How to study efficiently in five steps with visual thinking !


How to study faster and better ?  How to memorize things ?  How to understand better ?  How to get ready for the next exam ?  Here is my method in five steps to study better with visual thinking and memory techniques.

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If you examine the main difficulties of the students, in secondary school as well as at the university, it seems that “learning to learn” is the key expression.  Some teachers event refuse to admit that there is such thing as “learning to learn“.

And yet, I’ve helped a lot of student by teaching them this method : everybody has the potential to learn better.  If you get the appropriate method and the right tools.

This is also the method I’m going to talk about at the Biggerplate Unplugged in Utrecht on the 9th of October.  Don’t miss that fantastic event !

So, I gathered the five steps and some concepts here on this mindmap : (click on the picture to maximize it.  You can also download this Study Better mindmap for free on my Biggerplate page.)

How to learn better and faster ?  Using visual thinking and memory techniques

Study Better in Five Steps

I’ll consider each stage in detail in articles to come.  But let’s review the whole method here  !

First step : Reboost your motivation !

In order to learn, you need to be motivated.

So, think about your studies as a project.  Each of your courses can be considered as a project with Smaart goals, deadlines, tasks to achieve.

I personally use an adapted version of GTD with Mindmeister.

Handle your workload with the GTD method and a Mindmeister mind map

An adapted GTD dashboard for students

Define your goals and your motivations : why do I study ?  Whom do I study for ?  Myself ?  My parents ?  My professors ?  My girlfriend ?

What do I want to achieve ?  What kind of profession do I want to do later ?  What are the stages, the necessary training, the adequate degrees to reach that long term goal ?

What do I like ?  What do I really want to learn ?

If you know yourself and what you want to achieve, if you have the right tool to handle the workload of studies, you can succeed.  And guess what ?  Succeeding is the best way to succeed !  What I mean is : succeed in small things first, that will strenghten your selfconfidence, and you’ll be able to succeed in bigger stuff.  And finally, you’ll succeed in your studies as well!

Second step : get back in touch with your course

The day itself, when you go back home, open your books and reread your notes : read slowly, let the ideas get back to you.

Jot down some notes with a mind map : I don’t know any more powerful or efficient tool to summarize something than mind mapping !

The association of keywords, colours, images, branches, place on the sheet, everything concurs to memorize and understand better than with boring linear notes.

This is the best way to understand the structure of your course, how elements and concepts are linked together.  This is something most students have difficulties with…

Try to remember what the teacher or the professor said.  Try to identify what you don’t really understand and ask for some explanation.  This is the right time to do so : you have fresh ideas, it will be easier to connect the new concepts to what you already know.  Futhermore, if you wait for the day before the exams, everybody will be busy and who will waste that precious time to share something with you ?

Third step : reactivate your memory

The secret of memorizing is : first, understand what you learn.  Create links and associations with what you already know.

Make another mindmap or complete the one you started at the previous step.  Then, try to ask your own questions, with the 5 W’s & 2 H’s method.  This is a very old and efficient way to learn.

When you summarized the course with your mindmap, you entered the matter through the professor’s path.  It was His or Her structure.

By asking questions over the course, you’ll build your own path, your own way to question and to understand everything.

How to question your course and to understand it deeper ? by asking Quintilian's 7 questions

Quintilian’s method

Fourth step : reuse the course

When you read your books and your notes, you use some groups of neurons in your brain.  But when you sit for the examination, you’ll have to answer questions or write a paper about that course.  And those are different cognitive skills which use other parts of your brain.  So, you have to train the right groups of neurons to succeed…

Use concept maps to grasps the different concepts.  Use flashcards to memorize definitions, names, formulas.  Use devices like XMind2Anki to turn your mindmap into a deck of flashcards.

Fifth step : revise and exercise

The best way to learn on the long run is to vary the tools and the techniques : use bubble and doublebubble maps to compare two objects or groups of concepts.

Teach !  Tell your stuff to a person who doesn’t know anything about it.  This is the best way to learn : why do you think professors know their courses so well ?  Because they keep on teaching it !

In order to explain something, you have to understand it very deeply, to the minute details…

So, train, review, exercise, vary the methods and the techniques.   This is the secret : use your whole brain !

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Search and summarize all your web pages with XMind Summarizer (tutorial)


Context Discovery has created XMind Summarizer, a new extension to XMind: a great tool for searching on the Internet!

Lisez cet article en français !

How to summarize a web page quickly? How to find material relevant to my work on the web without losing too much time to read everything?

Context Discovery has found a very satisfactory answer to this question: XMind Summarizer.

 We already knew Web Summarizer, the online device that summarizes web pages as mindmaps. But Context Discovery, the Canadian company specializing in automatic text summaries, has taken a step further by proposing an extension for XMind.

(Click on the picture to make it bigger.  You can also download that XMind Mindmap and many others from my Profile on Biggerplate).

Xmind mindmap showing how to use the Smart XMind Extension to summarize any web page

How XMind Summarizer works

This is the Polish company Smart XMind Extensions which broadcasts on the web: it is also the designer of XMind extensions for Outlook or systems time management and project that I will have the opportunity to talk.

In the meantime, here’s a tutorial on XMind Summarizer:

An automatic summary of interesting web pages

What is the XMind Summarizer extension ? It runs a web page, marks the relevant keywords, copies the sentences in which these keywords appear and organizes all in a mindmap.

With the smart extension XMind Summarizer, all this happens automatically in XMind, as summarized in the video below.

To install the extension XMind Summarizer is very simple: go to the XMind Summarizer page and sign up for the 30-day trial license: it’s free, but mandatory. Then, if the product appeals to you, there are several possible starting at $ 2.99 per week subscriptions.

Finally, download the small program. Start your XMind, and you now have two more icons in your menu bar at the top of your screen: Summarize by topic, which takes the form of a red W in and white square and Summarize synthesized by a simple red W .

Summarize a Wikipedia page with Summarize by Topic

The first icon allows you to automatically summarize any Wikipedia page. You type the keyword you are looking for as a central topic of your XMind map.

Then click on the icon Summarize by Topic or right-click your mouse at the bottom of the menu, click Summarizer and then Summarize by Topic, as shown in this video:

Summarize any web page with Summarize

The good news is that XMind Summarizer works in several languages, including French: so you can summarize any web page in English, French, German and Spanish.

Let’s do the experiment with two web pages in French on content marketing. I open a new XMind map and I type “Content Marketing” as the central subject.

But this time, I do not click the “Summarize by Topic” icon, but on the other icon: Summarize.

XMind Summarizer shows me a dialog with a field. I stick the URL of the first page that interests me. And XMind Summarizer starts to search. After a few seconds, I have a first branch on my mindmap with a series of keywords that match my search.

I repeat the process with a second page and I get a second branch on my mental map XMind, with a different set of keywords for the page.

When and how to use XMind Summarizer?

Please do not use this XMind extension to study! I wrote several articles on the subject and I am convinced that what facilitates learning by mindmaps, is the act of building the map itself. Because it uses different cognitive skills.

If you use XMind Summarizer to do this job for you, you have no chance to understand and / or remember anything!

By cons, this extension seems very interesting if you are a researcher, librarian or student. And you need to research on the web.

Because, as I showed in the videos of this article, you can quickly access content from Wikipedia and other pages. And more, XMind Summarizer synthesizes the page content as keywords for you!

It therefore seems very promising for those who must synthesize large amounts of information, which should conduct research on keywords, or should organize knowledge bases.

This application does not summarize either a text or a course in your place. To do this, you should also summarize yourself with a mindmap. But this extension will provide a working basis on which to build your resume. And that’s a lot!

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