Clustering, also called Mind Mapping, is a great way to save space and time when you journal. For those of you that aren't familiar with Mind Mapping, you can search in Google on the words or reading one of Tony Buzan's (the creator) books. At the end I've included the ten basic rules of Mind Mapping.
A Mind Map is a powerful graphic technique that harnesses words, images, numbers, logic, rhythm, color and spatial skills. Unlike linear notes, it allows your mind to work with expansion.
Mind Maps are an incredibly powerful memory tool. As I was studying for my CPA exam, I created a very large detailed Mind Map that covered several walls in my home office. When I was taking the exam I could close my eyes and see the Mind Map and go right to the answer.
We both know a picture says a thousand words. In Mind Mapping, you can use one word to trigger a set of memories or you can draw a picture (artistry doesn't matter) that represents a story or memory for you.
You can use the Mind Mapping or Clustering techniques to record a single event or a whole day of events. If you are working on time management, you can also use a Mind Map to track time and tasks. For this, you will want to turn the paper landscape, add a center picture, like a clock, and use the branches pointing the same way as the clock's hour — noon or midnight would be straight up, one o'clock slightly to the right of midnight, etc. The subbranches would be one word representing your focus or task during that time.
After attending a personal development event or that evening I like to reflect on my experience by drawing a Map from what I recall. This is a great way to transfer my thoughts from short term to long term memory. If I took notes I choose one word or image that represents each though per single branch for each area. When I remember a thought that doesn't connects clearly, I record a trigger word of what I do remember along with a question mark right before I turn in for the night. By morning I have the answer or a complete picture that build on that Map. Sometimes the morning also brings additional ideas or fuel for thought.
By keeping your Maps or Clusters in your journal — usually all in one place — you can quickly review previous Maps to build upon. Since Maps provide a master aerial view it's easier to see how the dots connect — the aha moments or unmasking patterns. They stand out easier than in linear notes.
Maps also shorten the journaling time. What might normally take pages or an hour in linear writing now take 15 minutes.
Being creative and having fun with this technique is important to the experience. Mapping encourages the use of colored pencils, pens and the use of images in place of words. My drawing skills haven't improved since third grade yet after a few hundred lopsided airplanes I can now draw them from several angles. But I'm still sticking with stick people.
Ideas also count. Ideas always occur during our writing. We're writing away, an idea pings up and we either need to try and hold it on the edge of our mind or record it somewhere quickly before it slips away. Start a Map on a new page, place the idea in the center of the page, then return to finish the writing. You will find your mind popping in and out from one to the next as you continue writing.
Of course, Maps and Clusters have many other uses — like brainstorming (alone or in a group), research, reading, studying, or memorizing. Thus, learning the technique is worthy to learn. I use them for just about everything, including the three books I'm working now.
Basic Rules for Mind Mapping:
1. Sheet sideways.
2. Pen or computer
3. Select topic, problem or subject and purpose.
4. Start in the center of the page.
5. Use color to trigger memory. Each separate main branch has a different color and each subbranches for that main branch stay that branches color.
6. Branches closest to the center are thicker.
7. Each idea starts a new branch.
8. Use images to express ideas whenever possible.
9. The image or word needs to sit on the line and in print.
10.The line needs to be the same length as the image or word.
You can also keep a separate Map journal. Ever few years I remember to buy a journal for that purpose. One of my favorite Map journals is, Note Sketch Book by Bienfang. You can order them in many places on the Net. Our local Staples store usually carries them in stock. They are different because the top portion of each page, about three-quarters, is blank and ready for your Map. While the bottom portion has lines for writing.