Get More Organized. Use Mind Mapping Instead of Just Lists

Better Businesses Come From Better Plans

Whether you are an undergraduate student, a small business owner or the CEO of a large global corporation, list-making and mind mapping will play a significant role in your day-to-day life.

Jotting down plans, schedules and goals is an effective way of taking the muddle of ideas in your head and sorting them into a more organized, logical construct so that each thought has the potential to become a reality. And it's not just in the workplace we do it. Shopping lists, party planning and even New Years resolutions tend to take shape on a piece of paper in one way or another.

While traditional linear note taking or list-making can be a preferred method for some, mind mapping (which refers to the process of using images, shapes, patterns and nonlinear notes) is believed to be a superior method of planning amongst many thinkers.

Complex Problems Require Deeper Organization

In the real world, consider the difficulty of a complex business project like preparing a complete business plan. List building techniques simply aren't robust enough to capture all the required information in a way that is easy to instantly interpret. Through the mapping method, your business plan can be visualized in a memorable and easy-to-follow way. The central theme is a business plan and from there a number of threads that categorize the processes. These include Sales, Human Resources, Inventory, Marketing Leads, Production, Finances, and more. These subheadings then branch out into further areas of exploration.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, mind mapping is nothing new. In fact, it can be traced back to the 3rd century when Porphyry of Tyros mapped out the concepts of Aristotle by using visual graphics. It was, however, popularised into mainstream use by Tony Buzan, a British author and educational consultant in the 1970s. From there, increasing numbers of schools and businesses introduced the concept of mind mapping as a preferred method of note taking.

But What's Great About Mind Maps?

In order to answer this question, it's important you understand some basics about the human brain.

The most important part of our brain is the cerebral cortex. It is what makes us human. The cerebral cortex (otherwise known as grey matter) makes up a significant chunk of our brain and allows us to think consciously. It is split into two hemispheres (left and right) and each one is responsible for a range of different thoughts and functions, such as logic, rhythm, imagination, numbers, words and the ability to see the ‘whole picture’.

When we write a list (for example, a to-do list for the following day’s tasks) we only engage one area of our cerebral cortex because there is no purpose for much of its other functions. But when we mind-map, we give way to a wider range of activity within that area.

Why Does That Even Matter?

Well, in a nutshell, the more of our cerebral cortex we can motivate, the more advanced our thinking becomes. Mind mapping permits the brain to reach for new ideas, improved reasoning and a more logical and systematic approach to problem-solving.

Furthermore, mind mapping integrates images into the planning process which has been proven to significantly improve the way we remember information.

A pioneering piece of research in the 1970s by Ralph Haber proved that the accuracy of our recognition of images is somewhere between 85 and 95 per cent. His research has since been repeated and expanded on only for scientists to discover that image memory can reach an accuracy level of 99% in some experiments.

And yet, how many of us have made a word list only to put it to one side and completely forgot what we wrote down after a few minutes?

Of course, mind maps use words as well as images, but the fact that they are incorporated into a shape, pattern or nonlinear structure improves the way we remember them. A study from 2009 into the effectiveness of mind mapping in education showed that children were 32% more likely to remember words from a mind map than a traditional linear format.

Another advantage of mind mapping is that it's brilliant for those of us that might live with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD or a learning disability that affects the way you receive information. Experiments involving children have shown that breaking up blocks of texts and reshaping it into a map can help a person feel less intimidated by the information presented and more able to understand its concepts.

A big part of this process is the embedment of color. Bright, bold colors create better engagement, focus and allow for positive associations being made within the reader’s brain.

More Work, But Worth It

Of course, some people might assume that mind mapping is more hassle than jotting down a page of bullet points. While this is a common worry, be assured that mind mapping doesn't have to be time consuming or painstaking. You can customize a mind map to be as simplistic or complex as you prefer. So long as it makes sense to you, your mind map will help to improve your memory, think creatively and organize your thoughts logically so that you can make the most out of your plans and ideas.

mind mapsMatthew Murray is the Managing Director of Notable, a sales lead development in Singapore. Notable connects APAC region companies with buyers who are interested in their services.

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