Who says that your to-do list or project plan has to be in a long list, with a little check box next to each item? Many people have trouble thinking in linear lists. If this is you, use some creativity and make a mindmap, a visual way to get information out of your brain and onto a page, which can then be used to create fully functional action “lists”.
The basics of mindmapping are simple. They’re just a graphical method of making notes, using images and colours, aswell as text, to help you organise and remember what you need to do. There are computer programs that can help you (google “mindmap software” for suggestions) and many people use them, but really all you need is a large sheet of blank paper and a pen.
Start with a main idea in the centre of the page, ideally adding an image and using some colour. Then brainstorm for related key topics and write them down with lines connecting each thought to the centre. These become “branches” of your main idea.
Draw additional branches that extend from your first branches. The words on these branches are basically sub-topics of the words you wrote on your main branches.
Keep expanding the mindmap outwards with additional sub-topics / key words and branches, using different colours and pictures throughout.
Chains of thought will link one idea to the next, and indicate patterns and possible links. The idea is not to force your thoughts into a pre-set format but allow yourself to get all the information out of your brain before trying to group and organize it.
Mindmaps are useful for figuring out project timelines. Here’s how it could work…
1. Start with a goal in the centre
2. Ask yourself, “What would have to happen before I reached that result?”
3. Keep asking that same question, over and over.
4. Keep going until you get to the first thing you need to do TODAY to get moving towards completion.
5. Add that item to today’s list of activities.
Where people fall down when using mindmaps is they never finish. They create the picture and think they’re done. But you must take that information and add it to a strategy that includes tasks and deadlines. Otherwise, it’s like pulling everything out of your wardrobe and spreading it across your bedroom. Your wardrobe is not clean and organized until you create a plan for the space and put everything according to that plan.
Mindmapping can be a fun and effective way to create sophisticated strategies and project plans. The key is to allow yourself free rein to get everything down on paper, and then go back and instil logical structure around those ideas.