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What Is a Mind Map Used For? Hint: Powerful Note-Taking

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What is a mind map used for? The answer: bringing structure and organization to your thoughts. Mind map note taking is a powerful way to create a visual map of how ideas connect.

What is a Mind MapWhat is a Mind MapWhat is a Mind Map
Mind map note taking connects ideas and helps you visualize your thoughts. (Graphic source: Envato Elements.)

Gaining clarity over your thoughts is a superpower. I firmly believe that when we apply tools like mind map note taking, we make connections and tease out new ideas. Let's learn "what is a mind map used for?" and see examples in this article.

What Is a Mind Map Used For?

Who says that notes have to take a standard, boring format?

Mind map note taking is a completely different way to capture your thoughts. Instead of constraining yourself to simple bullet points or lists, mind maps take on freeform drawings with connected nodes.

The reason that mind maps work so well is because they work similarly to our brains. The neuroscientist Donald Hebb proposed this idea all the way back in 1949. Hebb's research proposes that was we learn new things, our brain forms networks between neurons. Connections fuse over time as ideas begin to relate to one another.

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Connections form in our brain when ideas link together, cementing knowledge. (Graphic source: Envato Elements.)

What is a mind map used for? It's an intuitive way of taking notes. We draw connections between ideas because it's how our minds work. The reason that mind maps work is that they mirror our thought process.

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What is a mind map? In essence, it's a note taking approach that mirrors our minds.

There are three great ways to use mind maps. What is a mind map used for?

  1. Create a mind map in real-time while listening to a lecture. If you're exploring the basics of a new idea, a mind map is a great format. To follow a lecturer or instructor, I use mind maps to create networks of ideas that need research later. I'll branch out and draw a line to a new branch, or node, for topics to research further.
  2. Use mind maps to calcify and review content. Remember, our brains work best when we review ideas over time. Learning isn't a one-time exercise. Try creating a mind map as the second method for learning new ideas.
  3. Use mind maps as a communication tool. Don't think that mind map note taking is only for yourself. I find that sharing a mind map helps others to see how my ideas connect. It's a great ice breaker to open up the free exchange of ideas.

Advantages of Mind Map Taking

If you're evaluating mind map note taking versus other methods, you might be wondering about the advantages. After all, it takes time to put your notes in a new format.

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What is a mind map used for? Creative note taking that helps you capture and share ideas.

Mind mapping is popular for a reason. Here are a few of the advantages that mind map note taking offers:

  • Mind maps feel like thoughts. I don't know about you, but my mind doesn't work in bulleted lists. It jumps between ideas, thinking about how they connect. As I reflect on something new I'm learning, I work to relate those ideas so that I remember them better. When I finish creating a mind map, I find that it feels much like my stream of consciousness.
  • Mind maps show you how ideas connect. As you capture your notes, connections between ideas naturally form. Putting them in a mind map helps you see how they connect in a way you would otherwise miss. A mind map is a way to structure this otherwise free flowing series of thoughts. 
  • Mind maps bring structure where none exists. It's easy to take a mind map and pivot it into another note format, such as an outline. It's common for me to take thoughts, put them in a mind map, then eventually re-arrange them into a format like an outline I use for an article like this!

What is a mind map used for? Easy, intuitive note taking that helps you connect ideas. Read on to see examples of mind map note taking in action. I'll even show you a simple example of how to apply mind map note taking.

How to Transform Thoughts Into a Mind Map

If you see the benefits of mind map note taking but aren't sure how to start, we've got you covered. There's no magic to creating mind maps, and you can put it into action immediately. Let's walk through a very brief example of how you can create one of your own.

I'll use PowerPoint for this mind map, but there are many apps that support mind map note taking (more on that later.) For our example, we'll use the Mind Map PowerPoint template.

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It's easy to apply mind map note taking principles with Mind Map PowerPoint templates.

Let's get started: 

1. Set Your Central Idea

The best mind maps lean on a central idea. Maybe you already have your notes written out on paper. But you can't see how the ideas in those notes fit together in a logical way. It pays to spend time scanning your notes and highlighting the key ideas while you prepare to create a mind map.

What is a mind map anchored by? One central, key idea. It serves as the focus point for all your thinking. A thesis statement guides a research paper. Likewise, a center point guides the mind map. Each time you add a new node, you'll ask yourself how it relates to that central idea.

