I’ve been doing quite a bit of mind-mapping lately. And the more I mind-map, the more I love it.
What is mind-mapping?
Mind-mapping is the visual representation of thoughts, discussions, and ideas. Mind-maps radiate out from a central idea, theme, or question, and include concepts and ideas, labeled connection lines, and even pictures/diagrams. You can think of mind-maps as a type of cognitive diagram.
The example mind-map below shows how ideas and data points can be connected to a central idea/theme in a visual way.
There are many benefits to mind-mapping the books you’re reading, the meetings you’re attending, and the conference sessions you’re listening to:
- It promotes “meaningful learning.” When you learn something meaningfully, you’ve taken in the new information and tied it to things you already know. Meaningful learning is the process of converting new information into knowledge you can use.
- It helps you “connect the dots.” Mind maps lay out conversations and discussions by radiating concepts from a core question or theme. The act of drawing connections between these new concepts and labeling the connection lines helps you see and remember how ideas connect.
- It’s a visual learning device. The art of visualizing new concepts can help us imprint them on our minds in new and different ways. And if you’re an artist or a visual learner, mind-maps can help you translate words into visuals that are easier to remember!
- It makes complex ideas easier to understand. Drawing out complex ideas is just…different. And sometimes a different frame of reference is all you need.
- It promotes active listening. If I’m just sitting and listening to content, it’s hard not to get distracted with email, Twitter, or other things going on around me. Mind-mapping content while I’m listening to it helps me engage on a whole new level. I’m not distracted; I’m actively engaged in what I’m hearing.
A few things to keep in mind when you start mind-mapping:
- You’re not working in permanent ink. Scratch things out if you’re working on paper. If you’re using mind-mapping software, figure out how the “undo” and “delete” actions work.
- Don’t fret about those things you call “mistakes.” Our brains are not perfect, and it usually takes us awhile to learn new things. Don’t expect your mind-maps to be succinct. Our mind-maps should reflect the same circuitous path we take to learn and build shared understanding.
- Never mind the artistry. I’m not an artist, and I heartily join in when others make fun of my sorrowful-looking stick people. Here’s the great thing–no one is going to judge your mind-map for appropriate use of color, visuals, and artistic decor. It’s a mind-map, not an art exhibit!
- Practice makes you faster (and more accurate). When I began creating mind-maps, it felt like I was working a long-dormant group of visual muscles. That’s OK. Practice helps.
- You’re working off a blank slate, so build to suit. If you’re a word-based thinker, focus on building mind-maps that are entirely word-based. If pictures, icons, and drawings help you learn, try incorporating a variety of visuals into your mind-map. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
My mind-map journey
Historically, I’ve built most of my mind-maps on whiteboards during work meetings. But this week, I’ve been focused on building electronic mind-maps using Coggle.it To get better (and faster) at building electronic maps, I’ve been mind-mapping Microsoft Ignite 2019 session recordings. The mind-maps capture the most meaningful words from each session, along with a contextual visual representation of how I connected all the ideas. Here are a couple of examples: