This happens to even the most organized and well-prepared people:
Whether you’re trying to learn a new concept or you’re in the midst of a brainstorming session, organizing ideas and notes can get messy really, really fast.
The solution? A mind map template. It’s a simple tool that has so many uses, from organizing presentations to delegating responsibilities to developing new products. It really is that powerful!
Mind maps (and mind map templates) work like this:
- You start with one main topic. This could be the problem you need to solve or your project’s name.
- From there you break it into more manageable parts, drawing a bubble away from the center for each idea or job — you can think of this kind of like a subheading.
- Each of those bubbles can be broken down further (tasks, questions, teams, smaller pieces of information, etc.) until you have your main idea or problem at the heart of a giant web of ideas, solutions, questions, and all the relevant data you need.
The secret sauce, so to speak, in mind maps is that they’re so visual.
Instead of trying to write out a page of notes or think through a problem in your mind, you can easily dissect a big concept and tackle it a piece at a time. You’re able to see the whole idea and all of its parts in front of you, meaning you’re less likely to forget or misunderstand anything due to the holistic approach.
Whether you draw your own mind map or you benefit from a pre-made mind map template, there are endless options and you’re able to customize them for all kinds of uses.
Why mind maps help you retain more information
A major benefit to using mind maps is that they help you internalize more information, and there’s actually some science to help explain why. In 1974, English educator and TV personality Tony Buzan took to his television show, called “Use Your Head” on BBC, to pitch mind maps.
He argued that the human brain is not wired to work in a linear fashion, so writing notes left to right and then reading them over and over again isn’t necessarily helpful.
Instead, the brain more easily grasps diagram-type visuals. This explains why the students who use mind maps in multiple studies have been found to have higher essay grades and test scores than those who don’t use the method.
Since Buzan’s TV show more than four decades ago, the concept has grown wildly in popularity. In fact, you may recall using them early on in elementary school when you brainstormed a short story, or maybe you used a similar concept to study for a biology test in high school — even though you may have called it something different, the functionality is the same.
Separating a big concept into smaller parts helps the brain more easily manage lots of information so you can focus on one piece at a time instead of overloading on everything you need to know.
As a result, you’ll get to know each topic — the secondary bubbles — a bit more in-depth. This is a much better alternative to skimming a lot of information and cramming, which might help you familiarize with a topic, but it won’t help you actually learn it.
Research shows that mind maps are particularly helpful for students. They develop dynamic thinking skills, critical thinking, and are able to recall more and have more complete essays.
How to keep it simple & strategic
When dealing with the unknown, it’s easy to go overboard. One general idea can lead you down several rabbit holes, and by the end you’re not even sure if all of that work was worth the trouble.
Mind maps are built to avoid that.
Instead of allowing for endless distraction and exploration, they help you go one step at a time and get the most out of your effort.
If you’re using a mind map for brainstorming, you might find that it does a better job of keeping you on track, because it gives you a logical flow to follow, rather than allowing you to run off in a million directions at once.
When you build your own or fill in a mind map template, you’ll be taking it one step at a time. You may decide to follow one major bubble to a secondary bubble to more and more bubbles, or you may choose to create all the secondary bubbles before diving in deeper to each one.
Either way, the simple design slows you down and all of those feelings of being overwhelmed melt away.
Even if you’re studying for a big presentation where you’re worried about reciting complex ideas or information, a mind map can help you lock the information in your mind.
Instead of spending all your time on knowing the bare minimum about everything (including topics you might not end up needing), you’ll know where to focus and spend your energy. You’ll look like a pro and feel good about the work you’ve done to prepare.
Simplicity is the mind map’s biggest strength because it helps you focus on what’s important.
The more you use mind maps, the more useful you’ll find them. They’re not just outlines. They can help you in a variety of ways, including:
- Team organization: Big or small, teams can benefit from a mind map because everyone can see the same information in the same structure. Organize by tasks or quickly sort the responsibilities of each individual. The mind map format makes it easy to see what resources are going where, and if relevant, how they could best be rearranged.
- Launching a new product: Launching a new product or service can be a big undertaking with a lot of moving parts, but this method keeps all of that central and easy to manage.
- Making a decision: You’ve heard about using a pro and con list, but not every idea breaks down so simply. Sometimes a thought isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it’s still important to consider. In those instances, a mind map can help you think through it all more thoroughly.
- Classic brainstorming: Even if it’s a kernel of an idea, you’ve still got something. Start with that inkling and build from there. You may develop questions, innovations, or solutions all through this organizational method.
There’s really no wrong way to create a mind map. Maybe something that’s more like a flowchart works better in one scenario while a mind map that more closely resembles a network or spider web works in another. It’s all up to you and how you work best!