Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. -Paul J. Meyer
When you think of productivity tools and methodologies, mind mapping software probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But it is a powerful tool that can help you and your team become better organized and effective.
Mind mapping software can have a dramatic impact on personal productivity, increasing it as much as 20-30 percent, according to research conducted by this blog. Properly used, it can underpin all of your key processes and approaches for planning and delivering your tasks, activities and deliverables.
Here are six ways mind mapping software can help you and your team to to improve your productivity:
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Mapping out tasks, priorities and deadlines provides the ideal format to capture, sort and categorize your own or your team’s workload. It allows you to visualize all of your projects and action items, and make better-informed decisions on workload levels, priorities and any tasks that ought to be delegated. Mind mapping software also enables you to visualize project timelines and allocation of resource, and gives you a powerful toolbox for project tracking and reporting. These capabilities can significantly increase your productivity and that of your team.
2. Thinking skills
In almost everything we do, we process our ideas, creativity, knowledge and experience through an information journey process – capture, understand, analyze and decide. We don’t always do so in the most effective or efficient ways, however, which can lead to problems including misunderstandings, misconceptions, missed opportunities and missed deadlines.
Too many times we miss things: We don’t utilize our creativity as much as we should. We’re not thorough enough. And, too often, we lack the right tools and techniques for thinking things through.
Mind mapping software is one of the best enablers for visualizing data and facts. We can take any problem or opportunity and run it through any technique that involves drilling into the detail of who, what, where, why, when and how. It is an excellent tool for brainstorming, idea generation and capturing knowledge, experience and creativity.
Everything we do involves thinking. Most business situations require in-depth and thorough thinking. I can’t think of a better way to improve on the shortcomings of traditional methods such as whiteboards, flipcharts and Post-It notes to capture, sort and prioritize my thinking. Mind mapping saves me time and effort and provide clarity and focus through its highly visual, engaging and intuitive interface.
3. Effective meetings
Meetings are usually unsuccessful or ineffective for a number of common reasons, including:
- Poor planning
- An inadequate agenda
- Lack of focus during discussions
- Poor timekeeping to fully explore items
- A lack of proper recording of outcomes
- No proper focus on post-meeting actions
- Key tasks are not implemented on time or are quickly forgotten about as people return to their workloads
Mind mapping software ensures meeting requirements and content are thoroughly thought through and focused. The map then acts as visual guide for conducting the meeting, where it can enable greater engagement and collaboration. The mind map provides structure and focus to the meeting, and also serves as a canvas for recording inputs and outcomes in real time. The team leader can allocate resources and adjust time scales for tasks, with everyone able to see how these decisions affect other parts of the project.
The resulting map is a clear and accurate recording of the meeting which can then be easily converted into a full meeting report by exporting it to Microsoft Word.
4. Task management
Modern mind mapping software enables you to visualize tasks, next actions, resources and timelines with astounding clarity. In a team meeting, it helps each person understand the bigger picture of what needs to done, by whom and by when, resulting in improved communication and buy-in, as well as helping each team member better understand how they contribute to the team’s success.
The use of mind mapping software allows you to take task management to a whole new level of visibility, enabling you to do a better job of monitoring and meeting priorities and deadlines. The ability to filter a map based on ownership of tasks enables you to be more proactive in keeping projects on track. The ability to export tasks to Microsoft Outlook and update them in both directions helps ensure that tasks are kept in view, increasing the odds that they will be completed on time.
5. Information overload
More often than not we are required to research, examine and evaluate lengthy or complex information. Trying to make sense of and interpret such a document can often be a daunting experience. As knowledge workers, we often spend a lot of unnecessary time and effort trying to sort, organize and understand what it all means.
Another challenge we face when doing this kind of research and analysis is isolating key data and facts, and visualizing them in a form that helps us recognize themes and patterns. In other words, we need to be able to separate the forest from the trees. Once we have a clearer picture of the information we have distilled and interpreted, we often need to present or communicate it to others clearly and effectively.
Mind mapping software saves us time and a lot of effort in the way we can capture key words and phrases and quickly de-clutter chunks of information. The visual aspect appeals to the way we naturally “chunk” information to reduce complexity and gain better insights into what it all means.
The fact that we can group, move, sort, color code, categorize and filter mapped information gives you the ability to working with and interpret information quickly and with less effort than some traditional methods.
Research into business use of mind mapping software shows that reaching clarity on information is a key benefit of it. In several surveys conducted by this blog, “reaching clarity on information” was consistently ranked as the number one or two business benefit of mind mapping software.
6. Project management
The area of project management covers a wide and varied spread of project types and sizes – from relatively small projects covering short timescales, through to complex multi-faceted projects involving many people and covering months, sometimes years of work. The size, type and nature of any project will dictate the amount of time, resources, methodologies and processes.
Our experience and research indicates that, regardless of size and type, many projects fail due to poor or inadequate planning. This is the pre-scheduling stage, the crucial up-front capture of the project requirements and the project work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS is the make-or-break stage of many projects; if important aspects are missed, the project may be at a much greater risk of failure.
The use of mind mapping software to brainstorm, capture and structure the all-important up-front project WBS enables planning to be more focused, complete and effective. This highly visual way of capturing project data is engaging and more naturally suited to this process than traditional static, linear methods such as schedules and spreadsheets.
The added advantage of being able to quickly and immediately convert your mapped WBS into a project schedule (e.g., externally to Microsoft Project or using an integral Gantt view) brings real value because the mind mapping software can continue to be used as the one-stop repository for ongoing scheduling, monitoring and reporting. The comprehensive filtering and reporting mechanisms within the Gantt view enables proactive review of any aspect of task and overall project progress and status. This level of clarity tends to result in greater project momentum, focus and efficiency, throughout the project management process.
Jamie MacDonald is Head of Client Development at MindGenius Ltd., developers of MindGenius. He is a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and coach with over 20 years’ experience in training, organizational development, HRM and performance improvement. Jamie specializes in the application of mind mapping software as a catalyst for enhanced personal, team and organizational performance and productivity.