Use Both Sides of your brain
These notes are from Tony Buzan's book "Use Both Sides of your Brain".
Chapter 6 - Mind Maps introduction
Imagine your hobby is reading short stories, you read five a day, and
you keep notes so that you will not forget any of them. On each of
these cards you record key words and phrases. How would you choose the
key words? Image words? Imaginative? Evocative?
Reviewing these notes five years later may be difficult, depending on
how the words were chosen. A good key word or phrase is one which
funnels into itself a wide range of special images, and which, when it
is triggered, funnels back the same images. It will tend to be a
strong noun or verb.
A creative word is one which is particularly evocative and image
forming, but far more general than the a directed key word. Words are
'multi-ordinate' meaning that each word is like a little centre on
which there are many, many little hooks. Each hook can attach to other
Key words are essential for memory recall, forging new assocations and
recall of other experiences or sensations. Taking notes, thinking of
new ideas and summarising information is best done using association
of keywords, and not in a linear, written form.
Chapter 7 - Mind Maps - The Laws
An exercise: Prepare a half hour speech on the topic of Space Travel.
You have five minutes to complete this task. Make note of problems you
encountered in this exercise.
Linear History of Speech and Print
For the last few hundred years it has been popularly thought that
man's mind worked in a linear or list-like manner, a
falsehood based on speech and print. In speech we are restricted by
the nature of time and space to communicating one word at a time.
Recent evidence shows the brain to be far more multi-dimensional and
pattern making, suggesting that in the speech/print arguments there
must be fundamental flaws.
How does the brain which is speaking, and the brain which is receiving
the words deal with them internally? Although a single stream
of words is being processed, a continuing and enormously complex
process of sorting and selecting is taking place in
your mind during a conversation, reading a book, or listening to a
A linear presentation is not necessary for understanding and in many
cases is a disadvantage. Your mind is perfectly capable of taking in
information which is non-linear.
Your Brain and Mind-Mapping
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, then so should
our notes and word relations be structured in a similar manner.
Rather than starting from the top of a page and working down in
sentences or lists, one should start from the centre with the
main idea and branch out as dictated by the individual ideas and
general form of the theme.
A mind map has a number of advantages over the linear form of
- The centre with the main idea is more clearly defined
- The relative importance of each idea is clearly indicated. More
important ideas will be nearer the centre.
- The links between key concepts will be immediately recognised.
- Recall and review will be more effective and more rapid
- Addition of new information is easy
- Each map will look different from other maps, aiding recall
- In the more creative areas of note making, the open-ended nature
of the map will enable the brain to make new connections far more readily.
Mind Mapping Laws
With these laws in mind, try an exercise of drawing a mind map with
the following central word:
- Start with a coloured image in the centre
- Use images thoughout your Mind Map
- Words should be printed
- The printed words should be on lines, and each line should be
connected to other lines
- Words should be in 'units' one word per line, allowing each word
to have free hooks and giving more freedom and flexibility
- Use colours to enhance memory, delight the eye and stimulate the
right cortical processes
- The mind should be left as 'free' as possible. You will probably
think of ideas faster than you can write.
Chapter 8 - Mind Maps - advanced methods and uses
Advanced Mind Maps
Observing that the brain handles information better if the information
is designed to 'slot in', and observing also the information from this
chapter about the dimensional nature of the mind, it follows that
notes which are themselves more 'holographic' and creative will be far
more readily understood, appreciated and recalled.
There are many devices we can use to make such notes:
These can be used to show how concepts which appear on different parts
of a pattern are connected. The arrow can be single or multi-headed
and can show backward and forward directions.
Asterisks, exclamation marks, crosses and question marks as well as
many other indicators can be used next to words to show connection or
Squares, oblongs, circles, ellipses, etc... can be used to mark areas
or words which are similar in nature - for example triangles might be
used to show areas of possible solution in a problem-solving pattern.
Geometrcial shapes can also be used to show order of importance.
Some people, for example, prefer to use a square always for their main
centre, oblongs for the ideas near the centre, triangles for ideas of
next importance, and so on.
artistic three dimension
Each of the geometrical shapes mentioned, and many others, can be
given perspective. For example, making a square into a cube. The ideas
printed in these shapes will thus 'stand off' the page.
Creativity can be combined with the use of dimension by making aspects
of the pattern fri the topic. One man, for example, when doing a
pattern on atomic physics, used the nucleus of an atom and the
electrons that surrounded it, as the centre for his pattern.
Colour is particularly useful as a memory and creative aid. It can be
used, like arrows, to show how concepts which appear on different
parts of the pattern are connected.
It can also be used to mark off the boundaries between major areas
of a pattern.
Mind Maps and the Left and Right Cortex
Recent research, performed by Roger Sperry, Robert Ornstein and Eran
Zaidel would lead you to conclude that a note-taking and
thought-organisation technique designed to satisfy the needs of the
whole brain would have to include not only words, numbers, order,
sequence, and lines, but also colour, images, dimension, symbols.
visual rhythms,etc: in other words: Mind Maps
Mind Mapping for Speeches and Articles
Once the mind map has been completed, it is just a matter of deciding
the final order in which to present the information.
