The mind maps are a very effective way of getting information into and out of the brain, helping to make associations with ease.
In addition, they are a creative and logical means for decision making, because they allow “to trace” ideas and generate new ones. They became popular thanks to Tony Buzan. This author used a two-dimensional structure that made them more compact, instead of the conventional list format used to take notes.
All mental maps have some things in common such as, for example, a natural organic structure that radiates from the center, and the use of lines, symbols, words, colors and images that are as friendly as possible, so that the brain can retain the information more easily.
A simple way to understand a mental map is by comparing it to the map of a city. The center of the city represents the main idea, while the main roads of the center represent the key thoughts in their cognitive process.
Secondary roads or branches represent secondary thoughts, and so on, images or special shapes can represent ideas of special relevance.
Mental maps can be used for almost any task of thinking or learning, from studying an object (such as a new language) to planning a career or even building better habits.
Characteristics of mental maps
- The main idea is adjusted in a matter or crystallized in a central image.
- The main themes radiate from the image of the center as “branches”.
- These branches comprise a key image or a keyword drawn or printed on its associated line.
- Minor topics are represented as branches of the corresponding group.
- The branches make up a structure that starts from a point of origin or node.
- It is a graphic tool that can incorporate words, images, numbers and colors, so it can be more pleasant and memorable to create and review. The combination of words and images is six times better for remembering information than words alone.
- Mental maps link group concepts through natural associations. This helps generate more ideas and find a deeper meaning on a topic.
Advantages of mental maps
- A mental map can give an overview of a very broad topic and at the same time be the synthesis of large amounts of information.
- It is also a very intuitive way to organize thoughts, since mental maps mimic the way our brains think, bouncing ideas from one to the other, instead of thinking linearly.
- You can generate ideas very quickly with this technique and also encourages exploring different creative ways.
- It allows summaries of books, which facilitates the study of a specific topic and structure it for a more effective compression.
- It works for project management at the organizational level, based on budget, resources, scope, personnel and deadline.
- Highlight the most important ideas of a text, which is essential at the time of studying, since it allows to discern between relevant information and secondary.
- Evaluate the options, which can encourage people to make decisions and set objectives, to subsequently meet them.
- It works as a time planner, since it allows you to order a large number of ideas, situations or commitments, so that none is excluded.
- It allows to tell a story in a dynamic, didactic and original way, so that those for which it is heard have a better way of understanding it.
- Improves productivity, since it enhances the time / space organization.
Uses of mental maps (what are they for)
- Rains of ideas, both in individual and group activities.
- Summary of information and note taking.
- The consolidation of information from different sources of research.
- Deepening in complex problems.
- The presentation of the information in a format that shows the general structure of its object.
- Study and memorize information.
- The resolution of problems.
- The activation of creativity.
- Improvement of the ability to see the larger image.
- It allows to detail the information.
- Unlock hidden understandings within pieces of information.
- It helps to unlock unexpected creative ideas.
- Save time.
- It makes learning fun.
- Clarify objectives.
- Explain the action plans.
- Clarify the ideas.
- Decipher habitual thought patterns.
- Take notes at work meetings.
How to make a mental map
1- Create a central idea
To create a mental map, we must start from a central idea. This represents the topic to be investigated or the object of study.
This should be in the center of the page and should include an image that represents the subject. This draws attention and causes associations, since the brain responds better to visual stimuli.
It is key to take the time necessary to personalize the central idea, either designed by hand or on the computer, since it is what will reinforce the connection you have with the contents of the mental map.
2- Brainstorm on the subject
You should brainstorm the topic before you start drawing, collecting all the information, which is not stored in one place. To do this you can use, for example, notes of a conference or meeting.
This can be done individually or in groups. It is simply to write everything that can be imagined and related to the subject. You should use keywords or phrases instead of sentences or paragraphs.
The information should not be organized at that time. Just take the ideas and go placing them messily. When there is an exchange of ideas, ask how the topic relates to what is already known and what is different about it.
