photo by : -ratamahatta-
A week ago I posted that I’ve moved my projects to MindManager. I outlined there why I did it and what benefits I’ve been noticing.
What I would like to share now is the impact of mind map on the workflow aka how things work.
Feeding the project list.
All new projects big or small come via to sources email or paper notes. As new items arrive I review them every couple of hours and make necessary decisions. If things are classified as projects then they get added to my project list. When I know what’s required to complete the project I would quickly jot down key actions/tasks and outline them as subtopics.
For projects that came via email I usually drag the original message into my map. This way I have the original message handy so I can extract any important or useful information.
Project list & current focus
I split currently open projects between two lists or branches on my mind map.
Current focus branch includes projects that I actively work on and that I want to push forward. This list usually contains between 4-5 items.
When deciding what goes on that list I try to balance the important and the urgent.
Project list branch includes all other project that I have open and I should finish. These include things were I wait for others to complete their part or projects that I started a while ago but were pushed to a side due to other commitments. What I also do when I’ve completed actions from current focus list I usually refer to project list and try to find items I could work on in that moment. This way I’m able to chip away some of the open items.
Actions, Outlook sync & text markers
As I mentioned above if project is simple and I have good idea what I want to do I usually jot all related actions as subtopics. This is way I have a full overview of the necessary work.
Once I outline the tasks depending on their status I would sync them with outlook which is default piece of software in any corporation. This is one of more powerful features of Mindmanager. All next actions can be pushed into Outlook without too much hassle or re-typing.
In addition to sync I’m using a couple text markers. Text markers allow you to assign image/icon to a topic to highlight certain pieces. At the moment I’m using two of these one to indicate waiting for’s and one to highlight ideas. I’m considering introduction if third marker to indicate those projects that are directly related to my year-end goals.
Although I try to keep reminders of events, to-dos, information items in Outlook I find more and more that assigning alerts to elements of my mind map really helps to draw attention to important items. Also by setting a reminder in the dashboard itself once it goes off it brings up the topic and provides context to it. Rather than see “John due to deliver X” I can see “John to deliver X” as part of project Y etc.
Daily and weekly checks
To keep the projects dashboard current and relevant I need to makes sure that the information if fresh and accurate. To do that I make sure I review it at least once a day to extract relevant next actions and follow up items and move items between ‘current focus’ list and my ‘master project list’. I try to do it each evening before I leave work.
Then as the map stays open whole day I update it as I work on different items. When I process my notes or email I add new projects to the list, when I’m done with one I move it to my ‘Projects_Closed’ branch.
As my map grows in size it’s easy to lose focus and get distracted by the sheer volume. This is one of the reasons I’m using ‘current focus’ list also the Mind Manager itself has a very neat feature called focused view. What it does is basically zoom all the attention on selected topic. All other branches are closed the the higher possible level. All you can see is the topic you’ve selected and any subtopics. This way if you need to get into the zone and push that one project ahead you can bring up that one item and hide the rest.
I mentioned that I use text markers to highlight some parts of my projects. Mindmanager allows me to filter branches and topics based on a specific text marker. This way I can get an overview of my waiting fors, some ideas that I might be developing or how I progress toward my goals.
At the moment I’m at the end of first month of using this setup and so far I’m very pleased with it. There are still some issued that I need to iron out but overall it works very well.
I will be replicating this approach for my home workflow as well although I will use Freeplane rather than Mindmanager. At the moment I can’t justify the cost.
Do you use mind maps for managing projects? If you do, please share them in the comments section.