MindView Round Up

April 21, 2011

MV4-BE-Box-Front-medFor anyone interested in MindView and how the application can support you when devising strategy, planning projects or writing an article or report, here is a list of recent subjects covered, most recent first:

  • Managing a plan using task lists and timelines
  • Managing a plan with a Gantt chart
  • Managing a plan using MindView with MS Outlook
  • A simple planning procedure
  • Writing business reports
  • Meeting planning
  • Business continuity planning – crisis planning
  • Developing work procedures
  • Defining strategy and the action to implement it
  • Exporting mind maps to MS Excel.

To view the articles you can either click on the MindView “label” (not the Technorati tag) below this article or click on this link to list all the articles.

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In examining ideas on action planning for simple or small tasks, I’ve posted recently on how to manage the plans using Outlook and Project in conjunction with mind mapping software.  To draw this to a conclusion here are some ideas for using Word and Excel as well as the inbuilt timeline view within some mind mapping software (in this case MindView).

As before, the assumption is a quick planning exercise has identified what needs to be done and the tasks to achieve it.  These ideas have been captured, reviewed and refined as a map using software such as MindView.

Replace Garden Shed

Many people are comfortable working with simple lists.  The first thing we can do with a mind map entered into a mind mapping application is to use the outline view to create a simple list.

Replace Garden Shed outline

If the preference is to work with the list using MS Office, the map or outline may be exported to Word.  The advanced export dialogue will allow you to select which task attributes to export, such as start and end dates and completion status.

Replace Garden Shed Word

An option many people may prefer is to export to Excel.

Replace Garden Shed excel 

A final option, and perhaps one with a more unusual and appealing visual style, is to use the inbuilt timeline view.  This gives a good feel for the loading of tasks over time and is often received better by those not familiar or comfortable working with Gantt charts.

 

Replace Garden Shed timeline

The trick with timelines views is to filter or focus on just a few tasks at a time or the timeline gets to busy.  here the example just presents the key information for the garden shed project – the main delivery steps.  Sharing a timeline view is easily done using a PDF export or print.

 

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Managing a Simple Plan

April 11, 2011

In the last post, I introduced a basic planning procedure to help ensure simple tasks are achieved efficiently and with minimal prevarication (see A Moment’s Reflection Before Action). 

Making a Plan

In that post I mentioned briefly the possibility of adding the steps as tasks in Outlook, should this be your preferred way of managing things.  In this post I wanted to demonstrate how this might be done using mind mapping software, such as MindView.

The planning procedure suggests a very simple template, with three main ideas to set up as main branches: Aim or Goal; Steps; Obstacles.

Replace Garden Shed

Working first with the “Aim or Goal”, add ideas to the template.  Make a list of the the things you think need to be done to achieve the aim or goal – add these to the “Steps” branch.

Replace Garden Shed Plan

Also make a list of the possible obstacles and what steps might be taken to overcome them – add steps from this list to your main list of steps where there is a high certainty that they will need to be done (for instance, in the example of “Replace Garden Shed”, review of the obstacles identifies that having asked my brother for help I will need to remind him because he is a forgetful soul – this is shown on the map by the red link).

Replace Garden Shed Plan dates

Next add dates for when you expect to start and complete the steps (in MindView open the “Task/Timeline Info” tab and set “Show Branch Data” to “on”).

To export the steps to Outlook as tasks is easy.  First set the MindView map to show only the sub-branches of the “Steps” branch (use “Branch Focus”) – these are the items that you want to become tasks in Outlook. 

Then follow the MindView menu options for Export to Outlook.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook 1

To keep the resulting task list separate and clearly identifiable from other Outlook tasks, create a new task folder in Outlook to receive the exported items from MindView. If it helps, you might want to think of the goal and the steps you’ve planned as a simple project, with its own folder.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook new folder

Complete the export and find the task folder in Outlook.  Typically the tasks are displayed as detailed list, sorted in date order.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task list

Alternatively, the list can be displayed in Outlook using a timeline view.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook timeline

Either way you are now ready to begin managing your simple project using Outlook.  You can mark tasks as complete as you go.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task complete

Should you wish, you might want to retain the original planning view created in MindView but with updates from Outlook as progress is made, such as when tasks are completed.  You can do this by synchronising the MindView map with Outlook whenever you want an update.  Follow the export options in MindView to Outlook, this time selecting “Synchronise Tasks” instead of “Export as New Tasks”.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task complete sync

Set the synchronise options to pick up the changes from Outlook.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task complete sync options

Complete the operation and the MindView tasks will be updated.  In this example, two tasks were marked as complete in Outlook.  This is now reflected in the MindView map – in this example the original plan view has been filtered to show only completed tasks.

Replace Garden Shed task complete sync filter

Something needs to be done.  Maybe a report needs writing or maybe you need to book a holiday.  Whatever it is, a moment’s reflection before diving into the action might help you achieve whatever needs doing more efficiently or with less prevarication.

When the need for a simple task first arises, it is sometimes easy to dive straight in.  However after some hard work you might realise that you’ve taken a wrong direction, misunderstood the brief or just gone off at half cock.  In other situations it can happen that you start thinking about what the the finished article might be, what it might look like, where you might go or what people might think of what you’ve produced.  Before you have even started on the task, its apparent difficulties or the effort that might be involved start to grow in your mind.  The task then seems more complicated, risky or time consuming than at first thought and procrastination creeps in.

To help you focus its worth taking just a few minutes to devise a simple plan.  This can be broken down into five steps:

  • Decide the aim or goal – what needs to be achieved
  • List the small steps you will take to achieve the goal
  • List the obstacles that might get in your way
  • Make a mini-plan of the small steps you will take to overcome each obstacle
  • Consolidate all the small steps into a simple list and review the list.

Then do the first actions now.  Make a start – you might not be able to book that holiday right away but you can take the first steps towards it – doing some research; deciding a budget; finding out where everyone wants to go; checking prices and so on.

Making a PlanThe mind map summary (created using MindView) includes additional focus questions to prompt you and help you stay focussed.

The plan you produce can be as simple as list of things to do with some idea of the order in which to do them.  Alternatively, you might want or need to set some dates against each item or note to whom you might delegate a step.  Depending on what you come up with, you might set the steps as tasks in Outlook, for instance, or go even further and create a small Gantt chart or timeline.

You might not be able to identify everything you need to do at the first attempt but you will have enough to encourage you to make a start.  Ideas for additional steps will arise naturally as you execute your simple plan.

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Presenting Project Timelines

February 22, 2011

tmp2 Gantt charts are most commonly used by project managers to represent activities and milestones over time.  These work well however there are times when an alternative form of presentation would be nice.  Not everyone new to projects and project management understands or appreciates Gantt charts, for instance.

One alternative is a timeline.  There are many ways of creating these using software but one of the easiest to maintain might be that produced by MindView.  MindView can take a project plan – whether a mind map created in MindView (or MindManager) or in MS Project – and prepare a timeline view with just a few clicks.  Programme - timeline filter

As with most things, too much detail can hide the key messages, so filter the items to show just what you need.