An Open ‘Frame’ Of Mind – Don’t Fence Me In.

March 31, 2017


“O give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don’t fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don’t fence me in”

~ Cole Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964)

Your blank sheet of paper is a wide open country to be colonised by your thoughts. A large sheet gives you lots of metaphorical land that needs to be used as effectively as possible.

Many of my students start off Mind Mapping by writing a word in a box in the centre of the page, often in a single colour. They are usually easily persuaded that a colourful, unique image is far preferable to a word as it leads to better mental stimulation and boosts creativity. Some remain reticent to draw believing their artistic skills let them down. Bearing in mind that Mind Maps are largely a tool for your own thinking and do not always have to be shared or exhibited, you don’t have to be a talented artist to make a rudimental visual representation of an idea. The act of attempting to draw, even if you fail spectacularly, leads you to more closely observe the world around you. A very big part of learning to draw is learning to see. It is tempting to give up and resort to words or to switch to computer assisted Mind Maps, with the emotional comfort of clip art, but it is worth persevering to develop your drawing skills. You could even attend art or cartooning courses. Part of the enjoyment of Mind Mapping is adding pleasing, amusing and engaging little sketches on your branches and in the centre. It could also be argued that there is a ‘muscle memory’ associated with drawing.

One persistent misinterpretation of the ‘Laws’ of Mind Mapping is that people feel the need to enclose their central image. It is not always a rectangular box. It can be an oval or a wavy line but it still cuts off the centre form the branches connected to and emanating from it. A line that encloses your central image acts like a fence or barrier to the development of your associations. Your primary thoughts are corralled like sheep in a pen when they should be free to roam. Whenever you frame something you are indicating completion and imposing an outer limit. Your thinking has no limit and if you frame from the start you are immediately hindering development of your ideas.

The unique outline created by your central image is a powerful mnemonic device. Your eyes are attracted by irregularity of shape and form. A striking and impactful centre to your Mind Map creates a ‘von-Restorff’ effect (which predicts that “when multiple homogenous stimuli are presented, the stimulus that differs from the rest is more likely to be remembered.”) Boundaries, clouds and enclosures, especially three-dimensional ones, can be used in other parts of your Mind Map to add emphasis but these are deliberate and used sparingly. Your ideas should be treated like well cared for animals – free range.


I Hear Voices in My Head!

January 30, 2017

“Get along with the voices inside of my head
You’re trying to save me
Stop holding your breath
And you think I’m crazy”

Eminem featuting Rihanna – The Monster

When reading, virtually everyone hears a voice inside their head saying the words as they’re read. This is called ‘subvocalisation’. Many Speed Reading teachers will tell you that in order to speed up, subvocalisation must me eliminated. This is an almost impossible task, leading to frustration and despondency. The good news is that in reality it is not necessary to eliminate subvocalisation. In fact, the opposite is true and you should ‘get along with the voice inside of your head!’

I explain this in my book, “Improve Your Speed Reading Skills” as follows…

“If you have ever tried to stop yourself subvocalising you will probably have noticed a steep decline in comprehension.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the fastest speaker in the world, Sean Shannon from Canada, is able to talk at 655 words per minute. To put this into context he is able to deliver Hamlet’s “To be or not to be…” soliloquy in 23.8 seconds. Speech is limited by the physical movement or the tongue, mouth and vocal chords so you can think far faster than you can speak. Speeds of 1000wpm can easily be subvocalised so it clearly doesn’t slow you down. Hearing the words in your head greatly improves comprehension. One of the really great aspects of being conscious of subvocalisation is that you can manipulate it to your advantage. Experiment varying the volume, like the control knob on your stereo. Try turning the volume down a little so that you can still hear the words but more softly at the back of your mind. When you read something important turn the volume right up so you are shouting the words in your head. This makes them really stand out in your memory. If you have met the author or heard them speak, it is interesting to imagine him or her reading their book. This is more engaging and you will recognise their turn of phrase and intonation which can greatly improve your enjoyment and understanding of a book. Think of Alan Bennett, for example, reading one of his monologues in his distinctive Yorkshire accent.”

When correctly managed, subvocalisation can assist, comprehension, retention and enjoyment without impacting on speed. A key Speed Reaing technique is to take in groups of words. This is possible whilst being semi-conscious of their sound so whilst you do not eliminate subvocalisation you become less aware if it.

