I clearly remember that one of the things I usually felt throughout my student years (high-school and college mostly) was that somehow the notes I took weren’t quite effective. At times it felt that I almost had to write down everything word for word so I didn’t loose any valuable piece of information – everything seemed important and I had a hard time identifying key concepts and ideas and jotting down just the relevant pieces of information that allowed me, later on, to mentally rebuild the whole idea. I eventually toyed with the idea of learning shorthand, but fortunately I eventually found out about mind-mapping.

I have been using mind-mapping regularly for several years and it immediately felt a very natural and easy way to persist information in a way that I could trace it’s flow from one idea to the next, allowing me to recall information at a much deeper level. At the same time, note taking required much less granular notes.

Today, after some years of practice, I find that mind-mapping not only helps me effectively with note taking, it also helps with creative problem solving. I use it for solo and team brainstorming sessions, whenever I am exploring any new subject.

Creating a mind-map is quite simple:

  1. Get a clean sheet of paper (I usually use plain white paper – no lined or squared paper) and write the topic you’re exploring in the center of the page inside a large circle. This helps clearly identify the subject;
  2. As you explore the subject, write notes on lines that originate from the circle;
  3. As you explore deeper, draw new lines linked to the line with the note that originated the new ideas. This way it’s very easy to persist a line of thinking (and remember it later on);

I have seen mind-maps where there are few notes and each branch is just a heading/subheading organization with the final branches (the ones furthest from the main topic) representing the facts, but I prefer a more free-form where each branch represents an idea. I usually take a lot of notes as I explore the topic further and further.

Having used mind-mapping for a number of years now, I find it an indispensable tool for note taking whether I’m exploring possible solutions to a specific problem or whether I’m just studying any given subject.

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