How to Mind Map

Mind mapping is tremendously useful technique for getting thoughts out of your head.
If you struggle with gaining clarity on big project that you need to run, trying to make a big decision, writing a book mind map will help you out. Mind mapping lets you capture all the ideas about a topic and then find a structure based on the common themes, connections etc.

Lifehack.org share extensive guide on how to use this tool which is worth checking out if you are not familiar with it.

How to mind-map is three easy steps

Weekly Links for 29th of August

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Workflowy: The Need for Speed « dan gold, esq.
  2. Using mind mapping software to consider the future
  3. Enrich Your Life – Go on a Digital Sabbatical
  4. Recovering the Lost Art of Note Taking
  5. davidhewson.com – Blog – Managing a book project with Evernote

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Weekly Links for 6th of June

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. What You Said: How Do You Keep Notes?
  2. 3 Labs graduations, 1 retirement | Gmail Blog
  3. Managing Content w/ a Dashboard Pt. 3 – Clients | The Mindjet Blog
  4. Video: "Broken Meetings (and how you’ll fix them)" | 43 Folders
  5. Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Weekly Links for 19th February

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Compartmentalize and Get More Done
  2. Dashboarding for greater productivity
  3. The Benefits Of Using A Mind Map As A Personal Dashboard
  4. 10 Big Ideas from “10 Days to Faster Reading” by Abby Marks-Beale
  5. Keeping it all together with Personal Kanban

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

GTD Project series – project tools.

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This is part two of series of posts focusing on GTD and project. Last week I’ve covered the natural planning model. This week I want to focus on some of the tools which you could use to make the process of managing projects a lot easier. Having the right tools around can assist in making sure that the project was fully captured and we can access the plan to review next actions and track progress.

When working on a project there are three categories of information that need to be taken care of.

  • Brainstorming – this is where you collect all your ideas that are related to a project. Key element in the idea creation stage is to let them flow freely and record as quickly and easy as possible.
  • Project plans – once you’re collected all your ideas related to a project you can start organising them into sections, components, next actions.
  • Project support material – a major project will require a lot of research, planning, idea creation sessions, setting up new relationships, testing documentation etc. All these documents need to be kept on file and in one place so one can always refer to them when needed.

There are 7 tool types that can handle any project.

  • Pen and paper – pen and paper is one of most versatile project tools. It’s dead simple and readily available. However the key of it is that it can be used for any aspect of project flow. You can use if for brainstorming, for organising your ideas into project plans. As you go on your research again pen and paper that can help you capture the stories behind things, the images, the details etc. For me almost every project starts with some scribbles captured on paper. I find it super easy and super simple to get things going. There is nothing distracting me. To kick off any project simply grab a pen and some paper that’s around you and start writing.
  • Text outliners – another simple way to work your projects is to use text outliner. This application allow you to create multilevel structures that can be very easily reorganized and reshuffled when needed. For people who are fast typists using outliner can be a great way to dump all their ideas very quickly and then rearrange into a plan. There is no need to rewrite thing as you would do it on paper which some of you might find discouraging and waste of time. Due to simplicity text outliner can fulfil any purpose in project workflow. Although I’m no longer a big user of outliners I had some great results with applications like MS Onenote, Evernote and simple text file. If you’re big MS Word user the outline mode is pretty powerful.
  • Mind maps – if visual representation of your projects is important for you than mind maps are definitely a place to explore. The concept of mind map is very simple and it basically describes creating a web of ideas interconnected with lines and relationships starting from one central point. If you use mind maps on paper they are a great way to brainstorm an idea, flesh things out and clear your head. However if you go a step further and start using mind map on a computer the possibilities expand greatly. You are not only able to brainstorm but you can manage the whole project from establishing the purpose to tracking next actions. You can move things around, drag and drop them between branches. There can be added almost infinite amount of detail as you add layer after layer additional points. As maps can be expanded and collapsed you can set the see only the relevant amount of information. The reason I like mind map is twofold. First I like the visual side of mind maps including web like structure, colours and lines. Second element is flexibility to organize things exactly as I want.
  • Excel /Gantt charts – if you’re looking for little more advanced ways for managing projects and want to capture an lot detail associated with a task that later is analysed for various criteria excel and other spread sheet solutions might be for you. As oppose to mind maps this type of tool is most appropriate for actual tracking and laying out task rather than any creative work. It allows seeing the sequences and dependencies of various sections and elements of a project.
  • Project management software – if you need to do some heavy lifting in terms of managing projects you may turn to a specialised applications. These programs allow tracking multiple steps, dependencies, resources, critical paths etc. For most individuals and smaller companies using this type of software wouldn’t be necessary and more likely would require more work to manage to system than it’s worth.
  • Whiteboards – I must admit I don’t have a lot of experience with this tool but It’s inevitably great way to kick start a big project when you have to deal with a group of people. In a team or group setting the key is to make sure everyone has access to information. Whiteboard allow precisely that.During the brainstorming process every member of the group can see other ideas, build on them, purpose new solutions. Once the plan has been put in place whiteboards can become project dashboards communicating progress, current focus, obstacles etc.
  • Document databases – some project require gathering a substantial amount of information and research that need to be stored and accessible by the team of kept for archiving purposes.One of the easier ways to manage this is to use already existing file and folder structure to save documents, notes etc. The key element is to make sure that information can be easily located and retrieved and act as a trigger for further idea generation or project development.

Managing a project can be an art of itself and it’s super easy to get focused on little details, finding a 20th way to organise the actions. As result you end up using project management software to keep track tyre change. The key is to use tools that are just right enough and for majority of people and project they have to deal with a simple sheet of paper or text file with ideas will bring more clarity and progress than the fanciest management tool.

Projects, mind maps – the workflow

A Thousand Gates 
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.

Alerts

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.

Focused view

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. 

Projects and mind maps go hand in hand

image

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.

Weekly links for 25th December

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas here is the usual collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. How to get exactly what you want

  2. Springpad Helps You Get Things Done

  3. Productivity Tools: Personal Dashboards

  4. 15 Cool Ways To Boost Your Creativity

  5. Out With The Old, In With The New: Do a Mind Sweep

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

How mind mapping can improve you business

I’m finding that mind maps are becoming one of the pillars in my personal productivity system. I use them very, very often. I have a shortcut on my task bar to launch Freeplane – my current mind mapping program of choice. I even set up a special key combinations  in ActiveWords application to launch  my most important mind maps. I’m literally just two clicks away from almost any mind map on my computer. In addition on the go if I want to draw a quick map I can do this on the Android phone thanks to ThinkingSpace application.

If you seen some examples of mind mapping but you’re still not sure if it will do the job. Perhaps you’re looking for other ways to leverage the power of mind mapping. If that’s the case you might be interested in below blog post by Chuck Frey of Mindmappingblog.com.

 

As a result, a savvy businesspeople are utilizing this type of productivity software for an amazing number of applications, including these:

1. Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.

2. Plan and manage a project.

3. Plan a meeting – including outlining the agenda, meeting room requirements and invitees.

4. Capture ideas from a group brainstorming meeting.

5. Maintain an idea database.

Does this sound interesting? Head over to Mindmappingblog.com for the full article on  45 ways to use mind mapping software for business.