This One Tool Can 10X Your Memory and Learning Ability— Mind Map Mastery by Tony Buzan

Mind Map Mastery — Amazon

About Mind Map Mastery

How do you learn something quickly and well? You need a way to hold and process information, of course. But you find that standard notetaking is not the most effective way to memorize and understand things. Instead, have you tried mind maps?

Mind Map Mastery is a short but helpful book written by the inventor of mind maps himself, Tony Buzan. Buzan describes how mind maps work (by mimicking the way the brain thinks), what makes a mind map a mind map (and other mapping techniques that are similar, but not the same), and how you can use mind maps (not just for academic subjects, but for making life decisions, resolving conflict, etc.

I personally use the mind mapping system as a daily/weekly planner, and am experimenting with using it for other topics as well.


Buzan first created mind maps after studying psychology, neurophysiology, neurolinguistics, semantics, information theory, memory, perception, and creative thinking. He found that linear thinking study methods weren’t helping.

Fun fact: The human brain has 100 billion brain cells.

Introduction: Why is This Book Needed?

The Mind Map is a thinking tool, an innovative form of note-taking. Buzan invented it in the 1960s by looking for a way to make simple connections between key words for easy memorization.

The Greeks invented a memory system using imagination and associations such as the method of loci — the Memory Palace Tecnique. (Improving memory by choosing locations and forming mental images of things they want to remember, storied in a particular order in the visualized places).

The Major System, developed by German Johann Winckelmann in the 1600s, which involves turning numbers into phonetic sounds that can become words to furnish a Memory Palace.

Buzan studied how Greeks used color to link related concepts. Simple blue or black ink on white paper is boring and causes the brain to go to sleep. Then he added the concept of pctures after meeting Lorraine Gill, landscape artist.

Buzan came up with many ideas while taking walks in nature:

As we humans are part of nature, our thinking and note-taking ought to reflect nature too in some way.

  • Conventional note-taking: linear, monochrome, word-based, listed logic, sequential, restrictive, disorganized
  • Mind Mapping: multi-faceted, colorful, words + pictures, associated logic, multidimensional, imaginative, analytical

Chapter 1. What is a Mind Map?

Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain popularized the notion of the brain’s divided way of thinking.

The left side of the brain is verbal/analytical, and the right side is visual/perceptual.

How to get started with mind mapping. You will need:

  • A large sheet of white paper
  • A bunch of colored pens and pencils
  • Imagination and a subject you want to explore

A good mind map needs 3 things:

  1. A central image that capturese the main subject
  2. Thick branches that radiate out from the central image
  3. A single key image or word on each branch

How to draw your mind map:

  1. Place the paper in front of you in landscape/horizontal format. Use at least 3 colors to draw a central image of the subject you are considering.
  2. Pick a color and draw/shade in a thick branch growing from the central image, like a tree branch. Let the branch curve organically to be more visually engaging/interesting to your brain.
  3. Label the branch with a single word in all caps. OR draw a picture that represents that word.
  4. Draw secondary shoots from the main branch, then tertiary branches from the secondary shoots and draw symbols, write keywords, or both, on each branch. Each symbol has its own branch. Feel free to leave some branches empty at first to inspire your brain to fill them in.
  5. Pick another color and create another branch from the central image. You can go clockwise. Or not. Whatever. Now add 2ndary and 3iary branches. Keep doing this until you have 5–6 main branches.
  6. Now that you have branches, move freely around from branch to branch, adding sub-branches as ideas/associations occur
  7. Optional: add arrows/links/curving lines between branches to reinforce connectiosn between them.

Mind maps involve both sides of the brain and can be used for memory, creativity, learning, and all f orms of thinking. It’s a “Swiss Army knife for the brain.”

Radial thinking

Your primary language isn’t your native tongue, but the way the brain works — aka imagination, association, location. When you are given the word “pineapple” your brain immediately gives you a picture of a pineapple (and probably other things like texture, taste, scent, location), not the letters p-i-n-e-a-p-p-l-e.

