Thinking spaces and note-taking methods

What is a thinking space?

Caution: Thinking space is a metaphor; I don’t mean to imply this term has any scientific bearing.

Whom and how would ‘thinking space’ help?

If you do a lot of intellectual work, then you’re likely to work with projects that have nonlinear roadmaps or uncertain plans at the outset. This is a clear instance of when thinking spaces are useful.

  • I get overwhelmed by new information
  • My research problem is too complex and I can’t see a clear way to solve it
  • I need to brainstorm with my team to design a good way to move the project forward
  • I’m often distracted by urgent and unimportant work
  • I don’t have time to do everything, I need help prioritizing what’s important
  • I feel buried by all that work coming from everywhere; I need a way to manage it
  • I rarely end the work day feeling satisfied with my progress
  • I’m overworked and worried about burnout
  • Note-taking
  • Brainstorming alone or with a team
  • Writing and expressing your thoughts more clearly and in strong position
  • Planning
  • Structuring communications and collaborations with others.

Why note-taking is important and how it connected with thinking space and attention

When we try to internally track our thinking process we might get the feeling that we are shifting our attention like a spotlight from one idea to another. This is rough simplification from a cognitive psychological point of view, but nevertheless a good illustration of the fact that attention is a very important aspect of the thinking process.

What methods of note-taking do you know?

Linear Outlining and nonlinear Cornell notes and Charting
More visual nonlinear methods: Zettelkasten and mind mapping
  • Charting or spreadsheeting
  • Cornell notes
  • Zettelkasten (and Evergreen notes)
  • Mapping
  • Color
  • Pictures
  • Dimensions
  • Visual pattern
  • Templates
  • Visualization
  • Spatial imagination
  • Gestalt (integrity)
  • Associations

Why spatial <….> is important in thinking

Whether it’s a physical or a virtual workspace, spatial organization of our workspace is very important to everyone. It follows that spatial organization of a thinking space is also important

Bigger table is bigger chaos
  • See the whole large topic or project;
  • Think over a “route” or make the right choice, see where you have already been, and choose the right direction;
  • Gather together large amounts of information;
  • See new ways to solve the problem;
  • Remember the information you need;
  • Reflect on the mental map, make changes to it, read it.

Overcoming the drawbacks of mind mapping

Like every method or tool, mind maps have drawbacks. Below, I outline RedForester’s approach to overcoming them:

A mind map is just a drawing

A mind map is just a drawing; it’s difficult to move data from a mind map to other services to process or manage it. With RedForester, however, you can work with nodes like with objects (similar to Airtables or Notion). Objects have a type and properties. So RedForester’s mind map isn’t a drawing, it is an information system.

Typed nodes

It’s difficult to find information quickly in a big mind map

With RedForester, you could create really big mind map. For example, my team has a map with more than 50,000 nodes!

Search function to quickly find something

Getting lost on a big mind map

Looks same as the previous point but is slightly different. If you personally hate to use maps and prefer to research new places by some random walking, you also could hide whole mind map and pay you attention to just one branch. This feature could also help boost your concentration on that specific topic.

Show only current branch

How to connect different parts of the mind map without copying

Mind maps have one main hierarchy, but what if you need multiples of it? Here, nodelinks could help you.

Nodelinks

Mind maps don’t suit all information

How to work with table-suited data, or a timeline, Kanban board, or many other kinds of representation? There are many instances when note-taking and thinking isn’t a first priority process. In these cases you could use other forms of representation like a table, Kanban board, Timeline and so on. And they will be automatically synchronized with the mind map.

Multiple representations

Conclusions

Everyone has their own thinking space. Some just stare at a point on the wall and dive into their “mind palace”, others use random drawing on a piece of paper or writing down a whole story in a diary. Online services could also be provide a thinking place that could boost your intellectual process and give you a feeling of control over the project.

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Alexander Petrov

Alexander Petrov

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Cofounder of RedForester.com (workspace for intellectual workers). Computer science and psychology diver