Mind-Mapping: or How to Use Your Brain More Effectively

Anyone read “The Shallows” recently? Freshmen, you know what I’m talking about.

Just to catch the rest of you up, it’s an intriguing book by Nicholas Carr on the effects of the internet on the way we absorb information.

Information. Sounds like a good thing, right?

But if you, like me, get that sinking sensation when thinking about how much information is at your fingertips (classes,  Wikipedia, books, magazines, blogs, friends, family, endless emails – and don’t even get me started on social networking!), it might be time for some spring cleaning. Of the mind, that is.

The internet gives us unprecedented access to an almost limitless amount of information, and most of us don’t know where we, as students, would be without it. But with new ways to obtain information, it helps to have new ways to synthesize the pieces. I present to you: a visual diagramming technique known as mind-mapping.

that’s amazing!

What is mind-mapping?

  • Mind-mapping is a type of diagram used to visually outline ideas, goals, or concepts
  • Usually, mind-maps are clustered around a central idea or theme (a “node”), where all other components of the mind-map branching out from that center, see example above

How do I mind-map?

  • Start with a core concept that you want to explore (“New Year’s Resolutions 2013”, “Photosynthesis – What is the Deal”, “Time Management and Me”, “My Group Project for That Class – Fall 2012”, etc.)
  • Start branching out with the smaller components that you see your larger concept being broken down into (say, within “New Year’s Resolutions 2013” you could have two branches titled “Fitness” and “Study Abroad”)
  • Keep branching until you’ve reached the smallest sensible units (i.e., until your ideas cannot be branched any further)
  • Voila! You have a complete picture of the concept that you’re working with. Revisit and revise as needed.

Sometimes it makes sense to learn about visual diagramming…well…visually. This is a helpful how-to video for the mind-map beginner.

Why should I mind-map?

Mind-mapping can be a good way to:

  • Take notes during class
  • Get a sense of large projects
  • Visualize the way concepts are connected
  • Brain-storming – unleash that hail-storm of creativity
  • Map out essays
  • Draw out your ultimate knowledge base, figure out where your gaps are
  • Set goals for yourself and make a detailed plan for getting there
  • Look cool! I.e., it looks good printed out, aesthetics boost happiness, also gives you a sense of direction and fulfillment about your work. That’s about as touchy-feely as it comes, but it sounds like it would feel good, doesn’t it?

Tools for mind-mapping:

If you wanted to start using software tools, Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive list of both free and proprietary software that can get you started (here). You could also use Word, Excel, or PowerPoint once you get the hang of how it works. Your humble blogger has an iPad, so I like to use SimpleMind (it’s free for iPad, but less free if you’re want to use it on your computer).

More Information (is there irony here?):

Did you want to read that paper being referenced here? Maybe comment about it in the comments section? Go ahead, it’s right here.

Want to hear an interview with the man who came up with mind-maps? Right here! He’s very convinced that mind-maps are the way the brain is intended to be used (no surprise there), so you know, grain of salt, still worth a watch.

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