Every productivity expert will give you their opinion about how to get more things done in the same amount of time.
They’ll show you how to make to do lists, categorize them with 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C and try to get you to eliminate tasks off your list.
These methods can be helpful for some, but if it’s not working for you take a look at mind maps.
Mind maps are simply visual representations of ideas. You’ve probably used them before to organize your thoughts on a business project, or back in school when you were thinking about writing a research paper.
There are plenty of mind mapping software programs out there, from free to expensive. All have their own merits, but my favorite one to use is Freemind.
This won the medal for me because it’s simple, uses a hierarchical structure, exports maps as images, PDFs, and text outlines.
Let me give you an example of my (pretty typical) to-do list from this weekend.
- Mow the lawn
- Write an email to subscribers/clients
- Twitter a bit
- Work on sales page for Discover Freemind
- Create survey for IM Success Workshop
- Send inner circle members note about Sunday night call
- Watch Olympics
- Straighten Office
- Friend requests on Facebook
- Check fantasy baseball roster
- Post lesson on Freemind to blog
Now if I were writing this on a piece of paper as they come to me, this is the order they came out.
Traditionally, I would then either rewrite my list, or designate each task as a 1, 2, or 3.
But with Freemind, I can actually move these things around based on categories I determine.
So for example, a regular to-do list map would look like this…
And I would then set up categories of Home, Office, Just for Fun, and put each task into a category.
(Alternatively, I could use things like morning, afternoon, evening)
Just this step alone of categorizing and shifting tasks into slots helps me tremendously. And if I make subcategories to group things by similar processes (i.e., social networking, online/offline work, etc.), I can make sure I am efficient, too.
Another cool feature within Freemind is when I’m focusing on a task, I can make the other tasks “disappear” so I am not distracted. That little circle next to a category means they’re still there. Just tucked away.
I use this same process whether it’s a daily agenda, a workshop, a product launch, or teleseminar – anything that benefits from strategic planning is a perfect fit for mindmaps.
One final tip – color helps me in my organization. So I will often use Freemind’s formatting tools to help my brain make sense of the map even more. So the map above turns into this…
By the way, another reason I like Freemind is it’s free! You can get it as part of the membership at IM Success Library, and choose to learn from my video tutorials (optional) to learn how to use the software today.
I hope this lesson helps you rescue at least an hour of productive time every day like it has for me and the others I’ve introduced it to!
p.s. Are you using mindmaps and/or Freemind? Share your results below with a comment!
p.p.s. Sometimes the simplest things can have huge impact in multiple areas. Use mindmaps for yourself, but show it to teachers and students you know – it’s a life saver for lesson planning, organizing homework with extracurriculars, or even developing long range plans for college!