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Discussion Forum > Does anyone use Mind Mapping for projects or tasks?

When I get in a muddle (which happens a lot these days) I often come back to mind mapping as I can 'see' everything. I have in the past used it for projects, customers (i.e. a list of projects or tasks for each customer) or generally to record to dos in a meaningful way.

Does anyone else use it - and how do you use it?
February 23, 2012 at 15:17 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
I did but I failed. Fo me it is great to imagine but not for acting.
February 23, 2012 at 15:23 | Registered CommenterJupiter
I use FreePlane as my first step in a new project. I start by mind mapping to make sure I "get the bases covered". I then copy and paste into MS OneNote (which results in an outline). From there, I use wiki-style links to create notes pages where I can hash out the details. A quick key combination will turn anything on any page into a task in Outlook. I then categorize those tasks so that I know they're part of a project.

As a software developer, my projects are typically new applications or new versions of existing applications. The outline in OneNote gets tweaked into release notes. The individual notes get used when building a users' manual.
February 23, 2012 at 15:36 | Registered CommenterjFenter
I have to confess that I've never been able to make a great success of Mind Maps. I've always preferred to use an outliner for written work.

At one stage I did use Mind Maps extensively, but nothing that I planned out on them ever seemed to amount to anything. I can't quite put my finger on what the problem with them is. Perhaps they are just *too* organized and therefore don't spark ideas from unrelated concepts in the way that I like.

Or maybe it's because they impose one way of organizing at the expense of others. For example if you have four bits of information about people: Name, Seniority, Department, Location, you could group the people by Alphabetical Order, Seniority, Department or Location. All would be valid depending on the context. But with a Mind Map you have to chose one way and abandon the others.
February 23, 2012 at 16:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Interesting thoughts. I've found them useful to 'map' out lots of things going around my brain into some sort of coherent order that I can then grasp because I can 'see' it. Also useful for projects.
February 23, 2012 at 20:26 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
Mapping has proved useful for thinking through a topic. It's better than an outline when your medium is paper because you don't need to prethink how much space each part gets, and every part can easily have subparts, and arrows linking parts and extra notes etc.

I've found Mind Mapping completely hopeless at directing work.

In place of Mind Mapping, I'm currently playing with a pile of business cards, each with one point on them. I can arrange and rearrange groups of them quickly for thinking about these. Again, for thinking, not doing.
February 23, 2012 at 21:44 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan - I use Mind Mapping software which means no problems moving things around. Have you tried using post it notes instead of business cards? They work very well on the back of a door or on a wall or whiteboard!
February 23, 2012 at 21:55 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
I've found mind mapping useful for "exploration" projects and early planning -- when you really aren't sure yet what you're dealing with.

For example: Defining team objectives for the quarter, when you already know you have multiple competing objectives and not enough time or resources to get them all completed. A process we've used many times on our team goes something like this:

1. Go around the team and capture what everyone thinks the priorities should be -- or at least what pressures they are facing. Simply capture it in the mind map, without any attempt to order or prioritize -- much like in a brainstorming session.

2. Cycle back through it and start trying to clarify each one. Often this means splitting them into multiple projects / priorities; merging others; adding new ones and deleting others that can't be really clearly articulated because they are really just a vague fear or pressure, not an actual deliverable or objective.

3. Cycle through again. With each cycle, the list itself starts to stabilize, and resources required, priorities, dependencies, and risks all start to emerge. Capture all these.

4. After a few cycles (which we usually do iteratively over a series of meetings, using a screen-sharing tool like Lync or LiveMeeting) the list of prioritized objectives finally becomes clear, the resources required becomes clear, the conflicts become clear. The sorting and sifting is done -- now it's time for some decisions.

5. Once the actual decisions are made, we don't use the mind mapping tool to track them, to measure progress, or anything like that. The mind mapping tools (Freemind, Mind Manager, etc.) do have some good functionality for things like that, and I've occasionally used them for that purpose. The problem I've found is that very few people actually have these tools installed on their computers, so I can't send out the mind map file for people to look at. When I need to communicate to the team or our stakeholders, I have to convert the mind map to some other format, like PDF -- but PDFs of a mind map are extremely difficult to read. It's not worth the hassle, so I usually switch to some other tool, like OneNote or (cough) PowerPoint, because everyone has those tools available. This makes it a lot easier to maintain and track status and report it out to whoever needs to know.

Anyway, that's one example of how we use mind maps.
February 24, 2012 at 1:10 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

<< It's better than an outline when your medium is paper because you don't need to prethink how much space each part gets, and every part can easily have subparts, and arrows linking parts and extra notes etc.>>

My problem with doing mind maps on paper is that I always run out of space.They take up more room than outlines.
February 24, 2012 at 1:40 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I used to use them for lecture notes and revision, writing key words in tiny capital letters. At least it forces you to give some thought to how the current verbiage fits in, so it has to at least touch your thinking brain on the way from ear to page.