For my example, I'm seeking to learn more about using Microsoft Excel. I'll put that as the center point on my mind map. In my example template, I simply typed over the placeholder.

Mind map center point ExcelMind map center point ExcelMind map center point Excel
Set your central idea in the middle of a mind map.

I use the center point to remind me what I'm studying. If a notes outline had a header at the top of the page, I make this same point the center of my mind map.

2. Add New Nodes

After you set the central point, it's time to work with the nodes, which are the connecting points that support the central idea.

Our placeholder slide already has many points that I'll add to. In my case, Excel is the central idea, and there are many follow-up points to explore further. I'll use each of the nodes, the branches off the center, to add another idea to explore further.

In the example below, I've filled out many of the branches with second-level ideas. This is a great way to create a page that serves as a study guide for future topics.

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Use the branching nodes to add more detail to your mind map note taking.

This is where mind maps really take off. They give me, the note taker, good reminders of what to explore next. You can even create second-level mind maps with detail for each idea. (For example, create a data analysis mind map with this idea placed at the center.)

Also, think of mind map note taking as pages to launch others' learning journey. With a mind map, you're saying "explore all these related ideas!" That's a magic way to get others interested in new topics.

3. Branch Out and Evolve

Here's the thing: your thoughts evolve. That means your mind map should evolve too. As you make new connections between ideas, adjust your mind map to match.

In the step above, I added second-level ideas. Notice that our mind map note taking template also has more placeholders labeled "your text here." You can use these to add even more detail.

Mind maps also evolve and change over time. It's a great idea to re-arrange ideas while you learn more. What I typically do is move the central ideas closer to the middle, then tangential ideas further away. With this approach, mind map note taking can guide your future studies.

For a complete guide to mind map note taking in PowerPoint, learn more below. We've got a tutorial that help you see what is a mind map used for, and how to create one of your own:

5 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps

Now that you've answered, "what is a mind map used for?", you might be wondering how to make the most of the approach. You've seen a hands-on example, and now let's review even more tips:

  1. Use software to create mind maps. Mind map note taking is easier with the help of tools, built specifically for mind map note taking. These flexible tools help you iterate on your ideas rapidly.
  2. Revise and revisit. Mind map note taking doesn't have to be a one-time exercise. As you make new associations, think of your mind map as a living document. Update and revise it with new connections as you get new thoughts.
  3. Share and collaborate on mind maps. Who says that mind map note taking is a solo act? When you include others, you'll make even more connections. Some software supports inviting other contributors to create mind maps.
  4. Focus on your key idea. The anchor point of a mind map should be the central idea, from which all other nodes branch out. This center point should always be the focus of any other nodes you add. Spend time considering what should go in the center of your mind map.
  5. Leave room to expand. If you're using pen and paper to create mind maps, leave room for it to grow by only using part of the page initially. A large, unlined piece of notebook paper is a low-tech way to create a mind map that can expand outward.

Learn more about top software for mind map note taking below. You'll see tools that help you include many of these mind mapping tips built into the software. 

The Best Source for Mind Map Note Taking Templates (With Unlimited Use)

Now you know what a mind map is used for. But maybe you still want to know more about how you can put it into action. The easiest way to start using mind map note taking is with the help of pre-built templates from Envato Elements.

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Envato Elements unlocks unlimited creative assets for one flat rate.

Elements gives you unlimited access to design assets that you can use to supplement any design process, including mind map design. One example is the ready-to-use mind map templates. You can use these in your favorite presentation software, like PowerPoint or Apple Keynote.

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Envato Elements includes countless assets, including PowerPoint templates perfect for mind map note taking.

Besides presentation templates, you'll unlock custom fonts, graphic assets, website templates, and more. If you need creative assets, it's impossible to match Elements' value. 

You Learned All About Mind Map Note Taking

What is a mind map used for? Joining ideas into a cohesive structure. You learned how to apply mind map note taking in this article to your advantage.

Don't forget that mind map note taking helps us commit ideas to memory. They lay out a study path by linking ideas together. Not only are they useful to the note taker, but they also serve a double purpose as an easy-to-share note visualization.

As we conclude, I want to give you a challenge: apply mind map note taking now. Take something you're learning and rework your notes in a mind map with these tips in mind. You might be surprised by how intuitively your notes will soon connect.

Editorial Note: This content was originally published in March 2022. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.

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