How an Eagle Helps You Think

November 30, 2016

The Eagle


He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.


Hearing this poem recited by his schoolteacher is the event that first ignited Tony Buzan’s lifelong passion for poetry. Great poems are the perfect combination of similes and metaphors, conjuring visually rich mental pictures with evocative rhythms.

Mind Maps draw upon similar qualities. Every time you add an image to a Mind Map to represent a concept you are using metaphor. For example, an elephant to represent “memory”, an ‘L’ plate to represent “learning”, a light bulb to represent “ideas” or “thinking”.

In the ancient world, the great philosopher, scientist and teacher, Aristotle considered metaphor as the highest from of thinking.

In the modern world, innovation is often defined as the bringing together or combining of ideas from different disciplines. Gutenberg combined two ideas to invent printing with moveable type. He merged the flexibility of a coin punch with the power of a wine press and revolutionized the spread of knowledge.

A metaphor is quite simply the merging of two concepts to make something more powerful than their sum. This quality of the whole being greater then the sum of the parts is called synergy. The brain naturally works synergistically. Roger Sperry, who won a Nobel prize for work on left and right brain, suggested that the brain was a multiplying mechanism rather than an adding machine. Each thought can be combined with countless others. Research on daydreaming, and from many other indicates that the potential for the human brain to generate thought is theoretically, infinite.

What is more when you train or strengthen one area of thinking the others improve too. A Mind Map is a great workout for combining cortical skills – words, images, numbers, logic, rhythm, colour and spatial awareness all interact and strengthen each other.

Another quality of poetry is its use of multi-sensory imagery, where a phrase conjures up a feeling. “The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls” compares foaming waves to wrinkled skin or cloth and the tumultuous surface crawling like a multitude of insects. It elicits a physical response or feeling. You can make your Mind Maps much more effective and powerful if you include words or images that relate to more than a just a visual representation. Can you evoke sounds, physical sensations or even tastes and smells. A blending of the senses, known as synaesthesia, is a natural quality or a developed skill of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists and mnemonists.

Play with your metaphors, sensual language and imagery.

That’s all of now. Keep an eye out for my Mind Map Christmas card in December and watch weekly videos at:
Phil Chambers


Spooky Speedy Reading

October 29, 2016

Happy Halloween

As a scientist I don’t believe in ghosts but to get in the Halloween ‘spirit’ (pun intended) I have the acronym G.H.O.S.T. to help you to read faster…

Guide your eyes
The eyes have evolved to track moving objects. If you think back to prehistoric times you had to follow a buffalo with your eyes so as to throw your spear accurately, allowing your tribe to eat. As animals, humans have not significantly evolved since we were hunter-gatherers. In evolutionary time scales the advent of the printed word is a very recent occurrence and digital devices have been around for an infinitesimally short time. Because our eyes naturally follow moving objects and text is static you need to move a guide along lines of text. You can point to words with your finger, or better, use a slender pointer such as a pencil or chopstick. Move your guide in a fluid motion along each line of text. You will find that your eyes will glide along much more smoothly with less eyestrain.

Hear the words softly
Many Speed Reading advocates encourage the cessation of sub-vocalisation (hearing the words in your head). It is suggested that this slows you down. On the contrary, sub-vocalisation is a key component of reading comprehension. It is possible to speak at over 650 words per minute. The limiting factor being the movement of the mouth, tongue and vocal chords. It is possible to record speech and play back at 1000 words per minute and the brain can keep up. Rather than trying to eliminate sub-vocalisation, work with it. Imagine a mental volume control. Turn down the volume so that the words are heard softly at the back of your mind. When you read something important TURN UP THE VOLUME AND MENTALLY SHOUT OUT. This makes salient things stand out in your memory.

Only go forwards
One of the biggest causes of slow reading is back-skipping. This can be a conscious decision to re-read as you think you missed something or simply a reflex habit. Comprehension is affected by context. The more context the easier it is to make sense of an unfamiliar word. By re-reading you get no more context. If you continue forward you get more information that the brain is able to work with and connect together and thus comprehend. Every time you back-skip you break your rhythm and slow yourself down. Tell yourself you are only going to read things once. Use of a guide (above) will help you with this. Your eyes follow the guide and the guide is only moved forwards along a line.