Mind Mapping for Lectures
When taking notes, especially from lectures, it is important to
remember than Key words and images are essentially
all that is needed.
In note taking, it is the content and not the look (ie tidy notes)
that is important.
Mind Mapping for Meetings
The central theme of the meeting perhaps with some sub-themes can be
presented in mind map form. giving several advantages:-
Mind Maps are an external 'photograph' of the complex
inter-relationships of your thoughts at any given time. They enable
your brain to 'see itself' more clearly, and will greatly enhance the
full range of your thinking skills: they will add increasing
competence, enjoyment, elegance and fun to your life.
- The contribution of each person is registered and recorded
- No information is lost
- The importance given to ideas will pertain more to what was said than
who said it.
- People will be speaking more to the point, thereby eliminating
digressions and long wafflings.
- After the meeting, each individual will have a Mind Mapped record and
will therefor not have lost most of what is said by the following morning
Chapter 9 - The Mind Map organic study technique (MMOST)
Old and New Study Techniques
First of all, it is necessary to start working from the individual
outwards, by teaching each person how to study most efficiently.
The Mind Map Organic Study Technique is divided into two main
sections: Preparation and Application. Each section
is divided into four sub-sections. [Draw a mind map!]
- Note Making
- Time and Amount
- Knowledge Mind Map
- Questions and Goals
Browse through the entire book or periodical under study.
Rapidly flick through the pages getting a general 'feel' of the book
as if you were contemplating buying the book or borrowing it from a
Time and Amount
Decide on the amount of time to devote to the study. Having
done this, decide what amount to cover in the time allocated.
The reason for this is based in Gestalt psychology..the human brain
has a tendency to complete things.
Making a decision about Time and Amount gives us immediate
chronological and volume terrain as well as an end-point or
goal. For example, a good lecturer will explain his starting
and ending points and indicate the time taken.
It is advisable to define physically the amount to read by placing
reasonably large paper markers at the beginning and end of the section
chosen. This eliminates the underlying fear of the unknown.
It is essential that any time period for studying be broken down in to
20 to 50 minute sections with small rests in between. These breaks are
important for the following reasons:
- The body gets a physical rest and a chance to relax
- They enable recall and understanding to 'work together' to best
- They allow a brief period of time for the just-studied information
completely to relate each part itself to the other part = to
Knowledge Mind Map
Jot down as much as you know on the subject as fast as you can. No
more than two minutes should be devoted to this exercise.
The purpose of this exercise is to improve concentration, to eliminate
wandering, and to establish a good mental set. You will become far
more attuned to the text material and less likely to be distracted.
The continued practice of recalling and integrating ideas gives
enormous advantage in situations where such abilities are essential:
examinations, impromptu speeches and answering on the spot questions.
Asking Questions and Defining Goals
Decide what you want from the book. This involved defining the
questions you want answered during the reading within the context of
A different coloured pen can be used rather than starting a new map.
A text book should never be read from page 1 through to the end...in
the same way that a jigsaw puzzle should not be attempted without
seeing the big picture of the finished piece.
When studying texts, it is important to get a good idea of what is in
them before plodding on into a learning catastrophe. You should scour
the book for all material not included in the regular body of the
- back cover
- table of contents
- marginal notes
- capitalised words
During preview, concentration should be directed to the beginnings of
paragraphs, sections, chapters, and even whole texts. Look for a
complete summary of the text ... maybe the last chapter.
In the overview and preview you should very actively select and
reject. Many people still feel obliged to read eveything in a book
even though they know it not necessarily relevant.
Inviewing the material involves 'filling in' the areas still
remaining, much the same way as completing a jigsaw puzzle.
It is better to move over particularly difficult points than
batter away at them indefinitely from one side only.
Looking at the normal historical development of any discipline, it is
found that a fairly regular series of small and logically connected
steps are interrupted by great leaps forward.
If further information is still required to complete goals, answer
questions or solve problem areas, a review stage is necessary. Fill in
those areas as yet incomplete, and reconsider those sections marked as
Text Notes and Mind Mapping
Notes while studying takes two main forms:
- Notes made on the text itself
- A growing Mind Map
Notes made on the text
The growing Mind map
Mapping the structure of the text as you progress through is very
similar to building up the picture of the jigsaw puzzle. Ideally the
bulk of Mind Map noting should take place during the latter stages of
study, as in the earlier stages it is very difficult to know what is
Start with a central image that captures the essance of what you are
The advantage of building up a Mind Map as you progress through the
study of the text is that you externalise and integrate a lot of
information that would otherwise be 'up in the air'.
Once your study programme is well under way, it is advisable to keep
enormous 'Master' Mind Maps which summarise and over-view the main
branches and structures of your subject areas.
Last updated 2nd October 2002
Mind Map main page