Maps for the Mind
I use the Mind-Map technique quite actively. And I use it not only for generating creative ideas and structuring information, but also for solving everyday problems. It makes it easy to structure information or weigh the pros and cons before making an important decision.
The first mind maps known to mankind date back to the 13th century. However, mind-mapping technology as we all know it originated and began to gain popularity after Tony Buzan published his book “Superthinking” in 1974. This book was the beginning of my acquaintance with the Mind-Map technique.
The retelling of countless stories and the many variations of the handwritten cards with which the book was illustrated made a strong impression on me – in psychology this is called “insight”. For this day, when people ask me where to start studying mind map technology, I recommend this very book. Although several variations for the business audience have subsequently been published, I believe that to introduce Mind-Map there is nothing better than “Superthinking”.
There are several terms on the Web for the Mind-Map technique: Intellect Map, Mind Map, Memory Map, Mind Map, Idea Map, and many more variations. In my review, I will use the English-language names, explaining them as necessary.
Circle of Issues
Tony Buzan introduces the concept of “radiant thinking” and its basic principles. He also gives tools for effective application of the method in different spheres of life. The beauty of Mind-Map is that it is a universal method. It makes it equally easy to make business plans and brainstorm, to write down recipes and to prepare for exams.
Radiant Thinking: Every thought, image, or emotion can be represented as an object (or a node) from which tens, hundreds, or thousands of threads of connection diverge in all directions and lead to other objects (thoughts, images, emotions). The brain, which is a storehouse of information, looks like a huge system of such objects and connections between them, while thinking can be imagined as an electric current running along connecting threads as if through wires from one object to another. Thinking starts in one of them and can go in any direction to other objects. It is as if thinking “runs away” from the central object in different directions.
I developed and improved the skill of constructing mind-maps through active independent work on compiling Mind-Maps. It seems to me that practice in this particular case is much more important than theory. All the more so because all authors of books on mind maps rely on Buesen’s book and personal practice with mind maps.
I tried to use this technique to plan my day, to write reports, and to search for ideas. I made some discoveries, put them in a notebook and practiced. And then I came across two books that summarized almost all of my findings and gave me impetus for further development.
Development of an Idea
The first book, “Idea mapping” by Jamie Nast, brought together all the findings in the direction of generating ideas. The author of the book, having well studied the method of mind maps, developed her own technique of “idea mapping. In my opinion, this book, in many ways repeating what is outlined in Buzan’s book, helps to master the material faster and more concretely.
One more thing. The book’s specialty is the large number of different aspects of the application of the technique. Of course, much is given only schematically, but it is enough to go on working independently.
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The second book is “Mind Maps for Business” by Tony Buzan. It summarized all my findings in the field of structuring information. The author emphasized the development of technology to increase the efficiency of personal and corporate activities with the help of mind maps.
The contents of the book are in the form of mind maps. The information in each chapter is also accompanied by mind maps, and the text is perfectly structured and as clear as possible. The author pays a lot of attention to the visual component of the presentation of information, breaking down in detail all the nuances that will be extremely useful to both beginners of mind maps and those who already know how to do it, but want to keep a good shape.
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My personal experience
Drawing on all this baggage and experimenting with ways to make my own work on books more effective, I created a new kind of Mind-Map technique and called it “Summap”. It’s a mental map that summarizes the content of the book on the one hand, and summarizes the main ideas on the other. Now I try to complete each book review with a “Summap”.
Later I moved on to another aspect of using this technique. Not in books, but in blogs I read about the use of Mind-Map technique for some systems of increasing personal efficiency and productivity. There were quite a few of them.
I was most interested in the use of Mind-Map in Agile Results and GTD. I did give up using Mind-Map in GTD because the maps are too massive, and (even more importantly) it was hard for me to keep them up to date and periodically review them. However, a number of my friends are actively pursuing this very direction. I, on the other hand, am still, and with increasing pleasure and use, working in Evernote. To use the terminology of GTD, I need Evernote for “throwing everything out of my head”, “evaluating its significance” and “compiling a review”. But beyond that, for “compiling a list of actions” I already use a combination of GTD and Agile Results.
While everyone interested in such techniques has probably already heard about GTD, Agile Results is a relatively new technique. It is worth writing about separately and extensively. There are already separate articles on the Web giving a general idea of this technique. I highly recommend reading this online-book: http://www.30daysofgettingresults.com/.
When I started using this technique late last year, I immediately saw that it integrates well with Mind-Map, and this year I have already completely switched to making annual / quarterly / weekly plans in MindManager. Yes, the maps get big too, but the number of iterations here is not as large and chaotic as in GTD.
To summarize all of the above, I will say: there are a great many aspects of this wonderful technique. In this review, I have told only about some of the ways of usind mindmaps, which I myself use quite actively. It is practically useless to review and summarize every single book. Because each of them is perfectly structured, and by reading the content, it is already clear where to go to work on this or that question. That’s why I made a general summap with references to literature, including a brief overview of the main aspects of Mind-Map technique application.