Cut out the clutter

Use mind-mapping techniques to get the information you really need

Cut out the clutter

Today, people are bombarded with data and information at every turn — from newspapers, magazines, radio and television, colleagues and customers, to the Internet, e-mails and all kinds of social media.

E-mail has dramatically increased the workload of many employees who are overwhelmed and stressed by having to cope with hundreds of e-mails per day, some even round the clock in an age of globalisation. Even doctors find themselves having to consult with patients and their relatives via e-mail.

How can you absorb all the information you are flooded with every day? Mind-mapping techniques are a useful way to filter out relevant, accurate, verifiable, reliable and valid information for dissemination to the right parties and that can be used effectively to produce the results you want in your study, personal and work life.

1. Filter key information

Mind mapping, a technique associated with author and education consultant Tony Buzan, helps you to filter key information, read faster and comprehend more when you tap into your brain’s inter-connected and boundless thoughts. You can learn to use your memory better, improve your creativity and, hence, productivity in your task management.

Since most information is presented in a form that has to be read, be it from printed materials or electronic screens, the single most important thing you can do for yourself is to learn to read faster and manage information more efficiently.

2. Do radiant note-taking

It’s time to rethink how you take in new information: do this radiantly instead of linearly. A majority of students take notes in a standard linear fashion, yet studies have shown that 90 per cent of what people record does not aid in recall. Hence, time is wasted coprecording text that does not help you remember, and re-reading the same unnecessary words.

It is not natural for the mind to work in straight lines but in a radiant fashion linking associations in or out from different connecting points. Mr Buzan termed this “radiant thinking”.

3. Tap into your senses

The brain receives information through your five senses, with each of these senses making a series of connections by associating and linking with different ideas and concepts. The more senses you utilise, the greater your ability to recall the information. For example, you need to memorise a set of figures for a presentation. When you look at these figures, you are using your sense of vision. You then record them on a piece of paper, thus adding a sense of touch. You can  record yourself reading them aloud and play it back, adding another sense — hearing.

4. Use key words versus standard notes

A person’s recalling mechanism is based on remembering key concepts. When people describe books they’ve read or places they’ve visited, they usually outline the key concepts to include the main characters, settings, events and add descriptive detail. With just one key word or phrase, the brain can trigger a whole range of experiences and sensations. For example, think of the range of images that comes to mind when you read the word “child”.

5. Use mind maps to take notes

A mind map goes beyond a graphical presentation of information. It is a highly visual thinking tool that helps to structure information for ease of analysis, comprehension, organisation, recall and generation of ideas. When used in note-taking, its use of symbols, images and colour coding helps to distinguish words or ideas using a hierarchical tree branching radial format with ideas branching into their sub-sections.

Mind maps differ from traditional concept maps in that they focus on only one key word or idea at a time, whereas concept maps connect multiple words or ideas simultaneously.

The largest mind map project was created by Dr Mike Stanley at the Boeing Aircraft Corporation in Seattle in the US — a 25-foot-long mind map condensing an aircraft design and engineering manual from about 3,000 pages of print information. This enabled a project team of 100 senior aeronautical engineers to learn in a few weeks what would have taken them a few years previously, not to mention the considerable cost savings in printing, storage and distribution.

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