We take our tools for granted.
I’d like to share the most useful tool I have ever used. I still use it everyday. You can use it with any operating system: Windows, Mac, Linux, and even – and I know how outdated this is – the pencil and paper.
Tony Buzan told us 50 years ago that we think in pictures rather than in words. He developed a concept known as mind mapping. You might know it as spider mapping. I think of it as cheating. Legally, of course.
I first used it back in 1975 as I was desperately trying to complete my Matric exam with some dignity. I ended the mid-year exams with four “D”, one “E”, and one “G”, but that was for Latin, which I still don’t speak well. This was not enough to get into UCT Medical School.
I used this tool (back then the only operating system was pencil and paper) and a six months later I matriculated with five “B” results, and a “D” for Latin. That was enough to get me into first year Med School.
In the six months prior to the exams I encapsulated every textbook on a single page. This which made revising quite easy. I’m telling you this now because if you have children in school, this might be a useful tool for this year. It certainly was for my daughter back at Rhenish in standard eight when she was struggling.
I found it strange that this particular learning technique, which revolutionised my life, wasn’t being taught by the school. We were being stuffed with facts, but with no way to put them into perspective.
Imagine a textbook. It consists of chapters. Each chapter is broken up into sections. And the chapter and the sections are full of words. The textbook comprises 300 pages of words. But most of us don’t read words nearly as well as we grasp pictures. I know this because many of my Matric compatriots didn’t read any of the setwork books during their entire high school career, preferring to gather their literary education through comics, picture books of the classics.
So, how to get context from a textbook? (Bear with me, because this tool is not just for study, but I will come to that in a moment.)
You start by quickly encapsulating the name of each chapter in a one page mindmep. That takes just a few minutes. You now have a small star in the middle of the page. Then for each chapter you list the key sections. This makes that small star look like a small explosion. And then for each section you list the key issues. That’s one page covering the entire book. Only then do you start reading the book. At this point you have context.
Then, for each chapter you create its own mind map, this one more detailed than the previous one which encompassed all the chapters. This allows you to store to far more detail.
At the end of your studies you will end up with one page for the book, and one page for each chapter, each a mix of your own interpretation, your own terse notes about the content.
When you hit the exams, for each question, you simply recall the picture for that segment, and draw the map on your exam paper. In my day that map alone with the key points was worth a bunch of points. Then you write through the points and complete the essay/answer/review/analysis/comparison and impress the heck out of the examiners.
But this tool is not just for exams. It’s also for taking notes in any situation. I use it when I’m talking to clients. Instead of writing up the words in long sentences, I use a page for each discussion, simply noting the points discussed. It’s rough, but it’s very easy to remember later. People tell me I have a great memory. I think it’s because I use a pencil every time I talk to anybody.
It’s great for analysing competitors, strengths, weaknesses, and so on. It’s great for analysing the features of a product, and then deriving the benefits that a prospect will get, as well as working out how much money that person is likely to save using your product.
It’s great for planning, so when I planned the Earnster.Ninja sysllabus I created a simple picture, one “branch” for each week, and then each branch opens into more detail.
You can download Freemind here for free for your own PC, or just grab the nearest pencil and get started right now.