In the last article, you learned about how to make a mind map. Basically, you start with the main topic in the middle. Then you branch out with sub-topics. From there, you add lower level topics.
You saw this done with a real-world example of learning about atoms. In the example, we put ‘Atom’ in the middle as the main topic. Around that, we listed the main components of an atom – ‘proton,’ ‘neutron,’ and ‘electron’ – as the subtopics. Around each subtopic, we listed the properties of each particle as lower level topics.
In this example, it was easy to figure out what to use as subtopics – proton, neutron, and electron – as these are the main parts of an atom, so it makes sense to use them as the main branches.
The thing is, determining how to break up and organize information into sub and lower level topics is not always this easy and straightforward.
Information comes to us so many ways and can be organized so many ways. As a result, there are so many ways you can organize branches in a mind map. In fact the combinations are infinite.
For example, if you are studying 20th Century European history, you can set up branches by timeline, leaders, or events. And within these branches, there are so many ways to further organize the info.
This is both the beauty & challenge of mind maps.
It’s beautiful because it works with how each person understands the information.
At the same time, it’s challenging because how do you choose connections that describe what it is truly being communicated?
You can’t just make random connections (although random connections are still better than no connections).
And that’s what this article will address – the different ways to organize, categorize, and structure information within a mind map.
For the most part, it will depend on what you are learning.
Again, for history, you might create subtopics by timeline, leaders, or events. Using the Revolutionary War as an example, to organize by timeline, you might start by creating a subtopic for each year of the war – ‘1776’, ‘1777’, ‘1778’… To organize by leaders, that might branch with ‘George Washington,’ and ‘Thomas Jefferson,’ Major events can include the signing of the ‘Declaration of Independence’ or the battle of ‘Lexington and Concord.’
Or you might choose a combination of these.
With science, time period or leaders are not as relevant, so you’ll look at other ways to break up and organize your map. For example, to note a process like the water cycle, you can organize a mind map by each step in the process. With layers or levels, like that of the Earth’s atmosphere or crust, each layer can have its own branch. Or, as in our previous example, if you’re studying parts, like the parts of an atom, each part can be a subtopic.
If your goal is instead to note instructions at work, one option is to set subtopics based on steps, such as ‘step 1,’ ‘step 2,’ ‘step 3.’ Another option is by activity or job function. Or you might organize subtopics by departments or due dates.
These are some suggestions on how to organize information.
Setting up subtopics is like investing, there is no one strategy to be successful. You can use many different strategies. It’s all about how you see the information or what makes most sense to you.
In the next article, you will learn another key ingredient to the mind map recipe – Keywords.
They are a unique feature to mind maps, and can drastically reduce the words you use to take notes, and therefore the time needed to take and review them.