Guest Post: 3 Ways to use MindMapping to Improve your Workflow

The concept of mindmapping was created based on neuroscience and how the brain functions.  The brain works based on synaptic connections.  One thoughts connects to another and another and another, creating the cohesive thoughts and actions that we are aware of.  Trying to organize our life around lists can be difficult as it’s so very limiting and contrary to how the brain functions.
Mindmapping, on the other hand, mimics how our brain creates connections, which enables us to improve how we function.  You create mindmaps by starting with a brainstorming stage where you write everything down, then you organize all of those thoughts into concepts, and you create categories and subcategories.

In this article we will talk about 3 ways to use MindMapping to Improve your WorkFlow.

 1.  Structure your Projects

Many of us have a very long list of things to do on any given day.  The information floats in our head, causing clutter and preventing us from workin effectively.  Step 1 when creating a mindmap is called a “brain dump.”  Write down everything that you have pending, whether it’s of high or low priority.  Clear out the clutter in your brain and get it all down on a map.

Once you’ve written down everything, the next step is to organize.  What tasks can you group into projects?

Let’s take the example of a mind map for Blogging Workflow:

 

 

In the example above you can see that the author wrote down all of the elements that he could think of when it come to site design. These were then grouped within hierarchical categories.  This is the foundation of any good mindmap, and this simple step alone will help to improve your productivity as your brain relates to an organized structure.  You can then keep expanding and adding more detail to your project.

 2.  Go from Macro to Micro:  Elevate

To improve productivity, it’s important for you to elevate so you don’t get bogged down by minutiae.  By organizing your workflow into a mindmap, you can gain clarity over how each task fits into the big picture.  Once you are clear about what the big picture is and how each step fits into the puzzle, you can prioritize your time accordingly.

You can add notes to your mindmaps and use tools such as Task Timer to give yourself a limited amount of time on each task.  This will help keep you flowing through the different stages in your map.

 3.  Overcome Information Overload

Whether you are a student, employee, entrepreneur, or blogger, we are all bombarded with a million things we could be doing to become more successful.  Writing all of them down in a mindmap to create a roadmap to success will help you achiever your goals.

By writing down and organizing all of the necessary steps you will find yourself moving in the right direction in a daily basis.

 

 

Above you can see an example of template to organize your week by objectives, task and priorities.  This is one of MindMeister’s default templates and you can adapt it to your projects.

MindMapping can help you on many levels

From organizing your personal life to your projects, to collaboration with others, mindmapping is an excellent tool.  Cloud based mindmapping tools like MindMeister give you flexibility to view and modify your maps from anywhere, and to collaborate with others.  The best way to find out how mind maps can help you is by trying it out!

Bio:  Marcela De Vivo is a mindmapping enthusiast and a lover of technology and tools to improve our life and productivity.  She works with WhoIsHostingThis to spread the word on their amazing Hosting Review Tool, as well as blogging about internet marketing.  Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Weekly Links: Importance of goals, setting up Evernote, GTD journey and to productivity tips.

Why Not Having Goals is a Recipe for Mediocrity

Time Management Ninja is one of my favorite productivity blogs. Recent post adds to a bit of a debate about value of having goals. Some people have been pointing out that it my be better to let go of goal and be open to opportunities. This post looks at goals from the opposite perspective and highlights the benefits of them and how they can lead to a success.

How to Organize Evernote for Maximum Efficiency

If you’re new or advanced Evernote user this post will definitely get you interested. Firstly Michael Hyatt shares his Evernote setup and how he uses it. I also recommend that you look through the comments there are over 900 of them and some are super insightful.

ADHD to GTD

Excellent post about a journey into getting organized, getting productive and finding your own way of doing things. Great insights. Thanks Micheal.

Top Productivity Bloggers Share their #1 Tip

Some awesome productivity tips form awesome bloggers including Daniel Gold, Brett Kelly, Mike Vardy. I’m there too yay!

How to return to work after the holidays?

Holiday season is in full swing and many of us take long awaited 2 weeks off. Unfortunately at some point it’s time to come back to work. This means you need to go through a backlog of emails, catch up on latest events, see whether priorities have changed and what do you need to focus on.

What’s first?

So your are back on Monday morning feeling rested and rejuvenated with energy levels sky high. Now the question is what do you do? Where do you start?

For many the default way of spending their first day at work is to go through the emails and see what has happened. Depending on your environment you can have between 500 to 2000 or more emails in your inbox. If you get yourself in to the mode of checking email, you will drown in old communication which will deplete your energy and concentration. Don’t do that.

