Mind Mapping with Tony Buzan

Handdrawn mind map

Tony Buzan is the inventor of the mind map. He is the world's leading author, lecturer and advisor to governments, businesses, universities and schools on the subject-matters of the brain, learning and thinking. The mind map is considered the thinking tool of our time and is commonly called the "Swiss army knife of the human brain". Read on to learn the correct techniques and design specifications for creating genuine mind maps and to gain awareness of what pitfalls to avoid. This article is based on "The Mind Map Book" by Tony and Barry Buzan.

What is a mind map? What is mind mapping?
Benefits and advantages of applied mind mapping
Techniques and design specifications for mind mapping
Learning the method and suggestions
The main hazards of mind mapping
Applications of mind mapping

What Is a Mind Map? What Is Mind Mapping?

A mind map (also sometimes written as mind map) is a graphic representation of information, e.g. to visualize a hierarchical structure. British psychologist Tony Buzan created and popularized it in the 1970s. Its methodological application, the act of mind mapping, brings order and reasoning to a given thought process while activating the creative, artistic, logical and mathematical parts of the brain.

Mind mapping places a main subject, a central idea right in the middle of a large piece of paper. From this central node lines branch out to related ideas in all directions. These branches may split again towards related sub-concepts but may never meet again. You can use images in place of words, as well.

Benefits and Advantages of Applied Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a very effective method of drawing information from the human brain, of visualizing thoughts and ideas clearly and in a structured fashion. When making notes, use it as a creative and logical tool to represent your ideas according to rules.

Both conventional linear notes, as in the short keyword listing of main and sub-topics, and diagrams merely use the left hemisphere of the brain. With most people this is the hemisphere tasked with analytical thinking. It processes language, figures, logic and linear as well as ordered concepts. However, the right hemisphere is usually home to figurative imagination. This is where shapes, colors, patterns and rhythms are perceived and treated. Mind mapping combines these faculties with those of the left hemisphere to optimally exploit the capabilities of the brain rendering it increasingly astute and receptive.

In a mind map you will only ever read and write relevant words, which allows for saving up to 90% of time compared to linear notes. No need to search for keywords in superfluous text. Instead, relevant keywords are placed adjacently in time and space, which improves both your creativity and your memory. This establishes clear and telling associations between keywords displayed in the form of a mind map.

Mind mapping does not restrict you to thinking in any one correct order as does taking conventional notes. Rather, you may lay down ideas in random order just as they enter your mind. A visually stimulating, varicolored and multi-dimensional mind map is more easily accepted and remembered by our brain than are monotone linear notes.

Techniques and Design Specifications for Mind Mapping

The following mind map guidelines are differentiated as rules of technique and rules of design. The principles of mind mapping techniques are:

  1. Employ emphasis.
  2. Employ association.
  3. Strive for clarity.
  4. Develop your own personal style

One technique of emphasis is placing a central image instead of a written word, because an image sparks numerous associations and serves as a good mnemonic. As a matter of fact, use images wherever possible in your mind map. Design your central images with at least three colors in order to stimulate your memory and your creativity. Diversify the sizes of letterings, lines and images to indicate the respective significance of a keyword within a hierarchy and to accentuate. Just as importantly, an ordered spatial layout with sufficient interspaces will make your mind map more structured and its overall picture clearer.

Once your central image and your basic ordering concepts are set, you may employ techniques of association. Use arrows to interconnect branches. This will lend spatial direction to your thought processes. Further techniques of association are colors and codes. Marking particular targets and areas of your mind map with their own colors will let you access information more quickly, improve your memory and spur your creativity. Codes can help you to connect different areas of your mind map irrespectively of their distances in the general layout. They amplify and enhance categorization and hierarchy within your mind map and might take the shapes of check marks, crosses, circles or triangles. Every technique of emphasis can also be applied for the purpose of association and vice versa.

It is important to strive for clarity, as lack thereof will cloud your perception. By merely scribbling down your notes you impede your memory while trying to aid it. To make your mind map gain clarity write only one keyword per line, because every word could entail thousands of possible associations. Write your keywords on lines and in vertical block letters to add clarity to the arrangement of your mind map. Draw the lines along the whole lengths of the words and connect them in order to connect the respective thoughts. Emphasize central lines by drawing them thicker to immediately signal the relevance of central ideas to your brain. Draw borders onto your mind map to encompass the branching contours. Enveloping complete mind map branches like that gives rise to individual geometric shapes that help retrieve the information contained. Design your imagery as clearly as possible, because outer clarity will further your inner clarity of thought.

Develop your own personal style. Your mind map should always mirror the unique networks and thought patterns in your own brain. The more individually you design your mind map the more easily you can recall the encoded information.

The principles of mind map design are:

  1. Employ hierarchies.
  2. Employ a numerical order.

Employ hierarchies and categories to structure your thoughts and thus boost your cognitive potential. This is achieved by means of so-called Basic Ordering Ideas (BOI): “Basic ordering ideas are key concepts within which a host of other concepts can be organized… To put it another way, they are the chapter headings you would use if you were writing a book on the subject.”

Employ a numerical order if you wish to lend a particular arrangement to your thoughts, e.g. if your mind map is the basis for a speech. This kind of classification invariably leads to more logical thoughts.

