I’ve read a lot about mind mapping software recently, and tried a few different tools out. But I have to say that for me, mind mapping only works if I use good old fashioned coloured pencils and a nice A5 drawing pad. When I first heard about mind mapping, there was a strong emphasis on using different creative parts of the brain to what you normally use. There was a strong emphasis on drawing and using colour (hence the coloured pencils) even if you felt (as many adults do) that you can’t draw! And believe me, I can’t draw!! But the emphasis is just on using intuition to link ideas and concepts together and whether or not your mind map looks gorgeous at the end is beside the point really!
Take this mind map for example. Pretty ordinary looking, right? But this helped me to finally write an important section of my literature review after days of struggling. I had a pile of journal articles neatly summarised and organised and sitting in piles next to me and for the life of me I could not get this article started. After several days, many false starts and lots of frustration, I suddenly hit on the idea of doing a mind map around the articles. By colour coding, drawing and linking the articles together in a seemingly random fashion, all of a sudden the big picture was crystallised in my mind. I then sat down and wrote several hundred words straight off with no problem at all.
For me, trying to do this on a computer just wouldn’t work. Maybe it’s because I first went to university pre-computer days and learnt to study by hand writing. Or maybe it’s just the way my brain works, and in the end, that’s really what matters. The best software in the world is worth nothing to me if it doesn’t suit my learning style. So, much as I use the iPad and iPhone and some fantastic software on my computer that has made studying so much easier and more productive, when it comes to mind mapping, I’m sticking to ‘free-range’!