Key Words on Mind Maps
Friend or Foe?

Key Words on Mind Maps

After reading Tony Buzan’s Use your head for the first time, I was armed with the ‘power’ of Key Words on Mind Maps. Key Words would save me 90% of the time wasted when recording information and it would save another 90% when recalling information.

I would be able to recall large volumes of information by just recalling a few Key Words that would trigger the unlimited capacity of my brain.

Yet, a few weeks after doing my beautiful, coloured, organic Mind Map, I could not recall the content at all. I even started to question whether I had the correct Mind Map in front of me. But how could that be? The central image was strong and represented the topic. What happened?

The answer is quite simple: I chose the incorrect Key Words when taking the notes.

The Key Words were the first that came to mind and produced great visual images, but each time I looked at them, different images were recalled.

The same thing happened when I took the minutes of an important meeting. The meeting needed minutes to be recorded in a linear format and had to accurately reflect what happened.

The Mind Map that I drew, while beautiful, did not enable me to recall the events accurately. I had to rely on my other memory faculties, and the help of others, to recall what was said, and the actions that were to be taken, when the linear notes had to be produced, as is often the case.

I reviewed Tony Buzan’s Key Word principles over and over again, and while I knew the principles backwards, I battled to apply them in the moment. Choosing the correct Key Words in the moment proved too difficult for me.

Were Mind Maps only for the few whole brained geniuses out there? People like Tony Buzan, who holds the worlds highest creative IQ, and headed up MENSA, the society of super nerds and geeks?

The ease of using Mind Maps was simply too good to ignore. I had to find a way that worked for me.

To solve my problem, I started to use more words on my Mind Maps, not limiting myself to one Key Word per branch. This made my Mind Maps much easier to read after the fact. But, I lost  a lot of the benefits of Mind Maps. My Mind Maps were just becoming another form of linear notes, just structured differently. I simply had to reduce the number of words on my Mind Maps.

I simply asked myself the question: ‘What is the minimum number of words I could use to accurately recall the information, if I looked at the Mind Map a week, month, or even a year later?’

I then came up with a solution that consisted of a strong noun/verb combination with a minimum of adjectives.

Each branch had to bring back one idea, concept or piece of information. This often turns out to be a contracted form of the Topic Sentence in a paragraph, with secondary branches containing details.

This led to me being able to share my Mind Maps with others. They could easily read and understand what I recorded.

Out of this, the concept of a Mind Map Tutor was born. I was now able to teach new subjects with a set of Mind Maps as the main source of notes. I also encouraged learners to make their own Mind Map Tutors of subjects when they are learning, ensuring that they could remember the maximum amount of information with the least amount of effort.

Returning to Key Words

I often return to Tony Buzan’s basic principles of one Key Word per branch, as I still believe it is still the most effective and efficient way of recording information.

But, not being a genius, I often have to do this from a Mind Map that contains multiple words per line. It has to be a ‘second pass’ Mind Map. But that’s okay, as creating the second Mind Map helps me revise and enforce the principles even deeper into my long term memory.

I’ve been in many heated debates over the years about this and while many of the arguments become academic, the practicalities of my method works for me and many of my followers.

I found the genius of One Key Word Per Branch to especially effective in any creative effort, e.g. writing, brainstorming, or sitting for ideas.

I am keen to hear your feedback. Use our Contact Form, or even tell us your story. We will gladly publish it.


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