3- Add the branches to the map
The main branches are those that are derived from the central image and provide the key themes. With this, you can explore each topic or main branch in greater depth by adding secondary branches.
The beauty of a mind map is that new branches can be added continuously, that is, it is not restricted to just a few options. Likewise, the structure of the mental map will come naturally as more ideas are added and the brain freely draws new associations of the different concepts.
4- Enter keywords
When a new branch is added to the mental map structure, a key idea must be included. Employing keywords triggers a greater number of associations compared to the use of several words or phrases.
A word per branch also works well to fragment information into basic topics and non-core issues. The use of keywords triggers connections in the brain and allows a greater amount of information to be remembered.
Farrand, Hussain and Hennessy (2002) supported this, after discovering that the medical students who adopted the mental maps experienced a 10% increase in their long-term memory.
5- Create a color code for branches
In mental maps, the whole brain stimulates thinking, because it brings together a wide range of numerical, creative, and spatial logical cortical abilities.
The superposition of these abilities makes the brain more synergistic and maintains an optimal level of work.
Having these cortical abilities isolated from one another does not help the development of the brain. Therefore, the use of this system is a benefit. An example of thinking about the coding of mental maps is the use of color.
Color coding links the visual part with the logic and helps the brain create mental shortcuts. This code allows you to classify, complete, analyze and identify information and connections that have not been previously discovered.
In addition, the colored images are more attractive and pleasant compared to flat and monochromatic images.
6- Include images
Images have the power to convey more information than a word, phrase or even an essay. They are processed instantaneously by the brain and act as visual stimuli to remember information. Better yet, images are a universal language that can overcome any language barrier.
Intrinsically, people are taught to process images from an early age. According to Margulies (1991), before children learn the language, they visualize the images in their minds, and link them to the concepts. For this reason, mental maps maximize the powerful potential of images.
How to properly use a mental map
Once you have in mind the format you want to use in the mental map, you must develop your own settings, which allow you to delve into its content. Here are some suggestions:
Use single words or simple sentences
In mental maps, short words and phrases should be used, which are significant, and which allow the same message to be transmitted, with a more powerful meaning. When they carry an excess of words, they can have the opposite effect on the mind of the person who sees them.
Use of colors to differentiate different ideas
This helps separate ideas when necessary. It also helps to visualize the mental map that will allow you to recover them. Color can help to see the structure of matter.
Use symbols and images
Images can help remember information more effectively than words, so if there is a symbol or image that can represent the content, it should be used.
The use of crossed links
The information contained in one part of a mental map can refer to another. Given the connection between all its parts, these links allow the reader to better capture the information. This is because it associates it with other elements already studied or that are of greater interest.
How mental maps help memory
- Making mental maps increases the association, imagination and creativity. They are the perfect tools to improve memory.
- Only contain keywords, this means that the information to be remembered is driven by short words with meaning and not a number of paragraphs and content.
- They promote associations and connections. It is known that association is an important way to improve memory, this system not only promotes association, but also will establish connections between ideas clearly on the page as a visual reminder.
- The use of color and images stimulate the imagination. This is the secret key to improving memory. The visually appealing nature of a mind map filled with colors, images and symbols establishes a creative form of attention and concentration.
Mind maps and labor productivity
Mental maps at work are useful for:
- The planning of sales strategies.
- The planning of marketing strategies.
- Organization and project management.
- Organization and management of meetings.
- Preparation for networking.
- Preparation of interviews and conducting interviews.
- Business planning
- Investigation and development.
Some more facts about mental maps
Mental maps convert a long list of monotonous information into a colorful, memorable and highly organized diagram that works naturally according to the way the brain does things.
A good mental map shows the relative importance of the individual points, and the way in which the facts are linked together. This makes them very quick to review, because you can update the information in your mind just by taking a look.
In this way, mnemonic methods that allow remembering a form, structure or a certain content can be effective. They can also give the necessary clues to remember the information they contain.