The Memory Palace
In the book ‘Hannibal’ by Thomas Harris, one reason why Hannibal Lecter doesn’t loose his mind when he’s in a tight spot is because he uses a thinking technique called ‘The Method of Loci ‘(no, this has nothing to do with going loco). Loci is Latin plural for places.
According to the theory, you can give each memory or idea you have a “place and a face” so that you can build a palace for your memories and thoughts.
If we were anything like Hannibal Lecter -god forbid- we could wander through our palace of thoughts and memories and relive the feelings we had when we first experienced them.
The sad fact however, is that from all the brilliant plans we have, roughly 80% of them end up in a far corner of your brain never to be thought of again.
Why Are Our Thoughts Such Chaos?
Speaking for myself, I can well imagine that I’m not alone when I say I sometimes have a hard time getting my thoughts together.
The main reason for this is that our brain works in associative ways. It links thoughts and ideas to everything we see, hear and feel.
Since most of us can’t shut our senses off, it’s inevitable that our mind creates a melee of ideas we could easily get drowned in.
To protect us from going instantly mad, the brain gives these thoughts a place by default. Some places are obvious and easy to access, but some thoughts get hidden in some dark corner of your memory and are hard to retrieve.
For example – you just had a great idea a minute ago and now it somehow doesn’t come to mind. Ring a bell?
Another reason is that many people are not trained to think in a disciplined pattern.This can be taught in school or drilled into your mind by a drill sergeant, but not all people are receptive to these methods. The mind works in curious ways.
How To Build Your Own Palace of Brilliant Plans
You will have to adopt a new thinking/brainstorming pattern. This is something that grows over time and is only possible through practice, repetition and perfection.
Start with writing your thoughts down. This is nothing new. we all do brainstorming sessions and write down anything that comes to mind.
The problem with just jolting down ideas on a piece of paper is that it doesn’t bring you order. It sometimes even makes things more confusing.
The Solution Is Creating A Mind Map
A Mind Map is a diagram that depicts thoughts, ideas, memories and tasks all linked to a central topic. So if you’re planning a vacation, you surround your central topic ‘vacation’ by subtopics like ‘destination’ or ‘means of transport.’
The big difference between a mind map and a top to bottom list of ideas is that a mind map isn’t linear. It is more of a 3D way to write down thoughts, and therefore gives you more space for new thoughts.
The problem with a linear way is that when you get a new idea, you have to scroll up and down a page to find the right place to insert it. This can get quite chaotic.
A Mind Map, however, gives you a better overview, as the basis of your brainstorm is centered in the middle and the surrounding thoughts are within view. This not only helps you place a thought, it also makes it easier to retrieve ideas.
Another advantage is that mind mapping allows you to be chaotic, and, therefore, you can be more creative.
How To Create A Mind Map:
- Write your general topic for your post, business plan, or whatever project you may want to start in the middle of a piece of paper.
- Start brainstorming and just write down anything that comes to mind around your central topic description.
- Now start brainstorming the subtopics and circle them. You now have a rough outline for your plan, and you can really let your mind storm free without being limited by the boundaries of a subtopic.
- Just look at your map, and thoughts will come without making a real effort. Try it.
Uses for Mind Maps
You can use a mind map to create an outline for articles, a new site, (e)books or your own product. And your quest for world domination..
As soon as you have created an outline you’re satisfied with, all you have to do is fill out the blanks.
This allows you to think in a more focused, targeted way, saving you a boatload of time in the process.
Tips To Improve Mind Mapping
Time Your Brainstorm
Set your timer to ten minutes, no more, no less. Do a brainstorm. Stop when the time’s up. It generally works well if you set yourself a time limit for being creative. People tend to be more focused when their time is limited.
Do your brainstorming in the early morning
This is (hangovers excluded) the part of the day when you think clearest. Provided you slept the night through 😉
Try doing your typing/ writing standing up.
I read about this in a blog comment recently and decided to try it. Apparently the mind stays more focused when you are standing up.
Although my legs got tired, my mind did stay focused, and I got a lot of work done in one go.
Use Mind Mapping Software
There’s plenty of mind mapping software out there. Some is ridiculously expensive and really business orientated. I can’t judge it though, since I haven’t bought it.
There is Free Mind , open source niftyness in its purest form. You can download it for free and start playing with it.
As soon as I started to work with Free Mind, my productiveness reached an all time high ;).
Mind Mapping puts your projects back into perspective and helps you prioritize your action, thus making it easier to make decisions.
What’s your experience with Mind Maps?