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Be More Productive Using A Mind Map As a Task List

Be More Productive Using A Mind Map As a Task List

A mind map is a great tool for capturing ideas quickly, presenting them in a nice, graphical and hierarchical form. But can it be used as a task list?

Your task list can exist in many different forms and you probably already have it on a sheet of paper, sticky notes or captured in some electronic device. Some people use good, old Notepad, but there are many applications to help you capture your tasks, such as Remember the Milk, Evernote, IQTell, OmniFocus, or simply Microsoft OneNote.

I have been successfully using mind maps to store my tasks for several years and there are a number of people that have liked and adopted this idea. I believe there are some great advantages: just try it!

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Starting out

First, you need an application to build and manage the mind map. It can be used on a computer or 10″ tablet (smaller devices don’t work that well). If you don’t know where to start, try FreeMind, which is free and can be used on different platforms and operating systems.

Name the root of the map as “Tasks”, “ToDo”, or simply your name, and add four basic sections: “Urgent” and “Projects” on the right-hand side, and “Delegated” (or “Awaiting”) and “Done” on the left-hand side.

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Mind Map Structure

    Using the mind map

    The whole process of building the map and the operation is described in this video:

    As you can see, the rules are simple and very intuitive, and using a mind map as a task list has some advantages over traditional techniques, as follows:

    It’s visual

    Your task list is no longer just a flat list with some text — some people hate task lists because of that. By using a mind map, you can preserve the hierarchy and priorities of the tasks, nest them and reorganize easily. You can also apply different fonts and colors, or make hyperlinks. It’s your list, so you can organize it your own way.

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    It involves emotions

    With just one look your mind map can show you where you are. You can see it and you can feel it. Sometimes you can see that one of the projects is overloaded, that you have far too many delegated tasks, or there is one task that has been there since forever because the goal was not clear. With each completed task you can see your progress by simply noting how the “Done” section grows. It is great to look at it at the end of your week and be proud of that!

    It tracks delegated tasks

    I can often see that many people struggle because their task lists do not have the ability to track the task that was delegated to someone else. It is either marked as “Done” (I’ve done my part) or stays there, calling for action and making the picture blurry. Dedicated section for delegated tasks solves the problem and also keeps the list visual.

    It tracks the progress

    Because there is a separate section for already completed tasks, you can see how this grows and feel good about it. With just one look you can see where you are and how much you have already accomplished this week, and it is much easier to write reports or summarize your work. These small achievements are your small victories.

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    It calls for retrospectives

    After one week, the “Done” section is probably quite large and this is the moment to clean it up. Of course you can simply delete the tasks that were completed from the mind map, but you could also spend half an hour, or even just few minutes, and reflect on them. Which gave you the most satisfaction? Which drained energy from you? What could you do better next week?

    When you are done, delete them, but it will give you the feeling of a small victory. Many people are really surprised when they see that list at the end of the week!

    It can be personalized

    Another great thing is that you can apply your own format to it. You may change fonts, apply different colors or add images to different projects. You may add icons to some tasks, for example when you think there is some risk associated with it. The mind map is all yours, when you think something can be done your own way, just do it!

    Summary

    I believe this technique has many advantages over traditional, “flat” task lists. It can be used on any device using any mind mapping application you like. There is no special magic behind this. You can easily improve it over time and fine tune it to your personal style. You can see and you can feel the progress.

    If you try this technique, I would love to hear your comments about it below!

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    Piotr Nabielec

    Author, CEO, Consultant

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2018

    How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

    How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

    Do you sometimes feel that you add items to your to-do list faster than you tick them off? Do you spend most of your day worrying about your lack of time?

    The truth is, no matter how much we love our job, or how productive we believe we are under stress, there comes a moment when the pressure rises above boiling point. The sheer number of urgent tasks multiplies in a geometric progression. New possibilities no longer sound inspiring, they sound overwhelming and equal more work.

    If that’s where you are right now – keep reading! If not, it doesn’t mean you should wait until you get there to learn how to cope with a demanding work schedule and how to calm yourself down quickly when you feel overwhelmed.