Learning the Method and Suggestions

Acquiring the mind mapping method can be divided into the three stages of accepting, applying and adapting. The meaning of accepting is to follow precisely the rules of mind mapping and to mimic the examples given as closely as possible. The second stage of applying is defined as producing at least 100 mind maps by applying the techniques, design specifications and suggestions illustrated below. Adapting, as the final stage, refers to advancing and refining your mind mapping abilities. Experiment with the shapes and forms of the mind map by altering and adapting them to your own personal style and needs.

These recommendations on generating a mind map are meant to help you apply the laws of creativity and free your stream of consciousness:

  1. Break your mental blockades.
  2. Use amplification mechanisms.
  3. Prepare everything.

Break your mental blockades by inserting blank lines. They challenge your brain to complete the unfinished. Confront your brain with suitable questions to provoke a blockade breaking answer. Add imagery to your mind map to trigger further associations and memories. And realize your own unlimited potential for association, as this will free your mind from its conventional constraints.

There are two useful exercises at this stage. Firstly pick any piece of information from your memory and connect it logically or associatively with a random object. Secondly choose a part of your mind map that stumps you and make it the central point of a new mini mind map. Then quickly associate words to get your thoughts flowing again.

Utilize amplification mechanisms by revisiting your mind maps after predetermined intervals. This way you may refine certain areas, adjoin formerly missing ones and reinforce extremely important associations. Conduct fast mind map revision sessions by creating a speed mind map that briefly summarizes what you can remember from your original mind map. Subsequently compare the result with the original to correct potential mistakes, contradictions and gaps.

Prepare the ideal environs for creating your mind map to maximize your performance. This way you will have the best attitude, the optimal material and working conditions possible. Prime yourself mentally by developing a positive approach to the task at hand. This resolves blockades. Copy images wherever possible. Your brain will learn from this and extrapolate new images and notions. Especially at the early creative stage of every mind map you should embrace the seemingly absurd and putatively stupid incidences. Often they will leverage massive cognitive breakthroughs. Furthermore make your mind map as beautiful as possible. The more appealing it is, the more will develop from it and the more of it you will recall. Make sure to use high quality materials for this that you feel attracted to and that you want to work with. Other optimal working conditions comprise, e.g. appropriate room temperature and fresh air.

The Main Hazards of Mind Mapping

The four main hazards for every mind mapper are:

  1. Mind maps, that are not genuinely mind maps.
  2. The notion that short sentences or phrases say more than a detailed mind map.
  3. The perception of a seemingly messy mind map being no good.
  4. A feeling of rejection towards your compiled mind map.

Mind maps that aren't really mind maps are often created by people inexperienced with the the method. Their fabrications may look like mind maps at first glance and seem to follow the guidelines. But instead of order or structure they merely develop chaos and monotony, because the mind mapping rules of clarity, emphasis and association have not been adhered to.

A whole sentence or a phrase in lieu of a central word expresses a preconceived concept leaving no margin for interpretation. By following the one word rule of mind mapping you grant every word the liberty to produce its very own associations. This approach is especially helpful when you are trying to solve problems or kick start creative thinking, as it opens your mind to all possibilities.

On special occasions you may come up with a seemingly chaotic mind map. But that does not necessarily make it a bad one. It might lack clarity and beauty, but it will still represent your mental processes during its creation. Perhaps it wasn't even yourself who was unorganized and confused but the lecturer you were following or the author of the book you were reading at the time.

Rarely will you make a perfect mind map straightaway. More often you will start out with an incomplete first stab. Don't be disappointed in your mind map, but realize it to be a rough sketch in need of additional revision.

You can easily avoid said hazards by remembering and observing these principles.

Applications of Mind Mapping

Once you have acquired the mind mapping techniques and abilities there is a plethora of applications for you to use them on.

Tasks to be mastered with mind maps:

  • Decision making (weighing of competing factors)
  • Organize your ideas (notes)
  • Organize the ideas of others (records)
  • Memory (mnemonic)
  • Creative thinking and brainstorming (conceptualization)
  • Development of a group consciousness (group mind map)

In future articles we will go into individual applications and show how to tackle certain tasks with mind mapping.

You can apply mind mapping to solve problems in many spheres in both private and professional domains. To properly learn the method you are advised to create your first mind maps exclusively with colored pens on paper. Once you have gathered some experience with generating mind maps you can make use of convenient mind mapping software to save a lot of time. There are many good applications to help you organize your thoughts and translate them to easily comprehensible ordered lists.

When choosing the mind mapping software that is right for you, realize what kind of mind maps you plan on using it for. Do you require a special mind mapping application overly laden with options to secure virtually infinite freedom of creativity even when creating digital mind maps? Or will an application streamlined to the essential functions for purely methodic work be of even more use? The latter is best covered by mind mapping modules featured in specialized software you might be using anyway.

If your line of work is project management, it is advisable you use a project planning software with integrated mind mapping. Merlin Project is the intuitive project management software for the Mac. The mind mapping within Merlin Project is systematic in nature, which is to say it is specially devised for the methods of working on projects. E.g. you and your client can simply visualize the hierarchical structure of your project in a mind map and Merlin Project automatically transforms your input into the work breakdown structure (WBS). Afterwards, by dint of a classical Gantt diagram, you can elaborate within minutes a precise project plan that is structured in a reasonable hierarchy.

Posted by Julia Meiling on August 15th, 2018 under Project Management
Tags: mind-map

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