A guide to mind mapping for note-taking

Brad Isaac has a great piece on Note Taking: A Beginner's Guide to Mind Mapping Meetings over at Lifehacker.

Do you have trouble keeping up with meetings because you can't take notes as fast as the speaker talks? If you do jot down some thoughts and ideas, by the time you re-read your notes they make no sense? If this sounds like you, a meeting mind map may be just what you need. Here is a quick start guide that will give you some pointers and a printable template you can use to get off to a great start with mind mapping.

This really is a beginner's guide, but the points are well taken.  He even provides a pdf template to get started on paper-based meeting mapping.  One summary of the Guide:

  • Topic of the meeting in the center.
  • Agenda or top-level outline flows from the center topic.
  • As the meeting proceeds, topics will successively flow out of the high level topics.  You might even bounce around a bit. 
  • Use the topics to help visualize the flow of an idea, rather than the sequence of the discussion.  This is the biggest winner for me.
  • Pick shapes or colors that work for you.  Highlight particularly interesting things.
  • Use floating topics when something unrelated comes up.  It might get drawn in later, or it might not.

I've been taking conference notes via mind-map for a couple years now.*  I get a great overview of the meeting and can dive into detail quickly as I explore a specific branch.  I do this on my computer (with Mind Manager) - so much so that I find it difficult to use a standard text editor except for the most basic information.  I still use paper at face-to-face meetings because I don't like the computer getting in the way of the discussions.  Of course, I can draw mind maps on the paper, if needed.  Usually it is text and doodles, though.

I like that Isaac's discussion is just as applicable to pen-and-paper as it is to the various electronic tools.  In fact, it is probably easier to pick up on paper than in the tool: it takes more time to get accustomed to using the application than it does a pen.  I found that the application got in my way until I became more comfortable with it.

* I discovered some of my early thoughts about this (May 2005) in prepping this post.

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