Mind mapping is one of my favourite ways to learn.
The funny drawings, the colour, and creativity can transform any dry subject into something that’s interesting for the brain.
But mind mapping is also a great life strategy. You can use it to create plans, capture ideas from books, set goals, clarify your thinking, organise your finances, and work your way out of messy situations.
Below I explore some different ways you can use mind maps in your day-to-day life.
1. Remembering ideas from books
Do you ever read books and then feel frustrated when you can’t remember much from them?
This is why I mind map out every non-fiction book that I read.
I know that there are limits to my memory. If I want to be able to extract ideas and strategies from a book and apply them to my life, I’m going to need to create mind maps.
There are two ways you can mind map a book:
1) You can mind map as you read: this forces you to slow down and really think about the ideas. I highly recommended doing this if the content is really complex. But this approach can be slow going!
2) You can mind map once you’ve finished reading: I use mini post-it notes to tab key ideas as I read. Once I’ve finished reading the book, I go back and mind map out the tabbed ideas. This way I have some perspective and can identify what’s important and what’s not (rather than assuming every sentence is important and needs to be mind mapped).
After I’ve finished mind mapping the book, I select a strategy that I’ve captured on the mind map to test out.
My husband has always been amazed at how I can take ideas from books and apply them to my life. But there’s no magic to this. I’m able to use lots of different strategies because mind mapping helps me to understand and remember them.
Let’s face it, if you can’t remember a strategy, you can’t use it!
2. Doing Active recall
Let’s say you have a test or exam coming up. Here’s how you can use mind maps to effectively prepare . . .
Push your notes and books to the side (you can’t look at them). Now grab a blank sheet of paper. Set a timer for 5 minutes and try to create a mind map on the main ideas you can remember.
Don’t try to make these mind maps look pretty. You’ve only got 5 minutes, so scribble and draw out as much as you can remember.
Once you’ve exhausted your memory, pull out your notes and pick a different coloured pen. Take a look at your messy mind map: What did you get right? What did you get wrong? Where are the gaps in your knowledge?
This strategy is called Active Recall and it’s the most effective way to retain information. You can read more about it here.
3. Pinpointing what is urgent and important
When you feel overwhelmed by life, everything can feel urgent and important. But not everything is urgent and important. A little prioritisation can save you a lot of stress and drama.
Grab a big sheet of paper, draw a circle in the middle, and write inside it Stuff to do. Now get everything out of your head and on to the page!
Once you’ve finished your mind map, look over all the tasks.
If a task is important, give it a tick.
If a task is urgent, circle it.
Focus your energy on knocking off the tasks that have ticks and circles around them (they are urgent and important).
4. Getting connected to your Future Self
Research shows the more connected you are to your Future Self, the more committed you will be to achieving your goals and the wiser decisions you will make in the present.
Draw a circle in the middle of page and write inside it My Future Self. You can create branches for your Future Self in:
• 3 months’ time
• 6 months’ time
• 1 year’s time
• 3 years’ time
• 5 years’ time
Then off each of these main branches, write down your goals. What do you want to have accomplished by this time?
As Dr Benjamin Hardy states in his book Be Your Future Self Now:
“The clearer you are on where you want to go, the less distracted you’ll be by endless options.”
Note: Imagining your Future Self is not an easy thing to do. We are terrible at imagining where we are going to be in the future. So, don’t overthink it. Just get some ideas down on paper. As you gain more clarity around your goals and values, you can always add extra branches to your mind map.
To sum up
I’ve found mind mapping to be a fun and effective way to capture, organise, and retain information. Even if I never look at the mind map again, the process of getting ideas down on paper makes a big difference. It helps me to feel more in control and on top of things.
If you need some clarity in a particular area, stop ruminating. Pick up a pen and start mind mapping!