In Grad school my classmate, Fish, turned me onto mind mapping. I don't know if I would have made it through school without it. It really helped me organize my notes in a way it was easy to review and absorb, if that makes sense? Finally I was now able to take notes closer to how I actually thought. And studies have show that mind mapping increases learning / study efficiency up to 15% over conventional note taking (1). Since then I have been using mind maps at work and any other time I need to take notes or brainstorm.
Mind maps are a way to group your notes into organized lists, well really clusters (see the image for an example). It is not a simple list, you have nodes of ideas with a main idea or keyword in the center then you are able to link other thoughts around that central word. Then you can add concepts and thoughts around those new ideas. And on and on. Most mind mapping tools allow you to move these ideas around and color code and group them.
I also use mind maps when brainstorming, think of the ideation method of using sticky notes on the wall during brainstorming process, but now you can do the same thing on your laptop. It allows you to see connections, concepts and themes that you might not have seen in a prioritized list. It's more visual.
I know other people use mind maps for other things too – Problem solving, prioritization, non-linear lists, etc.
Some Mindmap tools I have used include:
(good tool if you are just starting out and it's FREE!)
(great tool! and it has spell check, which I need, but kind of expensive, but you get what you pay for, right?)
(so I can do mindmaps on my Google Android Motorola Droid and they have cloud capabilities to allow you to move them from your laptop to your phone, very nice!)
(my new favorite Mind Mapping tool and much cheaper than MindJet)
(works slightly differently than the other mind map tools I have used, don't know if I like it yet)
(online mind mapping software and allows you to convert from one MM software extension to another)