Agenda Mapping or Agenda Setting

Agenda mapping basically means setting the agenda. If you work in any role where you have to collaborate with others to get things done within a certain time limit, then agenda mapping could help you. If you are a doctor, counselor, teacher, mother, father, etc, you could benefit from being effective at agenda mapping.

Let’s use the doctor’s office as an example. The doctor has fifteen minutes with each patient on his schedule. When the patient comes in to see him, how might agenda mapping work in a way that will be a win-win for the patient and the doctor and strengthen their relationship at the same time? 

Here is what the AAFP suggested in a recent journal article. It’s the same approach that I use and it has served me and those I work with really well.

  • Start by telling the patient how much time you have together. Ask her “how would you like to use our time today.” For example, “We have about 15 minutes today. How do you think it’s best to spend our time together?” Or, “The schedule has us working for 15 minutes today. How would you like for us to spend that time?
  • When she tells you, keep saying “what else?” until she says “that’s it, there is nothing else”. 
  • Then tell her what things you think are also important and pressing that you think should also be addressed today.
  • If too many things are listed, work with her to prioritize and focus on the most important ones today and schedule an appointment with her to finish the remaining problems.

Advantages of agenda mapping.

Creating an agenda helps to

  1. Put everyone on the same page,
  2. Set the right expectations upfront.
  3. Focuses the meeting.
  4. Prevents the situations where the doctor might focus on things that weren’t the most important things for the patient.

I personally agree with many doctors who think starting by telling the patient how much time you both have together is a great way to start. If you are going to go grocery shopping with someone as your partner, you should both know how much money you have to spend. It’s not good for only one person to know the budget. The other person might be picking expensive items, not knowing that there is no cash!

How can agenda mapping work in your relationships and interactions with people?

Optional Resources for Further Reading

Kathleen G. Reims, MD, FAAFP, and Denise Ernst, PhD, “Using Motivational Interviewing to Promote Healthy Weight”, Fam Pract Manag. 2016 Sep-Oct;23(5):32-38.

William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change, 3rd Edition

Kenneth P. Olson, MD, “Oh, by the Way…: Agenda Setting in Office Visits”, Fam Pract Manag. 2002 Nov-Dec;9(10):63-64.

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