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10 Ways to Use Mind Maps Over Text Notes

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Here at Asian Efficiency we love mind mapping. It’s like a Swiss Army knife that can serve many functions. In fact, we prefer mind mapping in most cases, over taking text notes. There are exceptions to this rule but in this case I will show you why you should start using mind maps over text notes for specific scenarios.

Quick Summary

  • Mind mapping has many benefits over linear text notes.
  • The visual aspect of mind maps allows you to use mindmapping for a wide variety of things.
  • Practical examples of when you should use mind maps over text notes.

All the mind maps created are done by Mindjet MindManager – our favorite mindmapping software. Also, all the ideas outlined here will give you an introductory idea on how to utilize mind maps for certain scenarios. I highly encourage you to explore on your own on how to implement mind maps as the technique is easily malleable for different purposes. So let’s start with the first example.

1. Meeting Notes

A great way to take notes during meetings is by using a mind map. Rarely do meetings strictly follow an agenda – there are always ideas, feedback and countless thoughts being discussed that need to be captured. This is very difficult to do with text notes because the inherent nature of text notes is to be linear. However, meetings are rarely linear and that is why mind maps are a great way to take notes during meetings.

2. Book Summaries

We have shared many of our book summaries here and they have all started off as mind maps. Every good non-fiction book always has a set of core ideas and concepts and it is up to the reader to capture those. If you have tried taking notes as you read, I’m sure you have experienced how often you want to add more notes to another concept on another piece of paper, or you need to reference older notes using arrows which can lead to very messy notes.

Mind maps are ideal for summarizing information, such as that found in books. With branches as your main concepts, you can flesh out concepts and ideas with your (scattered) notes and structure them for easy comprehension. If you want to see some examples of this, we gave away some of the mind maps that we used to write posts.

3. Project Management

There are tons of software applications and tools available for managing projects, but for smaller projects mind maps are a great way to oversee and manage a project. An easy way to get started is to have your main project as the core idea and to have these branches set up:

  • Budget
  • Resources
  • People
  • Scope
  • Deadline
Project Management mind map

Basic structure of a mind map for project management.

These are the very basic components of every project and with a mind map you can easily do project management. All you need is to setup these branches and regularly review them as you go through the project. You can expect more posts on this particular use in the future, but don’t be shy to try this out for yourself.

4. Studying

During my time at the university, mind maps were invaluable – I would religiously use them in two ways. The first was for taking notes during lectures and studying. The second way was to prepare for tests and exams by connecting the dots. In other words, I would have the mind map of all my notes and then I would try to connect all the main concepts in order to understand the material at a fundamental level. This allowed me to really grasp the material without knowing the minor details. Once you understand the big strokes and concepts, implementation (with a little practice of course) of them and problem solving will be a breeze.

5. Goal Setting

Goal setting has been around for ages and if you have read any book on the subject, you know it’s good practice to write down your goals. We are not here to disagree with this as it’s a proven method that has been upheld for many decades. However, we believe that the next level to writing goals down on pen and paper is by using mind maps.


Because it’s visual. Your brain can see the outcomes – especially if you accessorize your mind map with images. As we have written countless times before here and in our newsletters – being able to visualize your goals is hugely important and that’s why mind maps better than taking notes on paper. If you’re excited to start using mind maps for goal setting, then you definitely want to read how to set goals like an Efficient Asian.

6. Problem Solving

There are many approaches to problem solving but a popular method is the 5W + 1H outline. This where you ask yourself a list of questions that you need to answer:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • How
Problem solving example using a mind map.

Problem solving example using a mind map.

This is a great situation to use mind maps for because as you expand each section, you will oftentimes see relationships between your answers and that is something you can pinpoint on your mind map. This will help you clarify the problem which makes the solution more apparent as you go through all questions.

To get started, have your problem as your core idea in the mind map and have each branch represent one of those questions. Try to answer each question in isolation when you start off and as you go through all of them you will oftentimes come to a solution.

7. Brainstorming

The process of brainstorming involves capturing tons of ideas and a lot of them oftentimes make no sense. Mapping the ideas into a mind map allows you to easily capture all the things that are put out and you can easily later on structure the ideas into something more meaningful. We have written about how to use mind maps for brainstorming before and we can highly recommend you try this method. The next time you have a brainstorming session, go the mindmapping route.

8. Knowledge Management

Storing notes on specialized topics are very common with text notes. Most of the time you just end up with papers and walls of text about a topic that make it very difficult to review. Months or years down the line when you want to review your notes, you will hate yourself for not using mind maps. If there is anything in particular you want to review it’s really inefficient to try to find that somewhere between hundreds of paragraphs.

Instead, opt for using mind maps to take care of your knowledge bank. Especially with software based mind maps, it’s absolutely amazing how easy, simple and effective knowledge management can be. We will go more in depth on this in another post but one of the big advantages is that you can have files attached to your mind maps.