    Here are 7 quick and easy tips on how to calm down when you are overwhelmed:

    1. Let go of a few activities

    Yes, it’s that easy! Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “If I don’t do it today, will it matter a month from now?”

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    Not every urgent task is important. Just like not every important, high pay-off task is urgent. The best way to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed and to manage your time is to know the difference between the two and learn to simplify your life by getting your to-do list down to three big tasks.

    2. Take deep breaths to calm down

    This advice sounds so simple it’s often overlooked. But it works better (and faster) than any other relaxation technique out there.

    There is a direct connection between our emotional state and breathing. An anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed person breathes as if they have just finished running a marathon. A calm person breathes differently. Their breathing is deep, slow and steady. So when you have a panic attack, the best way to bring your heart rate down and to regain your cool is to change your breathing.

    Try this now:

    Take a slow, long deep breath in, filling your lungs with air and expanding your diaphragm. Hold your breath for four counts and then slowly release the air through your mouth. Repeat four times and notice frustration and the feeling of being overwhelmed dissolve with each long exhale of these calming breaths.

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    3. Make “Just one thing” your mantra

    When we feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks on our to-do list, it’s easy to enter the ‘deer in the headlights’ state. You see deadlines approaching directly towards you, and you know that something has to be done about them, but you just don’t know where to start.

    The best way to get your mind out of an ‘inactivity trance’ is to create momentum. This is what makes the “Just one thing” mantra so powerful. It helps to change our expectation that everything has to be completed right now, “or else.”

    Next time you feel overwhelmed make grabbing a cup of coffee your “Just one thing.” You can do it, right? Then come back, pick one of the smallest tasks on your to-do list and tell yourself you’ll do just that one task. This is your next “Just one thing” that you will concentrate on until it’s complete. After that you can move on to the next task and so on.

    It’s not “One thing at a time.” Saying this implies that there is a huge line of other tasks waiting to get done and that’s not the message you want to keep repeating to yourself. Learn how to focus here and stop getting overwhelmed.

    4. Reduce the multi-tasking and multi-thinking

    It’s been proven that multi-tasking is very inefficient, to the point of dumbing us down (more than smoking marijuana does). The same is true for multi-thinking, when your mind frantically jumps from one thought to another, trying to focus on and analyze several things all at once.

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    Fortunately, there is help. A few minutes of meditation or brainwave music is all it takes to start feeling more relaxed, more creative and less overwhelmed.

    5. Get moving

    Any exercise you engage in – be it walking or dancing to your favorite beat – helps to release endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones, through your body and to clear your mind.

    Staying active also increases your productivity, enhances your ability to combat stress and anxiety. It also helps you to release the tension, boosting your mood and changing the thoughts that induce the sense of being overwhelmed.

    The best part is you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get the mind-soothing benefits of exercise. Even as little as 15 minutes of dancing or jogging can go a long way towards making you feel better and staying calmer.

    6. Change your surroundings

    We all need and deserve to take vacations from work woes and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, spending two weeks lazing on a beach, toes in the sand and a Mojito in hand, is not always an option. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t take short ‘vacations’ from work stress and the technology buzz.

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    Go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine. Stop at a park instead of driving straight home from work. Sometimes changing your surroundings and ‘spicing up your routine’ is all it takes to change your perspective on things and find creative solutions to seemingly complex and overwhelming problems.

    7. Get some pet therapy

    Studies have shown what most of us already guessed – our pets can be a great help during stressful moments. Simple actions such as petting or playing with your dog or cat can lower high blood pressure, boost your immune system and boost your mood.

    Besides, pets can make the best conversation partners to share your frustrations with. They listen, they love you unconditionally and they never talk back or say, “I told you so.”

    Final thoughts

    Don’t wait for stress to hit you to start practicing these quick ways to calm down when you are overwhelmed. The best way to enjoy a worry-free life is not to push yourself to the limit of being overwhelmed and frustrated.

    Featured photo credit: Dardan via unsplash.com

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