Use Both Sides of your brain

These notes are from Tony Buzan's book "Use Both Sides of your Brain".


Chapter 6 - Mind Maps introduction

Imagine your hobby is reading short stories, you read five a day, and you keep notes so that you will not forget any of them. On each of these cards you record key words and phrases. How would you choose the key words? Image words? Imaginative? Evocative?

Reviewing these notes five years later may be difficult, depending on how the words were chosen. A good key word or phrase is one which funnels into itself a wide range of special images, and which, when it is triggered, funnels back the same images. It will tend to be a strong noun or verb.

A creative word is one which is particularly evocative and image forming, but far more general than the a directed key word. Words are 'multi-ordinate' meaning that each word is like a little centre on which there are many, many little hooks. Each hook can attach to other words.

Key words are essential for memory recall, forging new assocations and recall of other experiences or sensations. Taking notes, thinking of new ideas and summarising information is best done using association of keywords, and not in a linear, written form.

Chapter 7 - Mind Maps - The Laws

An exercise: Prepare a half hour speech on the topic of Space Travel. You have five minutes to complete this task. Make note of problems you encountered in this exercise.

Linear History of Speech and Print

For the last few hundred years it has been popularly thought that man's mind worked in a linear or list-like manner, a falsehood based on speech and print. In speech we are restricted by the nature of time and space to communicating one word at a time.

Recent evidence shows the brain to be far more multi-dimensional and pattern making, suggesting that in the speech/print arguments there must be fundamental flaws.

How does the brain which is speaking, and the brain which is receiving the words deal with them internally? Although a single stream of words is being processed, a continuing and enormously complex process of sorting and selecting is taking place in your mind during a conversation, reading a book, or listening to a lecture.

A linear presentation is not necessary for understanding and in many cases is a disadvantage. Your mind is perfectly capable of taking in information which is non-linear.

Your Brain and Mind-Mapping

If the brain is to relate to information most efficiently, the information must be structured in such a way as to "slot-in" as easily as possible. It follows that if the brain works primarily with key concepts in an interlinked and integrated manner, then so should our notes and word relations be structured in a similar manner.

Rather than starting from the top of a page and working down in sentences or lists, one should start from the centre with the main idea and branch out as dictated by the individual ideas and general form of the theme.

A mind map has a number of advantages over the linear form of note-taking.

  1. The centre with the main idea is more clearly defined
  2. The relative importance of each idea is clearly indicated. More important ideas will be nearer the centre.
  3. The links between key concepts will be immediately recognised.
  4. Recall and review will be more effective and more rapid
  5. Addition of new information is easy
  6. Each map will look different from other maps, aiding recall
  7. In the more creative areas of note making, the open-ended nature of the map will enable the brain to make new connections far more readily.

Mind Mapping Laws

  1. Start with a coloured image in the centre
  2. Use images thoughout your Mind Map
  3. Words should be printed
  4. The printed words should be on lines, and each line should be connected to other lines
  5. Words should be in 'units' one word per line, allowing each word to have free hooks and giving more freedom and flexibility
  6. Use colours to enhance memory, delight the eye and stimulate the right cortical processes
  7. The mind should be left as 'free' as possible. You will probably think of ideas faster than you can write.
With these laws in mind, try an exercise of drawing a mind map with the following central word:


Chapter 8 - Mind Maps - advanced methods and uses

Advanced Mind Maps

Observing that the brain handles information better if the information is designed to 'slot in', and observing also the information from this chapter about the dimensional nature of the mind, it follows that notes which are themselves more 'holographic' and creative will be far more readily understood, appreciated and recalled.

There are many devices we can use to make such notes:


These can be used to show how concepts which appear on different parts of a pattern are connected. The arrow can be single or multi-headed and can show backward and forward directions.


Asterisks, exclamation marks, crosses and question marks as well as many other indicators can be used next to words to show connection or other 'dimensions'.

geometrical shapes

Squares, oblongs, circles, ellipses, etc... can be used to mark areas or words which are similar in nature - for example triangles might be used to show areas of possible solution in a problem-solving pattern.

Geometrcial shapes can also be used to show order of importance. Some people, for example, prefer to use a square always for their main centre, oblongs for the ideas near the centre, triangles for ideas of next importance, and so on.

artistic three dimension

Each of the geometrical shapes mentioned, and many others, can be given perspective. For example, making a square into a cube. The ideas printed in these shapes will thus 'stand off' the page.

creativity images

Creativity can be combined with the use of dimension by making aspects of the pattern fri the topic. One man, for example, when doing a pattern on atomic physics, used the nucleus of an atom and the electrons that surrounded it, as the centre for his pattern.


Colour is particularly useful as a memory and creative aid. It can be used, like arrows, to show how concepts which appear on different parts of the pattern are connected.