Stay on the page
If your eyes or your thoughts wander off the page you will obviously not be assimilating anything. Keep you focus on the page. You can maintain concentration by taking regular breaks but whilst reading try to minimise distractions. Turn off your phone. If your computer beeps to alert you to emails mute the sound. Put a ‘do-not-disturb’ sign on your office door or find somewhere quiet and secluded to do your reading.

Take in groups of words
If you read words in isolation, one at time, the brain has to work hard to connect them together to give meaning. With practise the eyes are perfectly capable to taking in up to six words per visual gulp. If you take in meaningful chunks of words, these are easier to fit together to make sense of a document. It takes the same length of time to take in one word as it does to take in six. Even if you go from one word at a time to three you will triple your reading speed!

Mind Maps Save Time and Waste

September 9, 2016

According to ‘Love Food Hate Waste’, 7 million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away by UK households annually. This equates to £12.5bn! One of the biggest issues is lack of planning resulting in overbuying.

I have always made a weekly meal plan and a shopping list – A good habit I learned from my mother. This means that I only buy what I need and I very rarely ‘impulse buy’.

My list is typically written approximately following the layout of the supermarket with fruit and vegetables at the top followed by meat and fish with bakery and frozen food at the bottom.

One occasional problem I encounter with the list is that, unless I continually refer to it in the shop, I can sometimes miss an item that I need to backtrack to fetch. It would be better to memorise the list to save time. To this end I have created a Mind Map template. I can add each item I need to buy onto the appropriate branch. It still loosely follows the shop layout but being more visual can be naturally memorised.


You can try this too. Using a Mind Map for something that is non-critical like a shopping list allows you to practise in a safe environment. If you forget to buy an item it doesn’t have any serious consequences.

It doesn’t just have to be for food shopping, it can be for office stationery or even for planning stock purchases for a small retailer.

Is Technology Destroying Our Minds?

August 19, 2016

The Spectator Magazine cover story for August 13th by Lara Prendergast discusses the effect that technology has on our memories. Prendergast states that, at 26, her own memory is failing and goes on to say, “Many young people feel our memories have been shot to pieces. It’s the embarrassing secret of my generation”.

The assertion is that with Smartphones being so ubiquitous, tech savvy ‘twenty-somethings’ are increasingly outsourcing memory to web searches. The article states, “We know that when we reach to remember any detail — a route, a phrase, a historical fact — our minds do not perform at the critical moment. So we reach instead for our phones, which are much more trustworthy.”

The internet holds virtually all human knowledge so surely it make perfect sense to tap into that resource to find a definitive answer to any question. It must be more accurate than any one person’s knowledge. This is a very convincing and seductive argument with three massively damaging consequences.

Firstly, as identified by Prendergast, “The answer is that the brain requires exercise, and we allow it to atrophy at our peril. While we get better at juggling ideas, our memories are taking a battering.”

Secondly, also in the article, “It may well be that memory is more spiritual than we like to admit. By using our minds, we nourish a part of us that goes beyond the physical. Equally, by storing memory outside of ourselves on a piece of technology, we lose something fundamental.”

Thirdly, and I believe even more vital, is the interconnectedness of knowledge. The brain needs connections and associations to function. Creativity and innovation are vital to keep up with the pace of the modern world. If you access facts online and don’t take the time to memorise any of them they are discrete, disconnected and lacking context.

The synergistic nature of the brain means that it can take a collection of elements, synthesise and connect them to come up with new ideas. The whole is greater then the sum of the parts. If you only ever have one part at a time you cannot synergise. It is any wonder that your brain feels like it is malnourished?

The solution is to take some time to rediscover the art of memory. Learn mnemonic techniques. Instead of a knee jerk response to Google something immediately, try to think about the question and see if you can deduce or recall the answer. If you draw a blank, only then search the internet. Take a note (or better still a Mind Map) of the answer plus any relevant related information and commit it to memory. As time progresses you will be less and less reliant on technology. You will be more confident in your own mental abilities and as you’re exercising your brain it will regain its strength. The article cites poet Ted Hughes’ advice to learn poetry as mental exercise. I totally agree that this is very worthwhile. Thinking about the metaphors and meaning in a poem is a stimulating mental workout.

