Many readers agreed that using a laptop to record the key points of a meeting can be distracting. The clicking of the keys as you’re typing and the sheer uniqueness of the mind map format means that others in the meeting may lose focus. Several of you came up with clever solutions to this problem:
The Tablet PC solution: Andrew Wilcox has used a Tablet PC with MindManager to take notes in an unobtrusive way for the last 5 years. Holding a tablet on your lap and recording notes with a stylus is much less distracting, because you’re not placing a bulky device on the table, where it can become the focus of attention. Instead, it functions much more like an “analog” notebook. “The ink mode allow fluid note taking,” he explains. “Combine this with a few map parts, some preset resources, a set of map of markers specific to the meeting type and you can get a lot recorded in a meeting.”
Hand-write notes during the meeting, then post-process: Nick Duffill takes notes during the meeting with pen and paper. No colored markers, just a pen – keep it simple. Focus on capturing key words, follow-ups and ideas during the meeting. “Overall, you are likely to get more from the meeting if you write less, because you can focus more on what people are saying,” he advises. “You are not trying to memorize the meeting for unaided recall, but capture the key points without sacrificing your participation and interaction.” The next step is the most important: Review your mind map after the meeting to extract essential information and actions. “You will probably surprise yourself at how efficient a mind map is at bringing things back to mind that you would have otherwise forgotten, but it needs to be done within 24-48 hours,” he cautions.
Use a software-produced map for an agenda, then add notes to it during the meeting: Jeff Causey reports that he has used this approach with great success in one-on-one meetings with his staff: “I would basically prepare an ‘outline’ mind map of the agenda/topics to be discussed. Then, as the meeting progressed, I could add to each branch as appropriate – due dates, to dos, etc. I found this made it very easy to make sure everything got covered, new stuff could be added on the fly, and connections were easy to see. And then when reviewing later, it was easy to assess progress (e.g. by checking off/crossing out nodes).”
Color code your meeting maps: Emmanual Maitre takes Jeff Causey’s agenda/notes map one step further – agenda items are recorded in blue in a software-produced mind map; notes and action items that come out of the meeting are captured in black, so anyone looking at the map can easily distinguish between the two. An excellent, simple idea!
Use mind maps for meeting notes on a selective basis: Eric Blue says he considers the audience, how the notes will be distributed and the subject matter before deciding whether or not to use mind mapping to capture notes in visual form. “I’m a big fan of using mindmaps for notes during project planning meetings, high-level brainstorms, and software design discussions,” he explains. “For most usual business meetings, I tend to just jot down quick written notes in my notebook. I’m becoming more of a fan of keeping my laptop closed during discussions since it can prove to be a distraction when important conversations are underway. In some cases I either take these written notes and incorporate them into my mindmap dashboard, or track them as tasks in my GTD system.”
Like Nick Duffill, Eric Blue gets the most out of meetings by deliberately extracting action items from his notes – after the meeting. In this way, your hand-written meeting notes can be added to your intake system for projects and priorities in a software-produced mind map – the best of both worlds.
Don’t worry about the laptop objection: Adrian Griffith thinks the objection of using a laptop during meetings to capture notes may be overstated. When in doubt, he simply asks his colleagues if they mind. “If you say to people at the start of the meeting, ‘I’m taking a few notes on the laptop because that’s what really works for me,’ generally people are okay with it. Better still, if you are the one leading or guiding the meeting, people find it fascinating and useful to see the meeting, comments and actions taking place before their very eyes.”
Griffith believes that people should become more comfortable with laptops and tablets in meetings over time. I’ve already sat in on technical meetings where most of the attendees were using laptops – not only to record decisions reached and next action steps, but also to give them access to past notes, reports and other resources.
Another potential advantage of using a laptop during a meeting is that it gives you immediate access to a world of online knowledge and resources – especially useful if the meeting veers into an area that the attendees don’t know much about.
To read all of the comments about strategies for using mind mapping to take notes during meetings, please click here.