You may have heard these stories about mind mapping. It sounds like it is some sort of magical method for outlining, summarizing, and understanding your information.
But can mind maps and mind mapping deliver on that promise? Do mind maps work for students? These are important questions I will answer in this article.
To give you a short answer to the question if mind maps work when studying… Yes! Mind mapping can definitely help you to outline, understand, and memorize. There is however a smart way of doing this, and a very unproductive method of using mind maps.
It is important to understand that there are many ways you can create mind maps. The smart ways help you to get the most out of your study materials in the least amount of time. You become truly a productive learner using it. Let’s dive in...
To understand if mind mapping techniques are useful for students, we first have to answer this question…
What is the purpose of mind mapping?
The purpose of mind mapping depends on who you ask. A smart student probably wants mind mapping to be a tool that helps when studying. It should clarify and store information. A person who loves mind mapping may want to spend a lot of time creating and perfecting a mind map.
There is a huge difference between these two people in their approach to mind mapping. The smart learner uses mind mapping as a tool. The second person has a goal of creating a really good-looking mind map.
As a student or adult learner, you don't have a lot of time to waste. The moment you try to create a good-looking mind map... you will probably lose a lot of time.
Let me try and read your mind. You don't want to waste time. You want to study as efficiently as possible. You want more personal time and still pass your exams.
To do that, you have to create practical mind maps. These are maps that help you to create order and overview in your information. The map doesn’t have to look good. As long as it helps you store and outline your information. When it looks good, that is a side benefit 🙂
Start using mind maps this way. Work on becoming a skilled (study) information manager. When you do that, you can fly through your book and create clarity for yourself. This will result in easier studying and probably higher grades!
Oh… and when you do feel a map should look nicer, you can use the last couple of minutes of a study session for doing that. There is absolutely no problem with doing that. As long as you don’t fall into the trap of creating maps that look good first, and have great content outlining second.
Having said that…
Does mind mapping really work?
Are mind maps good for studying? Do adult learners benefit from using mind maps?
I think you already know the answer to this question. Here is my take on it:
Mind mapping can be a wonderful addition to your smart study techniques. That is, when you keep it simple and practical. The moment you don’t do this, you will find yourself losing time and not having a clear overview of your books. Make sure you keep things simple!
Again, mind mapping is a tool. You should use it accordingly.
You should probably use mind mapping for outlining your book and for seeing the bigger picture in your new knowledge.
You can use the mind map as a tool to memorize your information. The unproductive way is to look at the map and think “I know that, and that…, and that..”. This is way too passive.
It is much smarter to take a blank sheet of paper, and re-create the map you have without looking at the original.
But there is a better way...
A much better way of memorizing information could be by using active recall, or by using flashcards.
The most important thing a smart adult learner does is know when to use a mind map, and when not.
In general, I think a mind map is a great tool for capturing and outlining lots of information. Mind mapping isn’t the best method for memorizing.
There are many very powerful methods for memorizing information. Mind mapping isn't a core tool for me in that. You should look into methods like a memory palace, pegging systems, active recall, and more for improving your memory.
You can also use mind maps for structuring your essays, thoughts, and getting better insight in ideas and concepts.
So there you have it. Mind mapping can work really well for students (of all ages), as long as you use them in a smart way.
Action Points to take right now
You’ve learned that mind mapping is a good tool for helping you outline information and for creating understand and insight from the information.
You should not waste a lot of time creating nice-looking mind maps. Use it the way you use a hammer. You know when to put the hammer down and pick up a screwdriver. Don’t try to hammer screws in. Use it wisely and do it quickly.
Here’s what I like you to do with this information:
- Create a mind map (look here if you want to learn how to make a mind map)
- Make mind maps in as little time as possible (this saves time and helps you focus)
- Don’t try to create fancy or pretty mind maps. Keep things simple
When you do this, you will be able to benefit from mind mapping.
If things don’t work out for you when studying… let me know and I will help you out.