Using the Mapping Method for Note Taking

Learn how you can use the mapping method for note taking in meetings to optimize ideas and information and mapping method best practices.

Every person has their own way of taking notes in meetings. If, after your meeting, you look at your notes and have a hard time deciphering the key ideas and information, it may be a good idea for you to think about different kinds of note-taking methods so you can retain important points and work towards achieving organizational goals. One approach that is extremely effective is using the mapping method for note taking. 

Mapping is a graphic representation of any kind of information that is being presented or discussed through linking ideas of particular pieces of information to each other. This method will help you understand and retain information effectively, especially if you’re a visual learner. This article will cover what the mapping method of note taking is, how to take meeting notes with the mapping method, what makes mind mapping notes better for note taking, the advantages and disadvantages of this method, and some best practices to get you going. 

What is the mapping method of note taking? 

This method of note taking uses a graphical representation to map out information, ideas, facts, and concepts in a comprehensive and cohesive manner. Typically, the mapping method is initiated by writing the main topic or idea in the center of the document (if you’re mapping digitally) or page (if you’re mapping by hand). From here, you look to connect any related ideas, subtopics, or concepts through different branches. You can use specific color coding or images to label information in an effective way. You’ll need to practice active listening and pay close attention to organize information using the mapping method as a meeting takes place. 

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How to take meeting notes with the mapping method 

1Write the main idea in the center box

Begin by writing the main idea in the center of your page in a box. This will help you really draw attention to this principal concept so as you listen to subsequent information, you can think about how it relates back to the main topic being discussed. While most mapping methods suggest using the center of the page or the document, some people prefer placing the box at the top of the page so information can trickle down from it. 

2Write each agenda item in the circles linked to the outside of the main idea

An effective way of taking meeting notes using the mapping method is to write each agenda item in circles outside of or below the main topic. This way, you’re giving yourself a reminder and a reference point to ensure you don’t forget to take notes on the main topics of the meeting. You can then begin to build out even more subtopics using branches underneath each circle or meeting agenda item. 

3As the meeting progresses, draw lines pointing to sub-thoughts, ideas, facts, and figures

Next, you want to begin to draw lines from the more principal topics, or even subtopics from the circles that were drawn for each meeting agenda item. Ensure that you’re giving yourself some space and listening intently as the meeting progresses so you’re categorizing information in a cohesive way. It may be a good idea to label sub-thoughts, ideas, facts, and figures either visually or using a color-coding system so you can easily create a way to effectively link and map information. 

4Draw pictures and interlink items

After drawing lines that lead to other sub-thoughts or related ideas, you can start to get creative by drawing pictures and starting to interlink items. Interlinking items with arrows or lines is a visual way of connecting the information. This will start to create a structure in your map and you should start to see the larger concepts branching out and linking to smaller concepts. At this point, you have your main topic leading to several sub-topics, and then below each sub-topic, you have supporting ideas. Any extra information or facts can be linked below the supporting ideas.  

5Export and share

Lastly, if you’ve created a digital meeting map, you want to export and share your map. You can export your notes in several different kinds of formats including Word, Excel, JPEG, PNG, SV, PDF, etc. If it’s of value to you, you can also share your meeting map to various social media platforms for a larger audience. If you think the meeting mapping notes would be valuable to other team members, don’t be shy to share them with your colleagues, especially those team members who weren’t able to make the meeting and want to be brought up to speed. 

What makes mind mapping notes better for note taking?

Mind mapping can be a more effective way of note taking for several reasons. First, it assists with brainstorming since you need to make connections between different pieces of information and ideas. This interlinking will likely generate other ideas, suggestions, or opinions that can be useful to share in the meeting and effective in projects. Mapping meeting notes also helps plan tasks, since action items often arise from the subtopics and supporting ideas will require certain tasks to be executed. Mapping notes is also a great way of note taking because it streamlines information recall and adds structure to ideas and concepts (especially to those that are more complex and require more attention). 

Advantages and disadvantages of the mapping method 

1Advantages 

The advantages of the mapping method are that intra- and inter-relationships between facts and concepts become more easily visible. Another advantage is that analyzing and reviewing mapped notes is efficient in the sense that you don’t need to prepare and can create your meeting map as the meeting progresses. Mapped notes are easy to edit because you can continue to add further branches and because using graphics, pictures, and colors stimulates the human brain and our memory, meaning our ability to retain and recall information. This mapping method will particularly appeal to those with visual learning styles. 

2Disadvantages  

While using the mapping method for note taking can be effective for some, there are some disadvantages you should consider. First, facts, opinions, and thoughts can be difficult to distinguish and mapped notes often have to be used alongside other methods (like the outline method) for extra support and context. Using the mapping method for note taking also requires strong concentration skills and attention to detail because you have to have superior listening skills to select which pieces of information are mapped where and how. Lastly, mapping can get overwhelming for complex meeting topics where it may be difficult to catch all of the information. 

Mapping method best practices  

1Prioritize ideas over chronology

Place importance on your ideas over chronology. Mapping your notes is not meant to follow a particular order, but is instead intended to flow from particular information. As such, really focus on the ideas you’re generating rather than the order in which you’re adding information to your map. 

2Use simple words

Use simple words when you’re mapping your notes. You need to be able to draw and write quite quickly and you don’t want to have trouble trying to decipher unclear information or jargon after the meeting has come to an end. Simple language is easier to understand and is much more time efficient. 

3Practice active listening 

It’s essential to practice active listening during your meetings to really think about which pieces of information belong where. Engaging in active listening is also essential for linking ideas or concepts to each other in a coherent manner. 

4Add key facts 

While thoughts and ideas can be helpful, it’s important to focus your attention on key facts from your meeting. This means paying attention to figures, research, and information that has been confirmed. Key facts will complement your ideas and other information that you’d like to add. 

5Use colors to divide ideas

While it sounds quite simple, using colors to divide ideas is truly effective because doing so helps you organize information effectively. It also helps with your recall of this information when you revisit your meeting mapping notes. 

6Include symbols or other visual elements

Including symbols or other visual elements is also effective for categorization purposes. Like colors, you can specify information or ideas even more clearly with the use of symbols or visual elements in your map for a deeper comprehension of what has been discussed and established in the meeting. 

7Use tools

You can leverage specific tools such as EdrawMind when using the mapping method for note taking. Doing so will optimize your time management and give you all kinds of customizable features to make your map really stand out and be unique to your interpretations of the information. 

Parting advice 

The mapping method for note taking is one way of documenting and recalling important information from any given meeting. Concept mapping is effective for brainstorming and for tying information together in a coherent manner. This note-taking method captures key points of the meeting as well as other ideas and information through a graphical representation. Using the mapping method for note taking organizes information in a coherent, creative, and interesting way, which promotes better recall and a deeper understanding of the meeting.


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About the author

Kate Dagher

Kate Dagher (Postgraduate H.Dip Psychology and BA in Business Management) has a management and corporate consulting background, having worked in the public sector, sales, and corporate finance. Kate is fascinated about how our physical environments influence our thoughts, behaviours, actions and wellbeing. She is a certified yoga teacher, a passionate writer, and traveller.

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