The brain and advanced noting

If the brain is to relate to information most efficiently the information must be structured in such a way as to 'slot in' as easily as possible. It follows that if the brain works primarily with key concepts in an interlinked and integrated manner, our notes and our word relations should in many instances be structured in this way rather than in traditional 'lines'.

Rather than starting from the top and working down in sentences or lists, one should start from the centre or main idea and branch out as dictated by the individual ideas and general form of the central theme.

Fig35 Initial ideasjotted around a centre. See text thispage.

A mind map such as that outlined in fig 35 has a number of advantages over the linear form of note taking.

1 The centre or main idea is more clearly defined.

2 The relative importance of each idea is clearly indicated.

Fig35 Initial ideasjotted around a centre. See text thispage.

More important ideas will be nearer the centre and less important ideas will be near the edge.

3 The links between the key concepts will be immediately recognisable because of their proximity and connection.

4 As a result of the above, recall and review will be both more effective and more rapid.

5 The nature of the structure allows for the easy addition of new information without messy scratching out or squeezing in, etc.

6 Each map made will look and be different from each other map. This will aid recall.

7 In the more creative areas of note making such as essay preparations etc, the open-ended nature of the map will enable the brain to make new connections far more readily.

In connection with these points, and especially with the last one, you should now do an exercise similar to your space travel speech notes at the beginning of this chapter, but this time using a mind map rather than the more linear methods.

In the space provided on page 94 branch out in the manner indicated in figure 35 in preparation for a speech on 'Myself.

While doing this exercise a number of things should be noted.

1 Words should be printed in capitals. For reading-back purposes a printed map gives a more photographic, more immediate, and more comprehensive feed-back. The little extra time that it takes to print is amply made up for in the time saved when reading back.

2 The printed words should be on lines, and each line should be connected to other lines. This is to guarantee that the mind map has basic structure.

3 Words should be in 'units', i.e. one word per line. This leaves each word more free hooks and gives note-taking more freedom and flexibility

4 In creative efforts of this nature the mind should be left as 'free' as possible. Any 'thinking' about where things should go or whether they should be included will simply slow down the process. The idea is to recall everything your mind thinks of around the central idea. As your mind will generate ideas faster than you can write, there should be almost no pause - if you do pause you will probably notice your pen or pencil dithering over the page. The moment you notice this get it back down and carry on. Do not worry about order or organisation as this will in many cases take care of itself. If it does not, a final ordering can be completed at the end of the

Start the exercise now.

Although this first attempt at mapping may have been a little difficult, you will probably have noticed that the experience is quite different from that of the first exercise, and that the problems too may have been quite different.

Problems often noted in the first exercise include;

order organisation logical sequence time distribution beginning emphasis of ideas ending mental blocking

These problems arise because people are attempting to select the main headings and ideas one after the other, and are attempting to put them into order as they go - they are trying to order a structure of speech without having considered all the information available. This will inevitably lead to confusion and the problems noted, for new information which turns up after the first few items might suddenly alter the whole outlook on the subject. With a linear approach this type of happening is disruptive, but with the map approach it is simply part of the overall process, and can be handled properly.

Another disadvantage of the list-like method is that it operates against the way in which the brain works. Each time an idea is thought of it is put on the list and forgotten while a new idea is searched for. This means that all the multi-ordinate and associative possibilities of each word are cut off and boxed away while the mind wanders around in search of another new idea.

With the map approach each idea is left as a totally open possibility, so that the map grows organically and increasingly, rather than being stifled.

You might find it interesting to compare your efforts so far with the efforts of three school children. Seefigs36 to 38.

Figure 36, page 102 shows the normal writing of a fourteen-year-old boy who was described as reasonably bright, but messy, confused, and mentally disorganised. The example of his linear writing represents his 'best notes' and explains clearly why he was described as he was. The mind map of English which he completed in five minutes shows almost completely the reverse, suggesting that we can often misjudge a child by the method in which we require him to express himself.

Figure 37, page 103 is the mind map of a boy who twice failed O level Economics and who was described by the teacher as having enormous thinking and learning problems combined with an almost total lack of knowledge of his subject. The map which also was completed in five minutes, shows quite the reverse.

Figure 38, page 104 is a mind map done by an A Level grammar school girl on pure Mathematics. When this map was shown to a Professor of Mathematics he estimated that it was done by a University Honours student and that it probably took two days to complete. In fact it took the girl only twenty minutes. The map enabled her to display an extraordinary creativity in a subject which is normally considered dry, dull and oppressive. It could have been even better if each line had contained only 'units' of words instead of phrases. Her use of form and shape to augment the words will give an indication of the diversity possible in these structures. The following chapter extends this idea.

The mind maps on pages 97-100 represent a new method for noting.

There are four of them, and they summarise the first four chapters of the book.

A fifth page has been left blank for you to create a mind map of Chapter 5 for yourself.

In these mind maps key words and images are linked to each other around a main centre (in these cases, the overall theme of a chapter), and a mental picture is built up of an entire thought structure.

• The theory and method for making these patterned notes is fully outlined in sections B and C of chapter 4, starting on page 86.

• Use the notes for each chapter as a preview ofwhat is to come; they will make the reading of the chapter easier.

• After finishing a chapter, look at its patterns once again. This will serve as a good review, and will help you to remember what you have read.


Draw your own mind map of chapter five i] 9/stXi Wo- T^w ft tMMrfTty tCtturf^ ^

Fig36 The 'best notes' in linear writing of a 14 year-old boy, and his mind map notes on English. See textpage 95.

Fig37 Mind map by a boy who twice failed O level Economics. See text page 95.

Personal Notes

C: Mind maps - advanced methods and uses


• Models for the brain

• Technology and new insights into ourselves

• The left and right brain and mind mapping

• Advanced techniques

• Wider application of patterning techniques

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