The GTD Series is a series of articles where i share about how i carried out GTD to help me function in daily work.
In this article, i will talk more about making use of mind mapping softwares such as iThoughts to plan projects and take notes.
Viewing things from an overall perspective
One of the flaws that i realise for using Appigo ToDo as my main GTD application is that if you want to get a holistic view about things, its difficult.
Why is this so?
In the first part of the series, i highlighted that should you have a new multi step action collected or an action that belongs in an existing project, you should flow back to your Appigo ToDo to perform your project planning assessing what is the actionable task that you should be doing.
Dependencies and Bottlenecks
To me, with my ipod touch on my side all the time, collection is great and dropping it into sub projects. However, certain difficult projects, you would want to see what u have done in chronological order, or an order that shows u dependency. This can’t be done well with most GTD software on the market.
Many folks that use Microsoft project would have realise the importance of dependencies in milestones and tasks and would like to have this flexibility.
For further example we go back to our buying a bicycle example i illustrated in planning for projects and big projects:
- Ask Son what kind of bicycle he likes
- Find out how much your family have to pay for the bike (budgeting)
- Research on where to buy the cheapest bike on the internet
- Give son a look at the bike see if he likes it
- Find out what to look out for if it is the first time you are buying a bike
- Go down and buy the bike
- Wait for the bike to be delivered to you
In the example here, there are certain things that have no dependency and some that you have to execute it in a chrono logical order. Example u need to research where to buy the cheapest bike if u are tight on your budget. If you haven’t done that, you can’t carried out the rest of the other actions.
The there are some such as get the son’s approval which, depending on what kind of parent you are you might not care about that and would most likely proceed to action 5 or do it concurrently.
Those actions that do not generate a bottleneck or have dependency are easier to settle. You use your Context management of where you are at such as @Home, @Errands to help u do it fast.
Difficulties in Weekly Review or Daily Review of Project
Those that do, its difficult to use Appigo Todo to view that.
Here we have 3 tasks. If we go by my plan. I would most likely be scheduling my day to solving this client problem. Then i can see what is my next action in office and resolve them. Suppose the bottle neck or the dependency is under @Waiting For or @Contact, then i need to do that first in order to start my actions in @Office.
You can’t see that link in such a GTD application.
If that is the case, what we need to fall back on is to our Weekly Review, Daily Review or Project Review, where we identify what is really the next action.
However, the thing about all these to do list is that, unless you use the desktop ones, you get to see in an order which task you have done and what is left to do.
In Appigo ToDo if you done with the task, it automatically removes it and puts it at the bottom should you chose to show it.
The solution to this is that you should be looking for a mobile task management software that is THAT flexible. But if that is the case, you are looking at something ah la Microsoft Project + Context filtering on iPhone. Do we have that? The answer is i have failed to locate such an application.
iThoughts as a solution
The discovery of mind mapping software such as MindJet and iThoughts have brought about a possible solution to this.
I am still experimenting with it but so far its been a complicated planning process. I don’t want to make it overly complicated so its purely to test out how good iThoughts is as a GTD planning tool.
As a primer to what iThoughts can do, please review this article that shows how powerful this would make your iphone and ipod touch.
Viewing the Vision,Goals and Areas of Responsibility
The thing about iThoughts is that you can bring your map from your favorite desktop mind mapping software Freemind or Mind Manager to this app and vice versa.
So it means that if iThoughts close shop on you, you are not screwed.
So back to topic. You can actually create a vision map to enable u to plan and review your goals and what you hope to achieve.
There are numerous templates out there on the web, and the good thing about iThoughts is that you can always have a template map and duplicate that map so that you can reuse and reuse a map template again.
Here is an example of a map illustrating your goals for the year or 3 years and what are the area’s of responsibility to bring you to that. The great thing about this mind mapping tool is that it can take a large area so u can literally go on to plan your projects here as well. But for me i just find it very clustered if i go on further. I would rather plan sub projects in a seperate map.
iThoughts enable you to show progress as well.so that means you can do quarterly review of these maps to see how far you are from achieve these goals and whether for example you need to redefine your big projects( your big projects will be those Area of Responsibilities, which are equivalent to large lists in Appigo ToDo)
Planning projects in detail
By setting a Project Planning Mind Map Template, you can easily duplicate this template and start planning your projects.
A note is that, it would be best to plan really extensive projects that are more complex here in iThoughts. For simple stuff like buying a bicycle, i would recommend software like Things or Appigo ToDo. It makes life easier. Different software have their strengths and weakness and GTD to-do list excel in quick collection and filtering based on contexts.
Mind Mapping software like iThoughts do not do filtering that well.
The goal of project planning is that you have an idea about
- Why you are doing this (Purpose)
- Where you are at
- Where do you want to be (Outcome)
- What are my constraints? (time? resources? other complexity?)
- What do i have to do (Milestones)
And in a template such as this, things become very clear at one glance. This is an example about buying an insurance policy. So the purpose and outcome and constraints are spelt out clearly whenever you review and plan.
You will also be able to see your progress of each milestones clearly plus how much time you have left or whether a milestone is overdue (denoted by the red clock in “REquest advice from advisor”)
Here we drill down from the milestones to tasks. The conflict that i have is that you can’t really filter your tasks by context. But really if you are someone who wants a once glance review and plan ahead, such a task management mind map will be great.
Here you see that a target icon marks my next action and what i should be focusing on. This would work, if you schedule a time to carry out such a sub project. If you don’t schedule it on your calendar then if you keep so many sub projects map you end up checking here check there to see what you should be doing.
This is where you really give and take and really appreciate Appigo ToDo. You can view all your sub projects and which is your next actions easily but not iThoughts.
I would suggest that for someone who is using a task management application like Things or Appigo ToDo, put your tasks necessary in your Appigo Todo, don’t double entry. it wastes time.
Use iThoughts purely as a review and planning from a higher perspective.
- Review your iThoughts Milestones
- Move to your Appigo ToDo check if its completed
- If it is and all the tasks in the milestones are completed move the progress to the appropriate level.
- Re-evaluate milestones and brainstorm if there are tasks that needs to be added into any of the milestones.
- Review if you can still meet your deadline.
This is by no means a good solution. But iThoughts is such a flexible software that it can weave into this purpose of reviewing and keeping track of your 50000 – 20000 feet stuff.
That way you don’t lose track of what is the overall objective.
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