How to brainstorm, make mind maps and use key clustering to improve your focus, organize your thoughts and take notes for success.

(Photo: boborbyepedersen)

Make use of the Brain Storming techniques described in this chapter. Cluster ideas and images for visual and mental affect.

Before we begin to contemplate dealing with a fear, achieving a goal, or improving our self-image we will want to go through a 5-15 minute brainstorming session. We can do this on a separate piece of paper or on the back of our Personal Achievement Maps which I discuss in a separate article of the same name.

The way we think and use the unlimited muscle power of our creativity (our creative minds) will determine the success of our brainstorming session. So this technique is all about the process we use when we sit down to think about a particular subject.

When the average person takes notes, they usually use a boring left brain style of note taking. This usually consists of a heading with a subheading and so on until there is a full page from top to bottom of boring linear notes. Placed side by side, these notes all look similar. Yet, if we were to use creativity, we could make each note unique, colorful, and outstanding. This would not only make it more fun, but also easier to remember. Since images are related to the right side of our brain, we want to do our best to focus on right brain activities. Framing ideas as images makes them special and memorable.

When I was in a high school creative writing class, we constantly made use of a technique the teacher introduced to us as key clustering. Basically, we would use it before setting out to write a story.

We would start the cluster by placing the core focus in the center (notice the example) of the page and draw a circle, square, or frame around it, and then draw lines to other subtopics we wanted in our story.

Years later I learned that this concept of clustering was originally conceptualized by Gabriel Rico as a solution to writer’s block. You can learn more about her process in her book Writing the Natural Way.

Still, it is to my creative writing teacher that I give credit for demonstrating a technique that is good for taking notes, plot creation, story summaries, or simply a strategy to jump-start your creative forces. Key Clustering is also great for brainstorming. In class we not only clustered before creating our own story, but also after reading other stories, poems, books, etc. to better understand them.

No Umbrella Required for BrainStorming

It is called Key Clustering because you are grouping together a set of key words or thoughts. Instead of writing long detailed descriptions for each subtopic, you use key words to act as triggers that remind you of the material. Here is an example of a Key Cluster.

Martial Arts” is the core focus of the information. You might break martial arts into three major categories or sub-topics: Mental, Weapons, and Physical. Then you think about sub-topics of each category. Rinse and repeat until you have all your necessary notes. By adding more information, you begin to introduce the functions and features of the components. This process of contemplation allows us to get some notes on paper while stimulating our thought process and putting images in our mind at the same time. The next time you sit down to think about something, or the boss challenges you to come up with some new ideas, try Key Clustering.

Brain Storms as I call it (also known as Mind Mapping), is a similar process of grouping keywords in an order that is unique enough to aid the memory for review. The only difference between a Key Clusters grouping and a Brain Storm is that we take it a step further by adding more unique ways of improving the visual part of our notes. We do this by adding shapes, drawings, and if possible, colors. The reason we do this is to make each session more unique. This will aid in not only making the images more real to us, but they will also be far more memorable.

Imagine a room full of the following career professionals and do your best to picture them as if they were standing in front of you:

  • Plumber
  • Farmer
  • Veterinarian
  • Manager
  • Ninja Turtle
  • Gardener
  • Wine maker
  • Grocery clerk
  • Chef
  • Pizza Delivery Person
  • Cartoonist

What is most unique image in this room? If I ask you an hour from now or even a day later, what was in the room, you will most likely always remember the ninja turtle. Why? Because a ninja turtle is unique. You definitely don’t see one every day. With creativity, we can create this type of uniqueness in memory, business, and success. With Brain Storms we make things unique by adding shapes, colors, and drawings that remind us of the key words we are using. By creating Brain Storms it is much easier for us to remember the information as opposed to a linear sequence or long lists of notes.

Please note that there really aren’t any hard and fast rules for making Brain Storms. To have rules would defeat the whole intention of creativity. The main idea is to get your creativity flowing, but the more unique the better. I have used techniques like this to make very complicated memory notes for the military to aid in testing. It is also great for using before you give a big speech, teach a class, or go to your next meeting. It will help you remember the key points (without having to use a prompter) of your topic as well as brainstorm for new ideas. This technique is also used prior to filling out your Personal Achievement Map.

Here are some tips for making good Brain Storm Notes:

  • Unique shell for main topic
  • Unique shell around subtopics
  • Lines to new topics
  • Shapes, drawings and symbols
  • Keywords
  • Colors

Steps for making a Brain Storm Sheet:

  1. Write down the main topic you wish to brainstorm.
  2. Add subtopics using keywords.
  3. Add smaller descriptive keywords for each subtopic
  4. Bring the Storm to a unique state by adding color, shapes, drawings, or whatever you feel like.
  5. Rinse and repeat

Feel free to write notes as they come up any way that you creatively decide. Don’t think too much about it; just open up your mind and start writing. The idea is to not censor yourself, just let the words, images, and ideas flow without regard to their merit. You can judge them as to their possibilities later; for now it’s important to unlock them from your creative mind. Just as you might scribble when you are on the phone, you can now scribble with a little more direction and purpose. You will be amazed at the ideas that will bubble forth; ideas you were not aware were lurking in your subconscious mind.

The reason I call these notes a Brain Storm is because the process is related to taking the time to sit down and brainstorm ideas. I used to call them Brain Bombs because of the way the notes taken in this manner seemed to explode onto the page and the idea is that they are unique or explosive enough for you to remember. However the same concept can be visualized with a storm and the connection to brainstorming makes the process much easier to remember.

Winjitsu Work Out

Try it now: Grab a sheet of paper, a pen or pencil, and perhaps some colorful markers. Think of something that you would like to brain storm about (finding a new job, getting healthier or more physically fit, writing a book); write it down in the center of the page. Follow the example provided and brain storm. Let your ideas pour like rain drops onto the paper, as your thoughts crackle and pop like lightening, then give yourself a thunderous round of applause!

If you would like to learn more about the mind and/or memory, I suggest you do a Google search now on Tony Buzan for a wealth of information related to this material.

About the Author RICK TEW

I will do the splits for you too. I provide edutainment events that help you to be a Ninja in what you do. I offer Martial Arts Therapy Retreats on Samui Island in Thailand. My unique Winjitsu Mind-Body system of coaching inspires you to BE more fulfilled and to DO more to KickStart your ideas.

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