Using Mindmapping for Goal Setting and Time Management

In reading various Getting Things Done (GTD) forums on the web, one sees time and time again questions come up about managing projects, and especially about how to keep the big picture in mind while you're executing the tasks (that is, remembering why you're doing the task in the first place and what relevance it has to the project). Mindmapping is a wonderful tool for doing this. (For additional information on Mindmapping, see this Wikipedia entry.)

There are several software products available for mindmapping, with the industry leader being MindManager. I personally use MindManager on my iMac and have also used it on my Windows XP laptop. It is a very powerful tool that you can use for brainstorming, strategizing, project planning, and even for managing tasks.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let's jump into the discussion with a screenshot of a MindManager template from Dr. Pascal Venier:


Note that each of the "bubbles" (Projects list, Next Actions, etc.) has a PLUS sign indicator next to it, indicating that a mouse click on the sign will reveal additional detail, as indicated in the following screenshot, which expands on the "Projects list:"


Within the Projects list part of the map, I have expanded the "Work" leg to show how one can go about laying out work-related projects (note that the "Home" and "Personal" legs can be similarly expanded). What I really like about this Projects List portion of Pascal's template (available here) is that it guides you to do your Outcome Visioning for each project, its Guiding Principles, and of course its Actions. Hence, for managing projects, this MindManager template has everything you need. You can even do more with it than I have indicated, in that you can link within the map to related documents (detailed project definitions, for example, or photos or web sites).

You can do this with either the Mac or Windows version. An extra for Windows users is that MindManager has a Pro version which integrates nicely with Microsoft Office, including allowing one to define Tasks within MindManager and then link them into Outlook (where they can be managed within Outlook and can also be synced to one's PDA). As far as I have been able to determine, there doesn't seem to be a way to link Tasks created within the Mac version to iCal. This is not a big deal to me, as I am not sure I would use the capability on my Mac if it were available, but I thought I should mention it.

Update: As I recently noted in a post on my Keener Living blog, the developers of MindManager provide some AppleScripts on their website to integrate MindManager with a number of applications. Among these scripts are a couple that will convert MindMap items into iCal Tasks. This is a pretty neat capability that I wasn't aware of until recently.

Referring once again to the top figure, expanding the Next Actions bubble shows the following:

Pascal also has another template (available here) that focuses on defining goals and setting priorities, and it is also fashioned in the GTD style (addressing priorities at the 10,000 ft through 50,00 ft levels):

Having recently retired, this use of Mindmapping is coming in especially handy for me. You might think that being retired would mean that I could forget about 1-2 year goals and a 3-5 year vision and strategy, and that I could just "kick back and relax." Oh, I'll do my share of relaxing. But, I am only 57 years old, and while my health could be better, I could still have another 20 or 30 years of life left and I want to set what course I will sail over that time.

Expanding the 40,000 ft level of the above map shows how you can use the map in planning at the 40,000 ft level. To see what this looks like, just click here. (I've put the graphic on a separate page because its width doesn't fit well within the width of this web page design.)

Clearly this is an excellent tool for visioning and strategy planning. And, as previously noted, you can link any item (such as one of the "Identify Vision" elements) to other documents (which could provide, for example, background discussion on the strategy, major assumptions, and so on). MindManager also lets you export a map to other document formats, such as Word. I used this feature to export my initial map of goals to a Word document (rich text format), and then continued to work on and refine my goals within the document (which I sync'd to my Pocket PC, letting me modify the goals on it as well as on my Mac).

I also developed a template gives a sort of a Covey approach to goal definition. You can view it here..

This particular Mindmap is in an early developmental stage, but its simple approach appeals to me. Right now I am using it and Pascal's templates for reviewing and revising my goals. If you'd like to use this template as a starting point for your own goal planning, a copy of it is available here.

For those who are interested in combining some sort of Covey and GTD approach to goals Mindmapping, I recommend the post by Michael Sampson on his "Reflections on GTD's Horizons of Focus." Also, the downloads section of the MindManager site has a ton of sample Maps, many of which have been uploaded by people who developed the maps to solve everyday problems.



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2006 - 2008 Bruce Keener

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