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How to Use a Mind Map to Organize Your Life

How to Use a Mind Map to Organize Your Life

To say I’m a big fan of mind mapping would be a massive understatement. In fact, I use mind maps every day, both for professional and personal purposes. More than that, if it wasn’t for mind mapping, I wouldn’t be able to get anything done during my workday.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, mind mapping is a practice of mapping out your thoughts around a specific topic or range of topics. The modern mind mapping concept was first brought to the public by Tony Buzan, an English author and educational consultant. And almost instantly, many people in the productivity education niche have started to push it as the best thing ever. Here’s why.

The problem of working in the 21st century

This “best thing ever” is not such a big over exaggeration, actually. One of the main problems we have to face as active people who want to achieve great things in their lives is that there are just too many tasks we can do every day, especially if we’re working for ourselves (as freelancers or business owners). Getting lost in the magnitude of possibilities is just more than easy.

If you’re a blogger or a freelance writer then doing your job requires activity in a number of different areas, for example:

  • writing (the obvious part),
  • networking,
  • social media,
  • editing and perfecting you articles/posts,
  • client management,
  • project management (as in managing your already-finished articles, posts, or chapters),
  • website management and launch,
  • invoicing and other financial stuff,
  • promotion and advertising, and/or
  • SEO and online presence.

Actually, I could probably go on and on with the above list but that’s not the point here. The point is to make it clear that for every profession or line of career out there, there really are tons of things one can place on a similar list. And managing them all is a big pain. Period.

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Now, this is where mind mapping comes into play.

The way mind mapping works

One of the intuitive approaches to organize our lives a little is to open up a Word document and create an outline with some bullet points, right?

Well, even though it’s popular, it’s not the most effective method. The main problem with it is that our thoughts are not laid out in bullet points. And when we attempt to convert them as such, we only end up with a lot of information being lost in the process.

Mind mapping, on the other hand, helps us follow the natural thought process. For instance, take a look at this example mind map:

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mind-map-time

    As you can see, the mind map focuses on time management in general. Even though it’s very graphic, it’s easy to point out its main elements. In the center, there’s a big clock with five main branches.

    The branches read: Mindset, Wasters, Process, Gain Time, Strategies. If you follow “Mindset” you’ll get to two more branches (child branches): Questions, Guidelines. If you follow “Questions” you arrive at the final set of branches with three questions to ask about time management.

    One of the main strengths of a mind map is that it’s very easy to find every individual piece of information. All you have to do is follow certain branches. For instance, if we take a look at the set of three questions mentioned above and then follow the branches back to the core, we can quickly notice that the questions relate to “Mindset” of time management. We can do the same with every other branch on the map.

    Adding more information is also very easy. You can create new branches or new leaves in any part of the existing structure.

    So, how do you actually use it to organize your life?

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    Tools

    Let’s start with the only mandatory element: the software tool that you’re going to use to create and manage your mind maps.

    Here’s what I recommend:

    • Get FreeMind, the best mind mapping tool around. It’s free and it runs on every major platform (Windows, Mac, even Linux).
    • Additionally, if you’re a heavy iPad user, get Mind Maister (if you want to be able to work with your mind maps on the go).

    FreeMind has a number of features but the three most crucial ones are simple keyboard shortcuts:

    • “Insert” – to insert a new child branch.
    • “Enter” – to insert a new sibling branch.
    • “Spacebar” – to expand or collapse the current branch.

    Apart from that, you can just type what you want included. Feel free to check out the other features to get even better efficiency (there are some icons, colors, different types of connections, etc.).

    Using mind maps

    Using mind maps for work is probably the most straightforward and easy to grasp application of mind mapping. Our work is usually a very structured activity all in itself, so introducing some more organization is a very intuitive process.

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    Some of the common elements of mind maps for work:

    • To-do lists of tasks.
    • Task archives (completed tasks).
    • Projects (a breakdown of individual parts of a given project).
    • Brainstorming session log.
    • Plans and action blueprints.
    • “Waiting for” log (a list of things you’re waiting for to receive from other people).
    • Resource lists (for instance, a list of “8 link building techniques for my site”).
    • Content organization (your article/post headline ideas).
    • Layouts for individual blog posts if you’re an active blogger, and many more.

    Don’t treat this like a comprehensive list of any sort, these are only examples. Mind mapping can be effectively used for anything you want and only your imagination is the limit.

    If you want to kick it up a notch, you can also use mind mapping for your personal life. For example, here’s a quick set of things I like to keep in my mind map:

    • A list of personal projects to do (like, “learn how to cook a steak”).
    • My workout log.
    • My dieting log.
    • My books-to-get list.

    If by any chance I failed to excite you about mind mapping then just let me ask you a favor. Give mind mapping a one-month test. Just pick one area of your work and try to improve on it with mind mapping.

    Then, if it doesn’t work after a month then you’re done with mind mapping for life, no regrets… although I seriously doubt it’ll happen.

    So, what do you think? Are you willing to give it a try?

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    Karol Krol

    Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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    Last Updated on January 6, 2021

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

    In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

    For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

    For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

    Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

    Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

    Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

    How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

    1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

    Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

    For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

    2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

    Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

    Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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    Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

    3. Create a System

    Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

    This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

    You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

    Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

    4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

    We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

    If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

    Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

    5. Use a Ratings Scale

    Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

    Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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    It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

    6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

    This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

    You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

    You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

    7. Offer Feedback Forms

    Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

    First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

    Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

    You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    8. Track Cost Effectiveness

    This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

    Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

    Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

    9. Use Self-Evaluations

    Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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    Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

    10. Monitor Time Management

    This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

    Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

      The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

      While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

      11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

      We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

      Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

      For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

      Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

      Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

      From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

      12. Utilize Peer Feedback

      This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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      Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

      Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

      It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

      13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

      When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

      Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

      Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

      14. Use an External Evaluator

      Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

      They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

      While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

      Final Thoughts

      These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

      The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

      The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

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