First, I just wanted everyone to introduce myself. I’ve been with Mindjet for the last three years and during that time I was introduced to GTD. I’ve attended training with Danny Bader, Maurice Gavin, and had the opportunity to meet a bunch of Connect people at the GTD Summit here in San Francisco. I’m really excited to share some of the insights and stories about mapping with you all because I know, from a demographic perspective, you’re all actively engaged in improving how you perform in both work and life! Today, I’m going to share not only how to create maps but hopefully inspire you on different ways to apply this technique within your GTD practice and beyond. Once you’ve decided what to do with your GTD tools, you can start doing it with maps!
What I like about GTD is what David Allens calls the Captain and Commander. I’ve never had better perspective and alignment between my life goals all the way down to my daily actions. That’s not to say their perfectly aligned.
We first gain visibility and then have the insight and the process to make day-to-day and moment-by-moment decisions that get us into greater, if not, perfect alignment with our life goals and mission.
Mapping complements and overlaps these aspects of GTD. GTD lets you understand what you should be doing from a big picture perpective, and the control to select what to do in the moment. Once you’ve decided what to do, you can use the power of mapping to do it better! Whether it’s a project, a report, a presentation, or even your personal relationships. Mapping helps you think through and visualize your options, uncover what you know and what you need to learn, reveal hidden relationships and opportunities, and ultimately , lead to better decisions, actions, and results!
But first, let’s clarify what I mean by mapping…
You’re all familiar with this, a google map, right? Maps are defined generally as a representation of the whole or a part of an area… They visualize arrangements, distribution, or sequences… You have road maps, or more recently we’re all familiar with google maps. In industry, we have product roadmaps and process maps, etc…
Mind maps refer to hand-drawndiagrams that represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.
MindManager and other software based maps are interactive diagrams that represent ideas, concepts and data, created by one or more people and/or systems, linked around a central theme.
Now, let’s take a brief look at the history of mapping and visualizing information…
The secret behind the success of mapping is that it is completely organic. Time and time again, we see these patterns in nature…
And if we look deeper, it’s how our brains and nervious system processes information… Our neurons and interneurons determine how we perceive and respond to the world aorund us…Visual mapping becomes an outward expression of what happens inside our own heads! Helping us not only make sense of our own thought processes but share them and co-create new ideas, insights, and plans with others.There are an estimated 100 billion neurons in our brain and a trillion synapse or connections between them.
I’m now going to show you how to create maps by hand. The process is simple and you can do this virtually anywhere!
Start in the middle of a blank page or white board, and either write a central idea down inside a circle, draw a picture representing the topic, or both! For pure creativity and brainstorming, you may opt to use an image. It is afterall worth a thousand words, or so they say. It’ll also become more memorable for you if you take the time to draw something. On paper, I’d suggest turning the page to be in landscape orientation.
Branch out with related ideas and connect them to the central theme. This is how we start emulating how the brain works…the simple process of connecting ideas represents how our brain works…by association.
Keep repeating the process, generating lower-level topics as you see fit, associating them with other their related topics using lines.
Use keywords… Strict adherence to Buzan’s rules would say only 1 word per topic to maximize the possibilities of associations. Personally, I use short, meaningful phrases and individual words.
Use colors to codify your information and provide additional context…Scientifically, Yellow has proven to stimulate the brain making ti more alert and decisive. Ever wonder why highlighters were only yellow for so many years? You could group ideas by color to improve memory and strenthen their association. Alternatively, you could use color to indicate status, risk or potential. For instance, using red, yellow or green like a traffic light. Color excites the mind and evokes emotions! Use it.
Varying the size of images and text can also provide additional context and meaning. Is it a big opportunity or a tiny one?
Connect everything with lines…Because your Brain works by association. If you connect the branches, you will understand and remember more easily. And, if you follow Buzan’s advice, curved lines keep the brain more engaged than straight lines.
Here’s a somewhat controversial topic. Images. Dan Pink said it well when he spoke of asking 3rd graders who can draw and everyone raised their hands in the classroom. Ask the same question to adults and no one raises their hands…Somewhere, we’ve lost the ability to draw? I don’t think so. We can all draw. It isn’t a competition or art contest. There is no right or wrong. You’re not on the hook to accurately draw the world. Instead, they represent how you see and perceive the world. And that is always accurate. You can draw, and it helps you remember. It engages more of your senses while letting you more deeply internalize concepts and ideas.
