In the last couple of weeks I’ve been discovering how well projects and mind maps work together.
I subscribe to the GTD based notion that anything that takes more than two steps is a project. As result my project list grows at a very fast pace. For the moment I’m fine with that and using a mind map to manage that really makes a difference.
Also projects from a key element of my work so it’s easy for me to think and work “in projects”. As in my workplace pretty much everything is a project setting up my workflow around this makes much more sense.
In the last couple years I’ve been using Outlook to manage projects and actions. Outlook is great for creating action lists, unfortunately projects don’t fit into it well.
I’ve tried many different approaches to handle projects but was not very successful. Unless you buy a special add-on (not possible in my workplace) your choices are limited. Finally, I’ve settled on using categories to separate actions and projects and waiting for’s. Project details were recorded in the notes section. That was sufficient but not great.
I had my project list in plain view but nothing more, unless I’ve opened each project I couldn’t see what’s next, where the project was, etc.
Recently I’ve discovered that I can get installed a Mindjet’s MindManager Pro on my work computer. I immediately requested access and began transferring all my stuff into a mind map.Thanks to embedded Outlook sync I’ve exported all my projects and tasks into a single dashboard like map.
Initially I thought I’ll be using a single map for everything, projects, actions, ideas, calendar etc. Unfortunately I quickly discovered that this only lead to visual overload and makes managing tasks more complicated. I’ve settled on creating a dashboard like map which includes my current, future and closed projects. In addition I’ve added links to other maps which include my current goals, someday/maybe items etc.
My projects reside in mind map however actions are synced/inputted to Outlook. It’s purely practical reason. Outlook is open whole day for me so it’s easier to focus on the actual things to do in there.
Why I moved from Outlook to MindManager? and
Why MindManager or any other mind mapping software will work?
- Single place. Having all in one map provides better overview of my commitments. I can see straight away how many projects are there and what’s their weight. In addition projects can be broken up by tasks so I can see how big is the project or what’s involved in it.
- Focus. I can select a project with it’s sub tasks and move to new branch This way all I’ll see is that one item I should be focusing on. There is no distraction from seeing other items on my list.
- Defence against distractions. Having an outline of tasks necessary for each project makes it easier to jump in and work on it for 15 to 30 minutes. And when ever someone interrupts I always know where I was and what’s next.
- Tracking. Adding a quick update to mind maps is very easy. Something happened, an idea occurred, new task I can simply add those things when needed. Very often projects change direction and so the related tasks. Using mind map allows to capture all these things so that your list is current and up to date.
- Archiving and reference. Once project is done I file away with all it’s notes, completed subtasks etc. If there is a need to go back and check what was done I can always do that and have a clear overview.
I’m still at a stage of refining the whole setup and workflow but the results are very encouraging. I can see that I’m handling a lot of stuff. This is good for two reasons I can show that I’m doing a good job and juggle a lot of projects. On the flip side if I struggle to keep up rather than let things slide I can ask for help and pass a well defined project to a colleague.
If you have access to any mind mapping software my suggestion is to try it out, see if you can improve on your work performance.