Organizing our thoughts using a map

  • Our brain has to process an enormous amount of data.
  • Mind mapping can help sort it more effectively.
  • This method could save 4 to 6 hours per week.

Whether we’re organizing our jobs, our children’s hobbies or upcoming vacations, it’s a challenge to plan everything out. On top of this, our minds have the annoying habit of flitting from one thought to another up to fifty times per minute! As a result, everyone has their own way of making sure not to forget anything. For some, it’s a compilation of Post-Its, others put their ‘to do lists’ in their cell phones. A different system, known as mind mapping, is now slowly emerging.

In order to create this map, all that is needed is a blank piece of paper and colored pencils. Free or commercial software to help with the process is also available on Internet. The sheet is laid out in landscape format to help with reading order. Then the main subject is written in the middle of the map. This helps the brain always refocus on the main issue – whether it’s a task list or choosing a vacation spot. All around it, different themes, such as necessary tasks or activities, days of the week, chapters needing to be read for a class, are written. They can then be divided into subtopics.

Fabienne De Broeck uses this technique for remedial academics. She tells the story of a boy who, to his mother’s chagrin, spent hours playing games on his digital tablet instead of studying. The coach explained to the child the concept of mind maps and suggested he try them on his tablet. The boy took to the project. Since then, he maps his lessons using mind maps with keywords and drawings he created himself, one of his passions . His mother called the coach back to tell her, “My son is spending hours creating his maps on his tablet. Is this normal?” In any case, his grades have improved. De Broeck suggests that “this method can be used in any area. The concept is to use it wherever you encounter a problem (editor’s note: organization or memorization, for example)”. In the case of tasks they should be sorted clockwise in the order of importance from one o’clock to noon. The use of colors helps with memorization: a color per branch and sub-branches, or one color for the main branches and another for the secondary branches. “The most important thing is for the colors to make sense,” she points out.

“This helps move towards action”

What is the difference between a mind map and a to-do list aside from the format? “The tasks in a ‘to do’ list are added one after the other without regard to priorities. We often finish the first item before going to the next one,” observes De Broeck. The mind map on the other hand, allows task prioritizing. “This helps move towards action,” she concludes. Finally, thanks to colors, drawing and keywords, mind mapping puts both cerebral hemispheres to work. It stimulates the visual, writing and even emotional zones in the brain: for a contentious meeting for example, one can draw a stormcloud. This engraves the contents of the map into long term memory. Thirty percent of users find that mind mapping clears their thinking. This method could save 4 to 6 hours per week.


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