Google is your friend but it is can also be a sly enemy.

Welcome to the World of Mind Maps on World Mind Map Day.

July 23, 2016


The image above is a Mind Map all about World Mind Map Day – an initiative instigated by Tony Buzan.

If you are new to Mind Maps, they are read firstly radiating out from the centre and then in a clockwise direction. The following is a ‘translation’ into conventional prose of the information on the Mind Map with some additional background.

Pale Blue Branch:

World Mind Map Day’s main purpose is to promote Global Metal Literacy. Just as verbal literacy is fluency with the use of language, so Mental Literacy is fluency with the use of the brain. Aspects of mental literacy include the following:

Memory, as exemplified by the World Memory Championships, is underpinned by psychological research succinctly summarised by the recall during learning graph. This is fondly termed “The Most Important Graph in the World” or MIG for short.

Speed Reading, allowing rapid assimilation, comprehension and understanding of text.

Your brain’s infinite creativity, unleashed by Mind Mapping.

Intelligence, in all its multiple forms, flourishing like a flower in a field.


Green Branch:

Mind Mapping – The prime thinking tool, allowing ideas to be expressed radiantly. Mind Maps are a ‘generative thinking’ tool, meaning that as they expand they generate new ideas, contrary to linear, ‘selective thinking’ which constricts ideas.

Mind Maps are designed to work in harmony with the architecture of thought and the way the brain operates.


Orange Branch:

Professor Tony Buzan is a modern polymath, the originator of Mind Mapping and recipient of the 2016 Golden Gavel award from Toastmasters International.


Red Branch:

The people around the globe who will be spearheading the celebrations of World Mind Mapping Day:

Representing the United Kingdom – Dominic O’Brien, eight times World Mind Mapping Champion; Raymond Keene OBE, Chess grandmaster and co-founder of the World Memory Championships; myself – Phil Chambers, Reigning World Mind Mapping Champion and Think Buzan, the company behind iMindMap software used to create this Mind Map.

Representing China – David Zhang, regional president of Memory Sports in the Asia Pacific geographical territory; Liu Yan, ThinkBuzan Licensed instructor responsible for the biggest Mind Map in China by students (15mx8m).

Representing Japan – Mikiko Chikada, ThinkBuzan Master Trainer and translator extraordinaire of Tony’s Books.

Representing Australia – Lorraine Gill, innovative, acclaimed artist and the inspiration for images in Mind Mapping.

Representing Poland – Prince Marek and Princess Petrina Kasperski. Prince Marek is editor of the Brain Trust journal – ‘Synapsia’.

Representing Mexico – Dr Jorge Castañeda, regional president of Memory Sports in the South America geographical territory.

Representing United Arab Emirates – Dr Manahel Thabet, regional president of Memory Sports in the Middle East and North Africa and founder of ‘The Gifted Academy’.

Representing Pakistan – Arif Anis, international human capital and business leadership expert.


Dark Blue Branch:

The target of World Mind Map day is to connect everyone on the planet with Mind Maps to promote global health, peace and intelligence. The butterfly project is already making this a realty with children.


As you can see a Mind Map can capture a large amount of information and organise it into a coherent whole to transform your thinking. I urge you to learn the technique and join the global movement that will change the world for the better.

The Times They Are A’ Changin’!

June 30, 2016

“Come writers and critics who prophesy with your pen
And keep your eyes wide the chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a’ changin’!”

― Bob Dylan (1964)

In the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, we live in a time of unparalleled economic, political and social change.

There are three responses to change.

1) You can be an Ostrich. Stick you head firmly in the sand and ignore the changes happening around you. You believe your strategies have served you well in the past. Why Change? In a changing would you must adapt or be left behind.

“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

― Eric Hoffer (American moral and social philosopher)

2) You can drive yourself into the swamp of despair in a BMW. I don’t mean the car – I mean Bitch, Moan and Whine. Complaining about a situation solves nothing. Personally I voted for the UK to remain in the EU. I believe in democracy and I was on the losing side. I am not going to complain about the outcome. The only course of action is to accept what has happened and move on.

“There are people who make things happen, there are people who
watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what
happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes
things happen.”

― Jim Lovell (former NASA astronaut)

3) The third course of action is to analyse the situation, identify new opportunities and move quickly to make the most of them while your competitors are in denial or despair. You need a positive attitude and the flexibility to adapt.

