I’ve found a number of software applications recently that have increased my productivity enormously. I was checking out some of the Apps available for the iPhone when I came across a mind mapping App. It reminded me of mind mapping which I hadn’t thought about for ages, and I wondered if mind mapping software for the computer would be useful. At first it seemed a silly idea, why not just mind map on a piece of paper. But I’m incredibly messy – my handwriting can be almost illegible, even to me, if I don’t take care in writing and I can never find the kit in one place – paper, colored pens or pencils – and so I never get round to it.
After a quick search I discovered several contenders and narrowed the selection to a program called NovaMind. I downloaded the 30-day fully-enabled trial version and used it every day, pretty much all day long, all 30 days. It’s a fantastic way to take notes, to think through things, brainstorm ideas, and to plan for projects. It’s a visual presentation and involves using color and symbols, along with phrases or key words. The NovaMind program is intuitive to use, is very versatile and works smoothly.
A search for mind mapping on the Internet quickly gives the main ideas about how it’s done. The map begins in the center with the heading of the topic being considered, and from that point everything else branches out. It’s a visual representation of ideas and facts and it illustrates their relationships and relative importance. It’s phenomenal just how quickly it’s possible to review something in depth with a mind map.
Mind mapping experts suggest that key words are used rather than phrases, because the brain responds quickly to a key word and it makes it easier to remember. It might be more effective, but I very much like having full phrases. Not sentences, but enough words that I don’t have to guess my original meaning when I wrote the map.
Another liberating thing about a mind map is that you can go back later and add to it very easily, without disturbing anything already there. The magic of having mind mapping software is that it always stays neat and legible, and it isn’t necessary to redraw it if it gets out of proportion or is too big for the paper you started it on, because the software handles all of that for you. It’s also possible to link to web pages and other files and to specific branches in other mind map files. I use it for everything now, both work-related and personal.
A mind map is also visually easy to remember, and makes for a great tool for memorizing information. The key to memorization is to review the topic frequently, especially for a short period right after studying it for the first time, and then periodically afterward until it’s successfully stored in long-term memory. It doesn’t take long, but the periodic reminder is key in moving the information from short-term to long-term memory. Once this has been done, the memories are securely stored in our long-term memory and no further review of the material is necessary, regardless of how much time passes.
Mind maps make the review a quick and simple matter. The visual layout and color helps because apparently the fastest way to put something in long-term memory is by mentally photographing it. If we can successfully take a mental snapshot in all its detail, then that’s it, we’ll remember it long-term. If not, then we need to create associations within our mind to help integrate the new information into our memories. Color, symbols, pictures, drawings, spatial arrangement, links – all present in mind maps – help to create these associations.
Some years back I read a book about mind mapping and made a few small maps on paper. I found them intriguing and potentially helpful, but I didn’t use them often. Now I create new mind maps just about every day, and go back and refer to them almost as often. Without the software I simply wouldn’t do it nearly as much or as effectively.
I’ve even created mind maps of mind maps, linking the branches of the summary mind map directly to the more detailed mind map file. This allows me to keep track of what subtopics I have on a given topic, otherwise I wouldn’t even remember what information I have in the computer. Organization isn’t my strong point, even in the computer, and if it were all done on pieces of paper, or in a book, I’d be totally buried. To my surprise and relief, having the software has enabled me to tackle all sorts of projects efficiently and effectively.
Mind mapping is a tool that seems so basic as to be, well, for the simple-minded. It’s a deceptively simple concept and, at first, might seem like overkill, but any help we can get with problem-solving, organization, and having a great place for just thinking up creative ideas, is a boost up.
If you haven’t toyed with mind mapping, you might just want to give it a try and see if you like it. If you have, do you use it regularly? what about it do you find it useful? what’s your favorite way to mind map? do you use mind mapping software? do you have any special tips you could share? I’d love to hear from you, if you’d like to leave comments about mind mapping or whatever means that you’ve found beneficial for making sense of ideas and facts.