With your energy at peak level, it’s a great time to take a stock of where you are decide where you want to go which projects to move forward.

What are the steps?

At the very, very high level the best ways to start your work after holidays is to check were you are, see what remains outstanding and define a plan of action for the rest of the week. Lets look at this in bet more detail:

1. Speak to your colleagues and manager to get an idea where things are. – your colleagues and managers will be the best source of information about recent events so don’t waste your time on looking at your email first. Most likely none of the messages from two weeks ago are that time sensitive anyway.

2. Check the follow up list which you left for your co-workers. – before you left, you most likely left a big or small list of things you would like your colleagues to look after. Since these would be important items check where they are with them, have all of them been completed? If any items remain open include them in the next stage of the review.

3. Check for any reminders that may have popped up when you were away. – ideally you’ve dealt with those by taking care of them in advance or asking your colleagues for help. If however there were few things left asses their importance and add them your next action list.

4. Check your waiting for list for to see with whom you need to follow up. – review the items you’ve been waiting for, have people responded to you during your absence. Follow up on the open items or add to your action list.

5. Check your project list and begin deciding what you want to do next. – Once you’ve re-oriented yourself in the workplace it;s time to look at things bit more strategically. Review your projects and see where they are. Decide which should remain on the list and which should be postponed or even scrapped completely. Use this list to set a direction for next few weeks.

6. Check your next action lists – remove items that are no longer relevant or to add new points following your review of projects and waiting for items.

Now, that you’re up to date with your projects, waiting for’s and next actions, you can direct energy and focus toward making progress rather than spending it on dealing with email.

This is how I would see coming back to work. My holidays are due in couple of weeks time and I’m hoping to test these ideas when I’m back.

In the mean time, I wonder what are your strategies? What do you on the first day after holidays?t

Weekly Links: Paper and smartphone, hypocrite, selecting actions and purpose of productivity

Combine Your Paper Planner and Smartphone to Make SURE School Work Gets Done

Jeff Doubek shares tips on combining paper and smartphone to leverage the strengths of both. Paper is great for planning and setting the direction of a day or week. Digital tools are best for collecting, storing and categorising the information. If you are interested in this topic I would also recommend these two blog posts one by Micheal Schechter and one by David Seah.

Vardy is a hypocrite

Mikes on Mics is one of my favorite podcasts. Recent episode has great discussion around returnig to Omnifocus by Mike Vardy. The conversation focuses on various lessons learned by Mike during the time away from Omnifocus and why it was worth the time and effort.

Productivity Made Simple: Selecting What to Do Next with GTD

Having long lists of things to do can by very paralysing and discouraging. Finding something to do among dozen of items can be difficult. This post by Karol Kral shares various criteria from the Getting Things Done methodology which you can use to select a the most appropriate task given your environment. These are common sense criteria that we apply most of the time unconsciously however from time to time it’s good to get reminded about them especially if we’re stuck and not sure where to go next.

Thoughts on Productivity, Outcomes and Output

What is the purpose of productivity? Why are we looking for ways of getting more done? And more importantly is more the right approach. Great post from AsianEfficiency.com covers these and related questions.

Single actions, project actions and contexts

When implementing GTD you will notice there are two types of next actions.
Single actions – are those which are not related to any project or larger outcome. Once they are done there is nothing additional to do. Some examples include take out trash, call friend to catch up, etc.

Project actions – as the name suggests project actions are related to specific project and once one to-do is completed there is one or more waiting to be done.

The common element for both is context which denotes where a given action can be accomplished.

Navigating between the these might be a little confusing as it’s not always easy to figure out whether you should look at single actions or project actions, which context should take priority etc?

Few weeks ago I’ve read an excellent overview on how to approach this problem written by TesTeq. I would like to share it here because it’s an excellent advice that can be easy implemented and really helps understand what GTD is about. (The post was written in Polish so below is my paraphrasing of the advice.)

  •  if task was just a single item move to next item in the same context.
  •  if a task was part of a project you can select another action in the current context.
  •  if project is important focus on the next action from that project regardless of context. The key here is completing the project not just single action.

As you can see the advise is pure common sense but it shows how flexible and adaptable GTD is.

Many people complain about GTD that it creates too much overhead with all the lists, locations and contexts etc. Perhaps they haven’t experimented and adjusted the system to their specific needs.

If you like to focus on specific projects simply open the project file and tackle one at the time whether it’s making a call, writing an email or testing a bit o code. On the flip side if you travel a lot or shift attention between different work environments context are best way to approach your to-do’s.

As consequence of its flexibility and adaptability GTD is so popular and so widely adopted.