Like Alison, I also find a quick mind map a good way to pull my commitments back into perspective when I lose control (a sadly all to frequent occurrence). I do think they work well at this level, or as a work breakdown structure for a project.

BTW, am I the only person to find "work breakdown structure" a dangerously misleading term? For anyone who doesn't happen to be a project management wonk (as we qualified Project Management Professionals are properly known), the WBS is a hierarchy of deliverables rather than work. A nice distinction, you might say, since every deliverable requires work to produce. But in practice often crucial. But I digress...
February 24, 2012 at 8:50 | Registered CommenterWill
Mark, "too organised"...

Have you tried KJ diagrams ("affinity charts on steroids"), building the structure up from the detail (rather than analysing the detail out of the structure as mind maps and outlines do)?

These work well at turning a mess into a workable picture.
February 24, 2012 at 8:57 | Registered CommenterWill
More room than outlines? A 31 item outline fills the 31 line page. I could easily have 61 items in a page with a mind map. Maybe you are less inclined to squeeze the curves together than I am.
February 24, 2012 at 13:51 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I use Freeplane to help manage the activities of the group I lead, which provides the Product and Quality Assurance function for an organisation making instruments for scientific research spacecraft. Each member of the group supports several projects at once, but we also need to be able to cover for one another to as large a degree as possible; there are also various cross-project activities we carry out. Using a mind map makes it possible to navigate around the many areas we cover quickly and to hide or expose portions of the work easily. By tagging nodes with icons it is also possible to filter the whole tree down to only those areas/issues that concern a particular team member. We use the mind map during our regular group meetings to review what's happened on each project and what needs to be looked at in the next period, then I can produce a person-specific summary using the icon filtering. The members of the team like this approach.

This was originally my to-do list, and my struggle to handle it effectively is what led me to AF/SF. I have tried various ways to integrate the mind map with AF/SF without much success so currently I use SF to help me actually do stuff, and the mind map to maintain an overview of what is going on.
February 24, 2012 at 14:44 | Registered CommenterRichard Stamper
Alison & everyone,
<<Have you tried using post it notes instead of business cards? They work very well on the back of a door or on a wall or whiteboard!>>

There's an entire book on using Post-It notes as a medium for interactive mind maps, for individuals and groups. It is an engineering/design cult classic:

_ Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes_ by David Straker

David Straker shares his consulting experience organizing meetings during which team members put their ideas on Post-Its that coalesce step by step into a real plan. He covers different types of mind maps for different situations, and the processes/meetings that go with them. It is from 1997, completely focused on paper & whiteboards, rather than digital, but you can easily use the techniques on the computer too.

<<My problem with doing mind maps on paper is that I always run out of space.They take up more room than outlines.>>

Straker's techniques help a lot in this respect. With Post-Its, you can always move them to make more room, and you can break out an entire subtree to another surface as necessary. The same techniques will work inside a computer file, especially if you avoid mind-mapping software!

<<Have you tried KJ diagrams ("affinity charts on steroids"), building the structure up from the detail (rather than analysing the detail out of the structure as mind maps and outlines do)?>>

I've never heard of KJ etc., but some of Straker's techniques sound a lot like this, building from the bottom up. He has others that build from the top down as well.

For people who want it all digital, you could make virtual Post-Its in any visual software application. Most business apps (word processors, etc.) let you draw rectangles containing text, and many feature connection lines between rectangles that adjust as you drag. Though this may sound limiting compared to dedicated mind map software, I find these basic programs ironically more useable, because they do not try to force my content into the form of an Official Mind Map. So I can drag various blocks out of the way, onto another page, into an informal "holding area," add any special notes or shapes or highlights anywhere I want, etc. Plus, I do not have to learn another piece of software.

Your use of Freeplane sounds very well suited to that software, better so than general-purpose mind mapping!
February 24, 2012 at 16:01 | Registered CommenterBernie

My main problem has been finding an interactive whiteboard that works inside the company's firewall. The last one I did used Netmeeting, which is on it's last legs here. In theory, OneNote should work, but I find the sharing slow and unreliable.

Thanks for the steer: a copy is heading my way.

I'll see whether any of these are equivalent to the KJ method.
February 27, 2012 at 8:53 | Registered CommenterWill

Thank you very much for the book reference. It was instantly useful just from the "look inside" sneak peek by showing how to pull off a post-it with minimum curl :) (a pet peeve of mine)

Definitely a buy for me.
February 27, 2012 at 12:11 | Registered CommenterHugo Ferreira
Yes, I am using mind mapping for organized my study notes, and project planning. Also I use it ( ) for brainstorming and sometime plan for picnic.

Thank you!
April 20, 2016 at 14:24 | Unregistered CommenterPrabhat
Yes, Mins mapping is a great way for idea generation anjd well as general mapping.You can find some good mind map examples in creately diagram community. There are 1000s of templates and examples in the community to be used freely. Source:
July 23, 2018 at 14:32 | Unregistered CommenterMind Map Examples