What do Giant Panda’s eat? Bamboo and nothing else. What do urban foxes eat? Pretty much anything that humans discard. When threatened with habitat loss pandas are becoming endangered in the wild whist foxes are prospering.

The Law of Requisite Variety states that, “The individual with the highest amount of flexibility of behaviour will have the most influence on the system. That basically means that the more choices you have, the more freedom you will feel, and the better a quality of life you can have.”

Keep an open mind and invest in alternative strategies.

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

– Unknown (falsely attributed to Buddha).

I advocate Mind Mapping as a tremendous tool for analysing a situation. You can learn the fundamental principles of Mind Mapping form a free interview I have given as part of the Worldwide Transformational Summit to be webcast on Day 4 of the event – Monday July 11th.

Get your FREE VIP access pass by clicking HERE.

Mind Mapping is only one of 19 strategies covered by the event which starts on July 8th. I am sure you will get many valuable ideas that will help you tackle the challenges ahead whether that be in relationships, health, money, depression, anxiety, starting a business, building your self image, self worth, keys to happiness, etc….

Decisions, Decisions

June 9, 2016

Ballot box

“You put your whole self in,
Your whole self out,
In, out, in, out,
Shake it all about.
You do the hokey-cokey
And you turn around.
That’s what it’s all about.”

On 23rd of June the people of the UK will vote whether to keep them-whole-selves in or out of the European Union.

In a confusing campaign filled with scaremongering, there have been hokey claims by both sides from threats of war if we leave to the collapse of the NHS if we stay.

The referendum has been described as a once in a lifetime choice with no going back. Unlike a general election where you can change the government after five years, whether we leave or remain in the EU, it is likely to be a permanent decision.

So how do you make up your mind and cut through the media clamour, mud-slinging, claims and counter-claims from the opposing sides? One option to see the big picture is to create a Mind Map.


I have just added Basic Ordering Ideas. I leave it up to you to add in your own feelings and data. I don’t want to coerce you one way or the other. Colour-code the branches you add – maybe red for remain and green for leave. Simply seeing everything on one page could be enough to make the right decision clear to you.

If you are still undecided, give each branch a score between 1 and 100. For example, if you believe, “If we stay in the EU we can’t control immigration” and this is important you may score ‘LEAVE’ 80. Whereas, if you believe, “Immigrants bring benefits to the country and the ability of UK citizens to work in other European countries outweighs the risks” then you might score ‘REMAIN’ 50. Continue the process for all the branches and then add up the scores for ‘LEAVE’ and for ‘REMAIN’. The one with the highest is the right decision based on the data you selected and your feelings.

Nobody can predict for certain what the long term consequences will be but on the 24th June it’ll be “Knees bent, arms stretched, rah, rah, rah!” from one side or the other. We live interesting times.

May The Fourth Be With You!

May 4, 2016

This is an old Star Wars joke only applicable to today’s date. Thinking of Star Wars there are actually some serious messages.


Jedi Master Yoda said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try” in The Empire Strikes Back. The word ‘try’ implies self-doubt. It shows a lack of commitment with the possibility of failure. When you state your intention powerfully and commit to action you are far more likely to succeed. W.H. Murray from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition said, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, a chance to draw back. Always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth – the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. This is, that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one, that would never otherwise had occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Beware the Dark Side

Another nugget of genius from Yoda. “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” in The Phantom Menace. One of the most pernicious fears is the fear of failure. This does indeed lead to the anger of frustration and the suffering of hating or doubting yourself. You must act with boldness, embrace failure and learn from it. Sir Humphry Davy, one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century – perhaps all time, said, “I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.” Every time you fail you learn a non-solution. Each non-solution crossed of the list takes you one step closer to success. Tony Buzan offers the acronym TEFCAS as a success formula. It stands for:

Try everything and persist.
Each trial leads to an event (Do not judge as a success of failure yet. Accept the result of the experiment).
The event will give you information.
Check this information. Does it lead towards or away from your goal?
Course correct. Adjust your strategy and try again.
Through the iterative process of adjusting after each trial you will ultimately reach success. Enjoy, celebrate and then set your next goal and you next try-all.

Use the force and the formula to ultimate success.