How to speed up your mind mapping: Tricks of the trade

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 9.51.37 PMI’ve been asked on more than one occasion “Is there any way I can speed up the mind mapping process?”

The simple answer is yes. There are several ways you can fast track the mind mapping process. But like anything, there is no escaping the fact that mind mapping takes time. It takes effort. But it’s time and effort well spent.

Mind mapping as you read will always take longer than simply reading a book, but you’ll save time in the long run.

For instance, I used to spend an hour reading a textbook but often I’d get to the end of a chapter and think “What was that all about?” I had no idea what I had just read. I frequently felt confused and overwhelmed.

When I started to mind map as I read, it would usually take me 3 times longer to study. Yep, that’s right, 3 whopping times longer. But I came to see the extra time spent as an investment in my studies. Why? Because I actually understood the content. Finally things made sense.

All that being said, I do see some students mind map at a painfully slow pace which is unnecessary. You can speed things up. Here’s how –

Ditch your coloured pens

As much as I love colour, I’ve occasionally used just a black artline pen to create my mind maps when I’ve been short on time. By not having to change coloured pens, take lids off and put them back on again, and decide on what colour to use next, you can save a bit of time.

Your mind maps may not look as exciting but you can always add a bit of colour to the branches as you review the content later on. I sometimes just circle key information in a coloured crayon or highlighter.

Invest in a set of paintbrush style pens

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 10.00.17 PMIt’s a real shame to give up using coloured pens on your mind maps though. The good news is you can keep using coloured pens by using a paintbrush style marker.

You see, most mind maps have branches that go thick to thin. To create this effect with a fine tip marker requires a lot of colouring in.

However by using a paintbrush pen you can create the thick to thin branch in a few simple strokes.

I’ve been using my trusty set of Tombow dual brush pens for over 5 years and I find these are the best set of pens to mind map with. They also have a small tip you can use for smaller branches and the ink doesn’t bleed through the paper like a lot of other fancy art pens tend to do.

Slap out your drawings

One of the biggest time wasters with mind mapping is being overly precious with your drawings. How many times have I seen a student spend 10 minutes or more drawing a detailed, intricate central image on their mind maps. Argh!

Don’t lose sight of the reason you are mind mapping – it’s to learn information at a deep level, not to get accepted into a fine arts program! So you can relax with your drawings. Stick figures will do the job.

Don’t mind map everything

In my experience mind maps work best when you are trying to understand complex ideas. Some information you need to absorb will be straightforward and can be put straight onto a flashcard. Other information won’t be relevant. The bottom line is not everything needs to be mind mapped.

As you read your book and mind map the information, ask yourself –

“Do I really need to know this?”

If the answer is no, then don’t bother mind mapping it.

Use A3 sized paper

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 10.06.25 PMA3 sized paper provides the perfect amount of space for mind mapping a juicy topic.

If you use A4 paper you may find yourself having to start new mind maps more regularly as a result of not being able to fit as much information on the page.

For this reason, I highly recommend buying an A3 size visual art diary. It will reduce the number of central images you need to draw.

Mind map everyday

Mind mapping is like any skill, the more you do it the quicker you’ll master it and the faster you’ll get at it.

When I first started mind mapping I was quite slow in creating my mind maps. “Am I doing this right?” and “My pictures look silly. I better start this mind map again” I would say as I crumpled up the paper and grabbed a fresh blank sheet. But now, mind mapping is second nature to me.

If you mind map on a daily basis, you will be surprised at how fast you can get at mind mapping out new ideas.

All that being said, it’s not a race. You need to allow yourself the time and space to think through an idea and draw a picture that will allow you to retain the information at a deep level.

Set up mind mapping cues

We are all guilty of saying we don’t have enough time but in the next breath we may find ourselves watching television. A clever strategy you can use to help you mind map more frequently is to leave the things you need to mind map (e.g. pens, paper and textbook) lying around on surfaces where you work – on the kitchen table, on your desk, near the couch, etc.

By doing this you are setting up your environment and providing yourself with a cue so you are ready to mind map whenever you have a spare moment. 10 minutes of mind mapping here and there adds up and is often enough time to cover 1 or 2 important ideas.

In Summary

Often the biggest barrier to mind mapping isn’t a lack of time but it’s ourselves. We get in our own way with our perfectionistic tendencies. But just remember: a badly drawn mind map is better than no mind map.

So don’t waste any more time. Just get started on your next mind map.

9 thoughts on “How to speed up your mind mapping: Tricks of the trade

    1. Thanks for the nice feedback! I hope everything is going well with your work with students. I see you have been busy drawing visual notes too! 🙂


  1. Hi, your advice is quite awesome indeed. 🙂
    I’m currently an 8th grader, who used to simply try to memorize everything I learned for tests. Although I have just started experimenting with mind maps, it is already evident that they are effective. Mind maps will surely help me graduate… hopefully 😉
    Thank you so much for your help Jane. 😀
    I will have to persuade my parents to buy me your seemingly brilliant book soon.

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