as possible.
You can use colours as themes as well, to differentiate one topic or subtopic from another.
Colour helps with clarity. It also helps you recognise chunks of information by colour coding different bits of information and highlighting important points.
The idea of a mind map is to recall everything that your mind thinks of in connection to the central idea or image.
Your mind may generate ideas faster than you can write them down but do not pause for thought.
If you do pause, make an effort to consciously begin writing again immediately.
Do not worry about the order or organisation while you are writing, as this will take care of itself in many cases.
If it does not, use your current mind map as a rough draft and redraw it at the end of the exercise making sure to organize it better.
The following is a mind map about mind maps.
As you can see, it depicts this entire chapter on just one page and shows you the key points of what a mind map is, its uses, advantages over linear notes, principles and how to make one.
Each branch that radiates from the central image can be drawn in a different colour to depict different topics.
Exercise 1: Create a Mind Map
Take an A4 size blank paper and turn it sideways (landscape).
Now think about yourself; your hobbies, likes and dislikes, views on life, principles by which you live, family and friends, school/work, pets, ambitions, etc.
Draw a mind map of who you are as a person. Don't just stick to the points mentioned above; be as creative and imaginative as you like.
Instead of writing down copious notes, use mind maps.
During a lecture or a meeting, start at the centre and keep jotting down points that connect with the central theme. Branch out from the central theme.
The system of taking down notes graphically represents information in the form of a map.
It uses a single paper to depict the gist of a large subject matter such as speeches, poems, concepts, information derived from meetings, lectures, etc.
It activates both parts of the brain by making use of all the pillars of memory in addition to your thinking and reasoning skills.
Mind maps help to identify the central and main sub-themes. Since they are colourful and graphically represented, they help better with visual encoding.
They exclude unnecessary text and focus only on important points.
They can be constructed using words and images. Make as colourful as possible. Use colours to divide themes and sub-themes.
Excerpted from The 4-Week Memory Challenge by Shireen Stephen, with the permission of the publishers, Rupa Publications.