Let’s say you want to create a knowledge bank about business networking. You have tons of PDF documents with tips, an Excel file with contact details, a mind map on networking using social media, and text notes of books such as Never Eat Alone and Love is The Killer App (both amazing books on business networking). How would you create a knowledge bank with all this information scattered in different files and in different formats?

Mind map of knowledge management example.

Very bare and simple example of how to use mind maps for knowledge management. Notice the different attachments used to centralize all information. Click to enlarge.

The solution is to centralize all the information and to have it tied in one place. You can aggregate all this information into one mind map which will act as your knowledge bank. With use of attachments in mind maps you can manage all this information in a structured manner and in a format which makes it very easy to review.

9. Getting Stuff Done

I will be the first to admit that a mind map is not ideal as a to do list. Pen and paper still rock in that department. However, that doesn’t mean that mind maps can’t help you get stuff done. They absolutely can. Especially if you use a productivity method such as Agile Results or you map out your GTD horizons in a mind map and transfer the detailed tasks onto your task manager. There are endless ways on how mind maps can help you get things done.

If you want to see a practical example of this, check out our post on Agile Results and Mind Mapping.

10. Decision Making

When it comes to making decisions, it’s always a good idea to have a list of options to pick from. You can easily do this with pen and paper, and with mind maps. Each method allows you to map out the options but the big advantage of mind maps is that you can make it visual for yourself. From experience I can tell you that this makes a world of difference when you try to weigh out different options. Due to its visual nature you can easily spot relationships between options and – especially as you map out different scenarios it’s easier to make connections between options in order to find out what the best decision is for you. Plus, making decision trees (another effective way to help you make the right decision) is much more effective with mind maps.

More Mind Maps

If you have seen the light and you are enthusiastic on incorporating mind maps into your workflow, I highly suggest you to check out our resources on mind mapping.

Mind maps can be used for many different purposes and I hope this post has helped you see how you can use it yourself for your own situations. If you have any questions or comments, drop us a line in the comments below!

Photo by arquera.

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Posted by Suzanne  | May 23, 2012 at 10:17AM | Reply

I havn’t read the whole thing, but just wanted to add that sometimes, despite the non-linear nature of meetings & conferences, I find keeping written notes in a spiral or otherwise bound notebook helps me better track the myriad of ideas. My logic is this…my life happens in a linear fashion and I hear ideas in a linear fashion. When I am at a conference I learn and hear so many ideas that spin off so many others…I just keep notes as the come to me. Afterwards, as I review the notes and new ideas are generated, I will then create mind maps of everything that spins off and try to orgainze the thoughts better. In the past I’ve tried mindmapping or some other non-linear capture, and I always regret not being able to find a specific item that I know I wrote down that occured just after talk X but before presentation Y.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | May 24, 2012 at 12:35PM

Hi Suzanne I know exactly what you mean. I used to have similar issues with this when I was taking linear notes during seminars and conferences. The approach is totally fine and if that works for you, keep using it!

My issue was that oftentimes I wouldn’t want to re-organize my linear notes into mindmaps. Since I take so many notes it would give me too much extra work so I’ve learned to take more effective notes with my mindmaps to save that time. It takes a while to get used when you think in linear ways but with enough practice you’ll get it handled.

Posted by Suzanne  | May 28, 2012 at 9:52AM | Reply

How do you organize the many mindmaps that follow? In medical school i used mindmaps to map out different topics and it worked great…then i had a massive collection of mindmaps as well! It’s layer upon layer of information. :) Perhaps the curse of an active mind?


Posted by Thanh Pham  | May 28, 2012 at 1:17PM

One way to address it is by creating a knowledge bank mind map :-)

Posted by Dane Custance  | November 14, 2012 at 11:25AM | Reply

Thanks for this article i’ve spent much time looking carefully through the uses for mind mapping you present. I found this article very interesting and it’s presented in an easy to digest style, thanks for your time and effort it’s much appreciated. Great blog.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 14, 2012 at 2:31PM

Thanks Dane!

Posted by sudhakar dasari  | January 24, 2014 at 1:37AM | Reply

yeah………….. the mind maps are so much helps in present generation mainly.because i saw so many childrens for understanding of subjests in general way………..thank u. and i hope that these r to be implemented in future.

Posted by Steffen  | February 4, 2014 at 9:46AM | Reply

thanks for this article. i see the difference between lists and mindmaps now.

lists are just about the hierarchy and the prioritisation of things. while mindmaps are more about the relationships/connections between things. so mindmaps should be always better to grasp the broader picture.

Posted by Greg  | December 8, 2014 at 1:38AM | Reply

Did you create a mindmap for this article? :)

Posted by Brad  | December 16, 2014 at 10:30AM | Reply

Is there any way you could go into more detail as to how you took notes for classes with mindmaps?

Perhaps a very brief video demonstration? It would be absolutely invaluable to me as I’ve made attempts to do the aforementioned but have seen some massive efficiency drawbacks in areas I’m likely missing entirely in technique, etc.

Thank you very much.

(or perhaps an existing video reference that’s a good example? Thanks.)

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