Mind Mapping is of course a skill and if you want to reap the benefits of it then you need to practice it until it becomes second nature.
When you first start to use Mind Maps you will feel awkward and clumsy at first because you are doing something in a different way to the method you have used so far in your life. Now just because it feels awkward, does not mean that it is wrong, just that it is different.
For example cross your arms right now, take a few moments and look down to see how your arms are folded across your body and notice which hand is on top.
Now unfold your arms and then re-fold them but this time put the OTHER hand on top. How does that feel? I bet that feels really uncomfortable.
Well of course it does because you have been used to doing it the other way for so long that this way seems not right.
This is the same with Mind Mapping. You were taught to write at school by copying letters, then basic words, then simple sentences and then more complex and longer sentences. You have gotten used to taking notes using longhand.
Best Mind Mapping Practices
So now when I encourage you to use Mind Maps which focus on keywords, pictures, a radiant branch-like structure and the use of colour, something completely different to “normal”, then it will feel strange.
However please believe me that the benefits are worth it and I encourage you to practice Mind Mapping as much as you can until it feels “normal”. You will especially need to develop and practice the ability to take Mind Map Notes from the spoken word which is an essential use of the tool for meetings and taking notes in class. So how do you do that?
Well here is a really good way of practicing and developing the skill where it doesn’t really matter if you make mistakes (which is a fabulous way of learning).
Take a large piece of paper, some coloured pens and something to lean on and go and watch the television. In particular go and watch the evening news program (not one of the 24 hour news stations like Fox, CNN or the BBC). Your task is to try and Mind Map what is covered on the news program.
At the start of the program the news reader will read out the headlines of the major stories they will be covering. Straight away you have your main branches for your Mind Map so quickly add these to your central image (it will be a good idea to have this already drawn in the centre of your page before you start).
Then as the news reader works their way through each story, just add the details of the story to the relevant branch using keywords and pictures.
This is what you will find when you first do this.
You will be absolutely swamped with data and information, names, places, issues statistics coming at you at a very rapid rate. You will struggle to keep up with the flow of stuff coming at you and very quickly your Mind Map will start to look like a heaving mess. The early parts will be in different colours but then as you started to get overwhelmed with so much knowledge you stuck to just one colour to save time changing pens.
You might even be out of breath.
Now all this is good because at the moment your brain (and your writing hand) will not know what has hit it and it is likely you might have given up half way through (not quite so good but understandable).
There are a number of reasons for this. First of all the news is a content rich information source packed full of data with very little paddling delivered extremely quickly to satisfy the relatively short attention span of the average viewer and get things across as quick as possible to capitalise on the very expensive air time costs. Secondly you are not used to Mind Mapping.
The idea of this exercise is to stretch you a little (ok maybe more than a little) and take your Mind Mapping abilities beyond the comfort zone. I’d encourage you to do this at least 7 days in a row for at least a 20 minute news program. After a week of practice like this, you will be capturing more and you will have better Mind Maps but it will still be stretching you.
Testing Mind Maps
However, when you come to sit in a lecture or a meeting and start Mind Mapping what people are saying in those environments you will find that the pace is sooooooo slow compared to the news and you will find it extremely easy to Mind Map what is going on.
By stretching your brain (and hand) with vast amounts of information at a very high rate, it has begun to adjust to the higher rate so that anything slower by comparison will appear MUCH slower to you.
Try this practice exercise anytime you feel your Mind Mapping skills need brushing up. By the way, you don’t use news services like CNN etc to do this because their coverage tends to be a continuous but slower stream of information about the current top stories. You want a punchy news program of about 30 minutes where they have to get everything in.
A variant on this exercise is to listen to a news program on the radio which will really enhance your listening skills. And if you record it too, you can follow how your Mind Map has developed after you have done it by playing back the recording.
Try it and let me know how you get on.