There you have it… the basics of drawing a mind map. It’s easy…fast, and flexible. You can set aside 10 – 15 minutes and perform a quick exercise of mapping a topic, any topic. For instance, take one of your horizons… you 3-5 year goals. You can draw an image of yourself in the center or use a photograph. Then start branching outwards exploring and recording what comes to mind. Like brainstorming, don’t judge, let yourself go and dream up a new reality, new potentials… happiness, joy, success! Go crazy, you don’t have to commit to anything, this is a safe place to create the visions of your life…Another way to start exploring maps are in meetings. Since the topics discussed in meetings are rarely linear, why use linear outlines to record your notes. Break free and create the organic representation of what occurred, not the sequential discussion. You’ll have a better sense of the big picture, what you know, what you need to know, and the relationships between the topics discussed. These are often lost in linear note-taking…And remember, there is no right or wrong… use any or all of these methods. Most importantly, use what makes sense and what works for you…
Mapping by hand can be time-consuming but it is very powerful. It’s physical, it engages your senses, it’s personal, it’s affordable, it’s versatile, and it’s unique to YOU! There is no one else in the world who has your genious. Your associations, your world view, your knowledge and experiences are completely unique.
Mapping with software has many advantages and benefits too. It’s fast and less time-consuming. It can be shared electronically and created in real-time with many participants adding ideas into the same map simultaneously. You can organize and reorganize concepts. Use images, icons, colors, tags, and size to add contextual meaning…Show or hide branches and parts of maps. You can filter, hide, search for information. Import and export content into other applications. Add more detailed notes along with links and attachments…The list of capabilitis goes on and on…
You can apply the power of mapping to GTD to help gain focus and perspective…be the captain and commander, to help you align what you’re doing with your values and goals…If GTD helps you determine what to do, I’m going to show you some ways to do those things better with mapping…
A visual layout of your horizons. Here you can visually scan up and down your horizons to ensure that your purpose, vision, goals, areas of responsbilitiy and projects are in alignment.
Another way that I use maps to support GTD is to guide my process of weekly reviews.
In this example, I’ve laid out a high level process for creating a strategic plan…
I’ve also created more detailed templates like GTD’s project trigger list. Most templates that you’ve worked with in a completely linear fashion could be visualized in maps!
Ideas can be added individually, or through the web updated simultaneously by multiple participants…
It’s fast and easy to plan meetings and events. You can collaborate using maps – capturing input, building alignment, solving problems, gathering requirements, reviewing status, generating ideas, presenting complex ideas, and more…After your meeting, your maps can be used to communicate with other stakeholders…either by sharing the map or by exporting to any of the formats that I’ve mentioned previously. In addition, you can also use the maps beyond the meeting to conduct additional research, track progress, etc…I’ve spoken with customers that claim to spend 50% less time preparing for meetings and they complete their meetings in much less time!
Open up the links directly within the software and see the content in context of your map…
Next, we linked the map to a google document and were able to collaborative write and edit the article from opposite sides of the country…
Once you’ve ensured the content & flow are right, export to your presentation software and complete your slides.Or, depending on the presentation, your goals, and the audience, you may opt to skip the last step entirely and present you maps!
Similar to research, you can map to further your own education…whether it’s like 11th grader Amy Mack’s mind map above…Or studying for advanced degrees, professional certifications, the bar exam, etc…Mindjet has a very large presence at Universities all across Europe and we’re growing within the US as well. I’ve been working with one university to provide 2,000 licenses to their entire business school. Or, maybe more importantly, you can use it as a self-discovery tool for greater insight into your personal and spiritual development! Map out your relationships, your issues, the things that hold you back and the things you must learn to overcome them…
Getting The Most Out Of Mapping Overview
Getting the Most out of Mapping<br />A GTD® Connect Special Presentation<br />
Maps: defined generally as a representation of the whole or a part of an area… <br />They visualize arrangements, distribution, or sequences… <br />
Mind Map<br />Mind maps refer to hand-drawn diagrams that represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.<br />
MindManager Maps<br />MindManager and other software based maps are interactive diagrams that<br />represent ideas, concepts and data, created by one or more people and/or systems, linked around a central theme.<br />