Weekly Links: Will Smith, digital workplace and to many actions.

What Will Smith Can Teach You About Beating Procrastination

Interested how Will Smith got where he is now? Thanh from Asianefficiency.com has a very interesting summary of Will Smith’s thoughts on procrastication, success, goals and vision. It’s simpler than you may have thought but it’s not easy.

The Digital Workplace

How to create a digital workplace that allows people to be productive and effective? Oscar Berg offers very interesting thoughts on this process. My favorite paragraph is: “I see the Digital Workplace as a people-centric approach to empower knowledge workers by simplifying the online work environment for people doing information work.”

To many next actions?

When starting to implement GTD it’s very easy to overload yourself with huge number of next action. It can be very overwhelming to look at list an see hundred of items to do. How can you address this? David Allen provides a very good response. Accept the number of commitment that you have but ultimately what’s important is the work you need to do now everything else is someday.

Removing friction

Last week’s post was about frictionless and structureless this week I wanted to share few thoughts about reducing the friction when using different tool. Such friction inevitably arises when you want transfer information between two or more services.
I use a fair number of application both webapps and desktop programs. Majority of programs and applications don’t talk to each other which makes leveraging different tools difficult. In most instances you need to resort to good old copy&past which is manual and time consuming and to put it simply is a great hassle. Fortunately there are ways to remove or rather reduce this friction in different aspects of your computer usage. Perhaps some of them will appear very lifehack-y but hey they work and let me save time and streamline different things that I do.

friction on the web – ifttt.com

I have recently moved from Instatpaper to Pocket as my repository of read later items mainly because of better integration with Firefox and Android phone. As consequence of that I’ve lost ability to automatically save interesting articles to Pinboard and to post to Twitter. Fortunately there is a webapp which allows you to connect different online services . It’s truly astonishig product and it’s even more surprising that it remains free -it’s called ifttt.com. There are dozens or more applications you can connect to and generate different actions for form email, sms, weather to Evernote, Dropbox, Instagram to name just a few.

Going back to my initial problem with replicating Instapaper functionality thanks to ifttt.com, I not only  managed to fully replicate it and even enhance it. Every time I mark an article as read it will be saved to Pinboard including the tags which saves me from doing it in Pinboard. As result I have two places which work as an archive of stuff I read. If I don’t want to save the article I simply delete it.

friction on the computer – Belvedere

Another way to improve your experience on computer is to automate file management. A program that will let you do that is called Belvedere. It’s a small application that runs in the background and observes folders and files for changes that match certain criteria like name, date modified ect. Once they are met Belvedere will move, delete, copy etc. How I take advantage of Belvedere?

Managing file is not my favourite thing and if you could see my downloads folder you will see why. I have dozens of pdfs, images, text files, videos all from months ago. They looked interesting once but now I rarely know why are they there. To tame this folder I have a little Belveder rule which deletes files after certain amount of time. I decided there is no point in letting this folder to grow and if I really need something again I can always find it.

Another way I leverage Belveder is to manage my writing. All blog posts I’m working on are in plain text in a Drobox folder. Once the post is done I add a “published[tip]” prefix to the name. When Belveder sees this file it moves it to my Archive folder. No manual filing navigating though folder etc.

One thing I’ve learned about the program is to run Belveder as administrator as this provides best results. At the moment I’m just scratching the surface with the possibilities that this program has to offer.

If you are looking for some more ideas about automating file management I suggest you listed to Mac Power Users podcast episode 79. David and Katie talk about Hazel a Mac’s more advanced alternative to Belveder. Well worth it of 1,5h of your time.

friction with typing – PhraseExpress

The final element of removing friction that I wanted to share in this post is text entry and specifically ways for automating repetitive writing. For that purpose I’m using a program called PhraseExpress which lets you save pieces of text and actions that can be executed after specific key combination or text typed. Here how it works, rather than type full email address or other piece of text I type two, three letters and PharesExpress automatically makes relevant entry.
Personally I use this program to remove friction in two places: First is to automate text entry, this includes predefined responses, inputting time, date, email addresses and certain keywords that I use in Evernote. Second place I use it for is to automate accessing files. I have a number of files that I want to open quickly so I created a few keyboard shortcuts and phrases that launch those files in an instant. One thing I had to be wary of conflicts as different applications and programs have different sets of shortcuts so it’s not that difficult to invoke a function you didn’t want.

Hope this post gave you a good overview on how to automate some of your workflows and remove unnecessary friction and clicking.

I would love to know what I your own ways of removing friction? Please share them in the comments.