All human languages are secondary languages to the primary language, the way the brain thinks, in a radiant fashion — a number of radials that subdivide into an infinite number of radials.

Socrates valued unpacking an idea, layer by layer, sticking with an argument through all its ramifications. This is what underlies the concept of the Mind Map.

This basic intrinsic language can be externalized — as a mind map.

Linear thinking — adding items to a list in a linear sequences — limits your thinking. The further you go down a list, the more your thinking dwindles until you stop. The brain doesn’t think in lists.


Color correlates to the right side of the brain, while words are left-brain. Colors stimulate memory and creativity. They also:

  • Capture attention
  • Improve comprehension
  • Ignite motivation
  • Increase mental processing and image storage

Isolation Effect: German Hedwig von Restorff discovered that people better remembered items that stood out from their surroundings in some way (ex: highlighting in orange)


We usually learn to draw before we learn to write. Images have immediacy — the brain processes them 60Kx faster than text. Psychologists Haber and Nickerson proved “a picture is worth a thousand words.”


Single words pack more punch than a phrase.

In general, one word per branch on a mind map. If you do use a phrase on a mind map, brak it down so each word is separate on the branch and can sprout sub-branches.


Philosopher Boethius used treelike diagrams (see Arbor Porphyriana) to explore categories.

Leonardo da Vinci also had notes using sketches, symbols, and words.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. — Albert Einstein

Physicist Richard Feynman also introduced Feynman diagrams tovisualize subatomic particles.

What mind maps do:

  • Offer clarity and overview of a subject
  • Give you info to help you plan ahead
  • Provide a full review of a situation
  • Act as a massive info storehouse
  • Activate your imagination
  • Be pleasnat to look at
  • Helps with thinking, learning, concentrating, organizing, planning, communicating, speaking, leading, training, negotiating

The 2014 Nobel Prize went to cognitive neuroscientists who studied grid cells, specialized brain cells that work with place cells and the hippocampus to create a mental map of a person’s location in their environment. Grid cells can help with episodic memory.

Sample mindmap from wiki commons

Chapter 2. How to Mind Map

When you make mind maps, stay lighthearted, colorful, interesting. Play helps activate the imagination.

Rules for mindmaps:

  • Use a horizontal piece of blank paper (because horizontal is easier to absorb at a glance)
  • Use images, symbols, codes, and colors
  • Keywords are written in ALL CAPS. Subbranches can be a mix of upper or lower-case.
  • Each word/image has its own branch (these main category branches are called Basic Ordering Ideas — BOIs)
  • Radiate branches out, making branches thicker toward the center and thinner as they radiate
  • Branches should be the same length as the words/images on them
  • Use arrows and connecting lines to depict associations
  • Remember that the space between things is often as important as the things themselves

Considering your mind map objectives as you begin:

  • What are the most important 7 categories in the topic under consideration?
  • If this was a book, what would its chapter headings be?
  • What questions do you need to ask? (What, where, who, how, which, when)
  • What subcategories can you divide your topic into?
  • Consider things like: structure, function, properties, processes, evaluation, definitions, classification, history, personalities

Mind maps are about getting ideas down fast so think of pictures as shorthand to represent the essence of your deepest thinking.

Make your images as clear as possible…a clear image will lead to a clear response.

Play with words as well. Choose a good single keyword.

Youo can also surround and separate branches and subbranches with colorful boundaries in the form of wavy lines/cloud-like bubbles. This is based on the idea by George Armitage Miller, 1956, the Magical Number 7+2.

Remember the larger an item, the greater its visual impact and the more likely you’ll recall it.

Exercise: What 6 aspects would you choose to make a mind map representing key areas in your life? Mind maps are also great for achieving personal goals. Then you can hang up your mind map to remind yourself of your dreams.

