Going to school is not easy. It’s not meant to be easy especially if you’re pursuing a degree. You are often juggling multiple classes about different topics that require the same level of attention and focus. It can be challenging to receive and effectively process the information required to excel in your classes. Mind maps can be very helpful in streamlining the note taking process during class and the study process after class.

Have you ever missed something important because you were trying to write something down that the teacher or professor just said?

It can be annoying to take notes long hand and not very many people do well with using short hand. However, if you begin to use mind maps when taking notes, you’ll be able to quickly receive and write down information.

Incorporating mind maps while taking notes or studying is effective in several ways.

1. Improves comprehension

While it taking notes with a mind map may take some getting used to once you begin to tap into the different ways your mind works and how to translate that onto paper, you will find yourself comprehending information much more effectively. Because mind maps incorporate images and word association they automatically cause the map creator to access current knowledge to attach to the new information being received. One of the ways to improve memory and recollection of information is through association and grouping of new facts with old ones. Mind maps naturally facilitate that type of thinking which means new information is comprehended much quicker and more effectively.

2. Increases note taking speed

When you’re taking notes long hand, it requires you to take focus off of what the teacher or speaker is saying to focus on the note you’re taking. This can cause you to miss important information being shared while you’re writing. It can be very frustrating to take notes this way which is why some people start recording lectures and talks with a lot of important information. While this is one way to solve the problem it can come with its own set of problems, namely doing twice as much work.

Once you are home and ready to study the information, you have to transcribe the recording or go back through and listen to it multiple times to take notes. That can be tough to do if you’re taking multiple classes or only have a short amount of time to study. Mind maps can cut all of that out without sacrificing information intake. Through the use of keywords, shapes and colors you can quickly take in what’s being shared and organize it in a way that’s meaningful for you. This way you can come back to it later and understand what you meant to note.

3. Organizes your thoughts

Often when you’re sitting in a lecture or a class, the person speaking will share a lot of information and words but not all of it should be written down or remembered. Most of what is shared is to explain specific concepts or relate it to the class. There are some people who speak in outlines or lists and clearly state the point to be discussed before discussing it. Those people make it really easy to take notes from their lectures. Unfortunately those types of people aren’t very commonplace and you will find yourself listening to talks or lessons that are much less clear.

It’s important to be able to decipher what you need to know from what’s simply supportive dialogue. When you’re receiving a lot of information in this way it can be tough to organize your thoughts accordingly. Mind maps are great at helping you organize the information you’re receiving so that you can retain it in the moment and study it later.

I realize that with classes and studying, sometimes the information you need is in a book. Yes mind maps are great for receiving information verbally but it’s also a good tool for studying written material as well.

Performing Book Research

When you’re reading a book or a chapter, you may need to take notes on the information. It can be tough to take good notes when you’re reading a lot of words that all seem important. There are some tools you can use to develop a mind map for taking notes when reading a book, article or other written document.

1. Brainstorm

Before you start reading, take some time to consider what you may already know. Create a mind map with the topic you’re studying in the center. Make one arm a list of things you do know about the topic and another arm a list of things you don’t know or questions you need answered. This can be your outline for reading and as you review the text you can focus on the things you don’t know or get answers to your questions.

2. Visual outline

When you got the book or books that you’re using for research, you should have gotten them for a specific purpose. Whether you’re writing a paper, book, article or report, you should have some specific needs to fill with your book research. Make a list of what you need to get and turn that list into a mind map. Start with your main topic as the center of the mind map and create branches with keywords of the topics in your list. Then when you’re reading the book, you have a framework to work from and can focus on that information specifically.

The key to using a mind map for book research is not to overthink it or over plan. Allow the information to come naturally and read the information with an open mind. If you over plan, you run the risk of making the mind map much more complicated than it needs to be and reducing its effectiveness.

Below is a sample mind map that was used while doing book research.

book research mind map

While it’s a bit more wordy than some of the previously featured mind maps, Figure 8-1 is an example of one that was used to write a thesis, which requires a lot of research and data organization. This is a much more serious looking mind map but you could create a more colorful one and still incorporate images and shapes with the words and lines.

Create a book overview

Have you ever read a novel or book that you wanted to tell someone about but couldn’t remember many details? This could apply to casual reading books or something you’ve read for class. You can use a mind map to write an overview of a book and use that overview to discuss or present the book later. You would put the book title in the center of the map. Then you would create the different arms of the map using either the characters or major themes discussed in the book. You can organize it in any way that works best for you or any way that helps you to discuss it later.

Below are some examples of mind maps used to review a book.

book review mind map

The mind map in Figure 8-2 is a review of the book Kitchen Literacy. It’s a good example of the need to incorporate longer key phrases over key words but it’s still not overly detailed. The phrases aren’t full sentences and still require word association be done to remember what’s being analyzed in the mind map. However, this gives you a breakdown of the book at a glance and will help you in recalling the information later.

synopsis of hamlet mind map

The mind map in Figure 8-3 is a synopsis of the Shakespeare play, Hamlet. Hamlet is a very complex piece of literature because there are so many different things happening at once. Plus the book is written in a form of English from a time that has passed us by. People no longer speak this way and it can be a tough read. This synopsis does a good job of clarifying what’s important and can be helpful when reading it.

As you can see a mind map of a book review can be fairly simple like Figure 8-2 or much more complex and in depth like Figure 8-3. It definitely makes sense that Figure 8-3 is the synopsis of a Shakespeare play. Those tend to be very multi-layered and have several small plots revolving around a larger plot. While Figure 8-3 could be overwhelming to some, it definitely helps to see the different elements of the play in this format and in non-Shakespearean English.

Repeat what you’ve learned

There are many instances where you will receive a lot of information and have to repeat that information in the form of a presentation, paper or speech. Some people are very skilled at receiving information and sharing it but most of us aren’t. We may forget large chunks of important information or switch facts around or insert information that we got from somewhere else. It can be tough to work with the context of information when someone has given it to you in a way that works best for them. We have to remember that when we’re listening to lectures or reading books, the information has been organized in a way that makes the most sense to the speaker or author. Yes, the information is being shared in a logical manner which is why you can understand it and receive it in the moment but you won’t necessarily remember everything that’s been shared with you. You will typically remember the information that is most meaningful to you in that moment and will forget the rest.

Mind maps can help you pull out even more information by making it meaningful and memorable in a way that works best for you. When you’re creating a mind map, you’re in control of how the information is being digested and recorded. So even if you’re receiving information that has been organized by another person, you can use the mind map to organize it in a way that you can then turn around and share it yourself. Mind maps are great tools that make it easier to take in information, get acquainted with it and repeat it to others in a way that’s clear.

Below are some examples of mind maps used to create presentations and write speeches.

mind map representation

The mind map in Figure 8-4 was created to plan out how a presentation would be put together. It’s more of an outline on how to do presentations but it definitely provides some detail to consider.

financial statement mind map

The mind map in Figure 8-5 is for a presentation of financial statements. This is a great way to show how a decidedly uncreative topic can still be addressed using a mind map. Presenting financial statements can require a lot of information be kept in mind and this is a good way to do that.

speech mind map

The mind map in Figure 8-6 was used to map out a speech that was given by Tony Buzan for a TEDx conference. He discussed the power of a mind map and had used one to craft the speech.

keynote mind map

The mind map in Figure 8-7 was done during a keynote given by Chris Capossella during a Microsoft Project conference in 2009. It shows how a someone can take notes during a speech and get more of the important information in one place with relative ease.

Here is a video crash course for mind-mapping and note-taking. Yeah a superb bonus.