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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 August 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind.

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    2. Keep certain days clear.

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work.

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time.

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position.

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

    7. Don’t try to do too much.

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan.

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first.

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work.

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour.

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    14. Never stop.

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body.

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods.

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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