Map Your Way Through the Jungle of Life

Map Your Way Through the Jungle of Life

This article discusses the use of Mind Maps as an aid for managing your life. Our examples relate to the GTD and/or Covey methods of time management and planning. However, mind maps can be used in a lot of different ways, and are great for problem solving. Quoting from the Wikipedia:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

I can’t recall when I was first introduced to mind mapping: it may have been as long as a half-century! No joke. I seem to have a vague recollection of an elementary school introduction to it, but I really don’t trust memories that go back that far. Regardless, I was introduced to it professionally about 10 years ago, while working with a former educator who was big on using mind maps to facilitate brainstorming sessions. I loved how well it worked in those situations and began tinkering with it as a planning aid.

My first substantial use of it began a couple of years ago. In talking with a publisher friend, the subject of using mind maps in time management came up, and he arranged with the good folks at Mindjet for me to receive complimentary licenses of MindManager. That put me in the mind map equivalent of hog heaven:

I used MindManager to lay out mind maps for my retirement, for detailing a few specific work-related projects, for organizing my thoughts on a few philosophical concepts, and so on.

The ability to link mind maps together and to link a mind map item to a document or spreadsheet turned out being very useful.
I could easily add pictures to a mind map. And, I could easily change a map. A nice luxury after my experience with hand-drawing them.

It helped me to think of things that my more linear modes of brainstorming had not. And, of course that is one of the advantages of mind maps: because it is a tool most of us do not use day in and day out, it causes us to think a bit differently when we do use it. It is for this reason I thought it would be good to remind you of the use of mind mapping as a potential tool for your toolkit.

So, let’s get to some examples. You can download all of the examples used here in this zipped download, which has the three examples saved in MindManager 7 format. [The file is about 250KB.]

Example 1: GTD Areas of Focus Mind Map

A simple GTD use of mind maps is a mapping of your GTD Areas of Focus, which are somewhat analogous to Roles in the Covey system. My use of it in this way is not to do a detailed map of everything going on in my Areas of Focus, but to brainstorm pieces that might be missing.

Example 2: GTD Altitudes Mind Map

Of course it’s easy to extend this sort of map to all the GTD “Altitudes.” I have provided a generic implementation of this in the following mind map: GTD Altitudes Mind Map.

This map also subtly shows one of the nice benefits of using software for mind mapping, vice using the hand-drawn method: you can expand or collapse an element by clicking on it.

So, in this example, the details of the 20,000 and 30,000 ft altitudes are shown, while the details of the 40,000 and Life elevations are hidden, allowing one to focus on the former two without distraction. Of course, with a couple of simple clicks, the details for all of them can be made available.

Example 3: Covey Roles Mind Map

Mind mapping is also a good way to develop/visualize your goals within a Covey Roles context. If you are a fan of using Covey Roles to organize your life.


In this article I just wanted to make you aware of mind mapping and give you some samples to illustrate the concepts. If you would like to see more samples, there are a ton of them on the Mindjet site. If there is sufficient interest in this topic, we may explore it further.

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