What else can you use mind maps for?

  • Weekly plans
  • Brainstorming gifts
  • Improving relationships
  • Research a topic
  • Time management
  • Writing an annual report for work
  • Speech prep
  • Essay planning
  • Learning a new skill
  • Health planning

Remember: never cross out anything on a mind map. And keep mapping sessions to 20 minute bursts to keep your brain relaxed and fresh.

If you Mind Map your thoughts, you can think better!

A mind map mirrors the mind’s inner workings.

Creative thinking isn’t just for geniuses. It’s about thinking in original ways, away from the norm. Creativity grows as you exercise it.

In childhood, play changes the connections of neurons in the prefrontal cortex and helps wire the brain’s executive control centre, which performs a key role in managing emotions.

Creativity practice: pick a random object. Now pick 10 random words from the dictionary and try to find as many associations as you can between the object and each of the words.

Our individual experiencess shape connections in our minds. Each of us have our own web of associatiosn.

sample mindmap from flickr

Chapter 3. What Is Not a Mind Map?

These following diagrams are not the same as a mind map:

Spider diagrams

  • linear, spindly legs that don’t vary in thickness
spider diagram edraw

Pyramid diagrams

  • Place greater emphasis on heirarchy
  • Don’t range freely but forces eye to scan top to bottom in a linear manner

Concept maps

  • Downward-branching heirarchical structure = tends to be read top-down, which is restrictive
  • Labeled arrows are sometimes phrases, not a single word, so loses the single-keyword impact
  • No colors or images
wikimedia commons

Fishbone diagrams

  • Popularized in the 1960s by Japanese organizational theorist Kaoru Ishikawa
  • Linear, monochrome, focus on cause and effect rather than imagination and association
fishbone diagrams

Sunburst chart/sunburst diagram/ring chart/multilevel pie chart/belt chart/ radial tree map

  • Made of concentric circles with layers of heirarchical data and categories/segments in different colors
  • No imagery
  • Hard to read, not great for creative thinking.
wikimedia commons

Mind Maps rely on innate logic, use of color, imagery, visual connections for informal, organic function.

Is it a Mind Map?

  • Is there a central image?
  • Does the diagram radiate from the center?
  • Is there one word per branch?
  • Are there images?
  • Is color used throughout?
  • Is it clear, natural, and organic in appearance as well as visually appealing?

Chapter 4. Solution Finding

Ask the right questions: good question = excellent results.

Poorly formulated questions lead to flawed answers. To avoid ambiguous answers, keep your central question short, clear, precise.

Effective quesstions/topics:

  • Trigger power of association/imagination
  • Be open to more than yes/no responses
  • Inspire critical/analytic thinking
  • Creates clarity
  • Challenges assumptions
  • Stimulates breakthrough thinking
  • Balances content (who/what/when) and process (why/how)
  • Inspires a positive reaction

Use simple but powerful images. The central image should be simple, striking.

If your first mind map is messy, it can be used as the basis for a second one.

You can make mini Mind Maps to address new questions or offshoots/digressions. Or use them to explore two sides of an argument.

If you see a word reappearing/repeating on multiple branches, you have found a key KEY word. Underling repeated words on multiple boxes.

Chapter 5. The Infinite Applications of Mind Maps

Mind maps are based on the way we instincively view the world. Therefore they have multiple applications. It’s a metalanguage that speaks to both sides of the brain.

Mind maps help with prioritization, fighting procrastination, preparation, organization, planning the future, weighing pros and cons, language learning, advanced note taking and summaries, deal with health conditions like anxiety, etc.

Maneesh Dutt used Mind Maps to analyze the pain he was trying to avoid by not changing and the pleasure he was getting by staying in his job.

Chapter 6. The Future of Mind Mapping

The Mind Map mirrors the thinking process of the brain, and the brain changes.

There is now software to create mindmaps: iMindMap. There are Mind Map competitions around the world.

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