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How to Use a Mind Map to Remember Everything

use a mind map to remember everything
Photographer: NEW DATA SERVICES | Source: Unsplash

At a conference where I spoke last year, one of the other speakers was a former high school science teacher. His son was failing American history. So, he encouraged his son to use a mind map to remember everything:

  • Important dates
  • Events
  • Significant people

Then, he put the mind map somewhere he would see it every day. Thanks to the mind map, he aced his next exam. After reading this speaker's book, I decided to give mind maps another try. Once you know how to use them, mindmaps can become a creative superpower.

Use a Mind Map to Remember Everything

I've used mind maps to remember everything including:

Mind maps have become an integral part of my second brain.

1. What Types of Projects Can Benefit from a Mind Map

Mind maps can help you:

  • Take effective notes.
  • Spend less time studying if you're a college student.
  • Remember what you read, hear, watch and take action on it.
  • Unleash our brain's creativity and potential.
  • Bring ambitious ideas to life.
  • Solve complex problems.

It's possible you've attempted to use them before and didn't find any value in them. But with the right strategy, a mind map can become one of the most powerful tools in your cognitive toolbox.

2. How to Create a Mindmap

The structure of the mind map should mirror the structure of what you want to remember.

  • For a book, use the table of contents to become the structure of your mind map.
  • If it's a college class or online course, use the syllabus or module titles.
  • In the case of media like podcasts, you'll have to filter out what's relevant to come up with a structure.

You'll get far more from a mind map if you structure it properly. Without a clear structure, your mind map is just a jumbled up mess of thoughts.

A Central Idea

Every map needs a central idea. If your mind mapping a book you've read, it's the title of the book. It's the same for anything else you want to remember.

For the mind map on this article, the central idea would be "How to Use a Mindmap to Remember everything."

The Related Ideas

The first set of branches on a mind map is the related ideas. Once you have your theme, you start adding branches. In the case of this blog post, it would be the big headers like Intro and Structure.

Key Takeaways

The second set of branches comes from related ideas. You can rename these however you see fit, but I've included a template below. In the case of the section you just read, my second set of branches would be the key takeaways.

The secret that unlocks and amplifies the power of a mind map is structure.

Resist The Temptation to Capture Everything

You're a knowledge worker, not a transcriptionist You only want to capture what's relevant. This is easier to do if you apply constraints.

Apply Constraints

One of the easiest constraints you can apply is to limit the number of words on each branch of your mind map. For big ideas, try to limit yourself to one word. For the key concepts, use short sentences. Be concise and you'll gain far more clarity.

3 Rules for Note-Taking

One other thing to consider is Jared Horvath's 3 Rules of Note-Taking.

1. Focus on a Big Idea or Concept

A lot of people take notes just kind of willy-nilly as much information as they can get down. Stick with the people. Stick with the speaker. Stick with the lecture until there's a huge enough idea that you're willing to lose a bit of information, but lock something important down.

2. Always Take Notes by Hand

If you take notes on a computer, you can typically type as fast or just slightly slower than I can speak. So you can take a lot of content down.

But when you're taking down content, the only thing of importance is the sound of the words themselves. All that matters is the words themselves and their order, which means you're only listening to noise. You're not actually paying attention to meaning.

If you take notes by hand, you can't write anywhere near as fast as I can speak. By definition, you have to already be processing that information.

3. Do Something with the Information

You have to be making sense of it in order to have the time to go write it down. And that's why handwritten notes have lines and circles and arrows and stars. That's the sign that you're processing that information as meaning, not simply as noise.

Note: While I prefer software, so I can use a mind map to remember everything, pen and paper are viable.

Do something with that information: Rather than writing it down verbatim, change that into your own words. Rewrite it into a different meaning. Take all the underlying bits and create a paragraph out of it or a summary. That kind of work. This deepens the understanding as well. Because, again, now you're moving from simple words into meaning then into purpose and into linkage.

Finding the Right Mind Mapping Tool

The right mind mapping tool is a matter of preference. On the Zapier blog, there's an article about the best mind mapping software in 2019. My personal presence is Whimsical Mind Maps. I like it because:

  • The interface is beautiful.
  • It costs 19 dollars a month.
  • You can collaborate with other people.

Now, let's look at some practical examples.

How to Summarize a Book With a Mind Map

How to Use a Mind Map to Remember Everything 1

When I interviewed Chase Jarvis about his latest book, I didn't receive the book until the day before the interview. Despite reading 100 books a year, there was no way I could finish it because he packed so much value into it. And I really don't like doing interviews without reading a person's book.

I read through the book, skimmed over some parts and read others in detail. I wanted to make sure I could reference quotes and stories that he included in the book.

Normally when I read a book, I take all my highlights and add them to my second brain in Notion. But I didn't have time to do this. So, I created a mind map instead.

  • The title of the book was the center of the mind map.
  • The table of contents was the structure and I added one branch for each chapter (big ideas).
  • Relevant headings and subheads from each chapter (key concepts/takeaways).

Because I knew the underlying structure of the book, I was able to have an in-depth conversation with him about the book. Just to be clear, I'm not recommending you avoid reading the book. But this has been incredibly effective when I haven't had the time to transfer all of my notes and highlights into Notion.

How to Summarize a Podcast With a Mind Map

How to Use a Mind Map to Remember Everything 2

As weird as this sounds, I don't really listen to podcasts. Despite being the creator of one, it's not my preferred form of media consumption. But earlier this year, Naval Ravikant recorded a 3-hour podcast on "How to Get Rich." I've never recommended a piece of content to so many people.

So, I created an extensive mind map of it. This was definitely more complicated than creating a mind map of a book. I had to listen to it multiple times. And I still plan to add more to it.

Fortunately, Naval gave me a very linear structure to work with. For each major point he made, he'd support it with 3-4 additional nuggets.

  • First, I used the title of the podcast episode as my main theme.
  • Second, I used the major points as the first set of branches (big ideas).
  • Third, I used his supporting evidence as the second set of branches (key concepts).

For example, Naval said the following about how you can and can't get rich:

  • The first branch on the map (big idea) was getting rich.
  • The second branch (key concepts) were how you can and can't get rich
  • In the case of this podcast, there was so much knowledge that I kept adding branches.

How to Memorize Presentation Material With a Mind Map

How to Use a Mind Map to Remember Everything 3

In October, I gave a talk on building a more attentive workforce to the American Dental Educational Association. Because I was in India the prior month, I didn't get to rehearse as much as I would normally do.

So I decided to use a mind map to remember everything from the keynote. The structure of the mind map mirrored the structure of my talk. The central ideas of my talk were:

  • Attention as the currency of achievement
  • Managing overwhelm
  • Designing environments for change
  • Behavior change
  • Flow and high performance
  • Collaboration
  • Systems

Under each a central idea, I added a branch with the title from my slide. Then, I added word branches to remind me of the key concepts in the slide. By doing this, I could rehearse my talk in my head hundreds of times.

How I Used a Mind Map to Write This Article

The most meta example is how I used a mind map to write this article about using mind maps. The first thing I did was create a content brief with a tool called Frase.io. Frase is amazing because it gives:

  • A list of all the blog posts about the same subject
  • Topics to include in your blog post
  • Potential subheads from other posts to include in yours (I stole this subhead from another post)

The mind map for this blog post had the title of the article, the central ideas, and the various examples.

Using a mind map to remember everything has become one of the most valuable parts of my creative process. With the volume information we take in each day, a mind map is great way to separate the essential from the irrelevant.

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