It can also be used to mark off the boundaries between major areas of a pattern.

Mind Maps and the Left and Right Cortex

Recent research, performed by Roger Sperry, Robert Ornstein and Eran Zaidel would lead you to conclude that a note-taking and thought-organisation technique designed to satisfy the needs of the whole brain would have to include not only words, numbers, order, sequence, and lines, but also colour, images, dimension, symbols. visual rhythms,etc: in other words: Mind Maps

Mind Mapping for Speeches and Articles

Once the mind map has been completed, it is just a matter of deciding the final order in which to present the information.

Mind Mapping for Lectures

When taking notes, especially from lectures, it is important to remember than Key words and images are essentially all that is needed.

In note taking, it is the content and not the look (ie tidy notes) that is important.

Mind Mapping for Meetings

The central theme of the meeting perhaps with some sub-themes can be presented in mind map form. giving several advantages:- Mind Maps are an external 'photograph' of the complex inter-relationships of your thoughts at any given time. They enable your brain to 'see itself' more clearly, and will greatly enhance the full range of your thinking skills: they will add increasing competence, enjoyment, elegance and fun to your life.

Chapter 9 - The Mind Map organic study technique (MMOST)

Old and New Study Techniques

First of all, it is necessary to start working from the individual outwards, by teaching each person how to study most efficiently. The Mind Map Organic Study Technique is divided into two main sections: Preparation and Application. Each section is divided into four sub-sections. [Draw a mind map!]

  1. Preparation
    1. Browse
    2. Time and Amount
    3. Knowledge Mind Map
    4. Questions and Goals
  2. Application
    1. Overview
    2. Preview
    3. Inview
    4. Review


Browse through the entire book or periodical under study. Rapidly flick through the pages getting a general 'feel' of the book as if you were contemplating buying the book or borrowing it from a library.
Time and Amount
Decide on the amount of time to devote to the study. Having done this, decide what amount to cover in the time allocated. The reason for this is based in Gestalt psychology..the human brain has a tendency to complete things.

Making a decision about Time and Amount gives us immediate chronological and volume terrain as well as an end-point or goal. For example, a good lecturer will explain his starting and ending points and indicate the time taken.

It is advisable to define physically the amount to read by placing reasonably large paper markers at the beginning and end of the section chosen. This eliminates the underlying fear of the unknown.

It is essential that any time period for studying be broken down in to 20 to 50 minute sections with small rests in between. These breaks are important for the following reasons:

Knowledge Mind Map
Jot down as much as you know on the subject as fast as you can. No more than two minutes should be devoted to this exercise.

The purpose of this exercise is to improve concentration, to eliminate wandering, and to establish a good mental set. You will become far more attuned to the text material and less likely to be distracted.

The continued practice of recalling and integrating ideas gives enormous advantage in situations where such abilities are essential: examinations, impromptu speeches and answering on the spot questions.

Asking Questions and Defining Goals
Decide what you want from the book. This involved defining the questions you want answered during the reading within the context of the goals.

A different coloured pen can be used rather than starting a new map.


A text book should never be read from page 1 through to the the same way that a jigsaw puzzle should not be attempted without seeing the big picture of the finished piece.

When studying texts, it is important to get a good idea of what is in them before plodding on into a learning catastrophe. You should scour the book for all material not included in the regular body of the print.

During preview, concentration should be directed to the beginnings of paragraphs, sections, chapters, and even whole texts. Look for a complete summary of the text ... maybe the last chapter.

In the overview and preview you should very actively select and reject. Many people still feel obliged to read eveything in a book even though they know it not necessarily relevant.

Inviewing the material involves 'filling in' the areas still remaining, much the same way as completing a jigsaw puzzle.

It is better to move over particularly difficult points than batter away at them indefinitely from one side only.

Looking at the normal historical development of any discipline, it is found that a fairly regular series of small and logically connected steps are interrupted by great leaps forward.

If further information is still required to complete goals, answer questions or solve problem areas, a review stage is necessary. Fill in those areas as yet incomplete, and reconsider those sections marked as noteworthy.

Text Notes and Mind Mapping

Notes while studying takes two main forms:
  1. Notes made on the text itself
  2. A growing Mind Map

Notes made on the text

The growing Mind map

Mapping the structure of the text as you progress through is very similar to building up the picture of the jigsaw puzzle. Ideally the bulk of Mind Map noting should take place during the latter stages of study, as in the earlier stages it is very difficult to know what is definitely note-worthy.

Start with a central image that captures the essance of what you are studying.

The advantage of building up a Mind Map as you progress through the study of the text is that you externalise and integrate a lot of information that would otherwise be 'up in the air'.

Once your study programme is well under way, it is advisable to keep enormous 'Master' Mind Maps which summarise and over-view the main branches and structures of your subject areas.

Last updated 2nd October 2002

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