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How can mind mapping help with information overload?

There we were sitting in class, 22 MBA students who wanted to do their best. We had a huge case study to go through. Many pages with numbers about a company that was not doing well.

I don’t remember all the details, but one thing I do remember. All the other teams were focusing on the details. Our team approached it differently. 

mind mapping information overload

Our solution was not to be overwhelmed by the data. We took a step back and analyzed why the company was not doing well. Once we found that, we could work out a solution. We had our plan ready in just one hour. Our professor told us that we aced it.

Later on, we heard that the other teams got lost in the data and had to pull an allnighter…

I tell you this story not to breg. It offers a good insight in what you should be doing when faced with an overload of information.

Let’s have a look at how you can deal with information overload. Of course we use our beloved mind map to find a simple solution. One you can use right now to deal with your information overload.

What is Information overload

Information overload: exposure to or provision of too much information or data.

Often the overload is in places where people have to process much information on a daily basis. You can think about workplaces and in education. The information can be emails, phones calls, news, documents, books, people around you. 

When we face a (whole) lot of information, we get anxious or feel stressed. We may feel everything is important, or that we lose information when we don’t focus on it. In short… stress!

information overload

The solution of course is… don’t get too much information 🙂

When this is not possible, you have to make sure that you can regulate the information. That is where mind mapping steps into the picture…

This happens when we deal with the information overload

The first thing that happens is that your stress levels will go down. There are more things happening.

  • You will clear your mind up. First your brain was blurred and (critical) thinking was difficult. Now you can start to see things more clearly. 
  • You don’t have to mentally juggle with all your information anymore. You can focus on what is really important. 
  • Your work will be done faster! Since you stop wasting time, you can finish your task in less time. 
  • There is another big benefit of reducing information overload. You will sleep better. No more lying in bed thinking about what was, is, and will be. You have time to put your mind to rest and enjoy a good night of sleep.
  • Your general health will improve. Sure, I am no doctor. But when you have less stress your body will be able to relax and rejuvenate.

In short… what are you waiting for? Let’s get rid of this information overload right now!

How you can use this

Right, let’s get started without further ado.

There are 2 general ways to reduce the effects of information overload using mind maps.

  1. Use the map as a second brain
  2. Literally create a BIG picture outline

Here we go!

1. Use the map as a second brain

People are getting overwhelmed when confronted with too much information. The mind map helps you to reduce the impact. 

A lot of information in your brain can be pictured like this.

blurred brain with information overload

All this information is floating around in your brain. It is difficult to find a structure.

When you create a mind map, you do this:

Take a piece of information and decide what the more general topic for this piece is. Here’s an example. I want to organize everything I hear during a first meeting about my psychology courses. I outline everything under BOOKS, LECTURES, when studying take all the information,

After taking one piece, move on to the next piece of information. 

When you receive new information, you accept it (when possible) and add it to your map. After doing that, you again move on. 

The result can be this:

information overload organized in a mind map

I group related information under my 3 main topics. I also give related information between branches the same color.

Now after I did this, I can take it one step further and create this:

organized mind map

My second brain is helping me to stop juggling all that information mentally. I don’t need to remember the titles of books, dates, and more. When I get new information, I simply put it at the right place in the map.

NOTE: there is not one right place. The right location in the map is only based on the usefulness of the information in that place! Locations change when information evolves or gets updated.

2. Literally create a BIG picture outline

Using the maps above, we can also use them to understand the BIG picture. My map shows me the overall structure of the psychology courses. This helps me to know what to focus on to move forward. 

When I go through the books and visit the lectures, I can add some notes from them to the map.

The map allows me to see small details, but also the outline of what I am working on, doing or studying. 

When you add a small detail near the centre of the map, you will probably quickly change its location. Details are normally near the outside of the map. 

don’t worry about the details if you don’t understand the big picture

The result of this

In general, you will be able to take a lot of information and give it structure in the map. When looking at the first map (above), there is just as much information in it as in the second and third map. Just by outlining it differently, you simplify it for yourself.

It is so much easier to focus on a single item when you know what its place is in the whole. Also, there should be no fear of losing information since you captured it in the map. 

Your actions will have a higher impact. This reduces stress again.

But what if…

What happens when you have many documents, you hear a lot of information, you receive too email information or you have to read many books. 

Always…. ALWAYS(!!!) create a big picture overview so you can quickly put things in perspective. You can create multiple maps, but if that is the case, make sure you connect the maps with each other. 

A simple digital way to do this is by hyperlinking maps:

hyperlinks map

I said before that you can add lecture or book notes to the map. When the map is getting too big, you can always create individual maps from topics in your map.

One final note: don’t get nervous when you perhaps miss something. This will always happen. Don’t worry. Remember you will be able to capture and organize more information than before!

simplify your information until you can understand and use it

The quick answer to the question: How can mind mapping help with information overload:

Mind mapping helps you to organize and outline your information. You don’t need to memorize or worry about it. Always simplify your information, This helps you to understand and use your information. 

And as a final remark: don’t worry too much, you should use that energy in a more productive manner! 

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2 thoughts on “How can mind mapping help with information overload?”

  1. Hello and thank you for this great Mind Mapping article.

    A faithful and detailed description of the process of building and acting with mind maps. The pause time that launches the map, and gathers what I already know about a subject is also a guarantee. That of being away from a purely reactive mode, where expertise on a theme gives a feeling of power and can be a source of blindness. Especially in times of continuous change and uncertainty.

    • Thank you Denys for your comment and for sharing your thoughts

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