MindManager Project Management Part 2 – Brainstorming

A few months back when I polled readers on "What is the next action for activityowner.com", the two leading responses were "Tutorials on writing macros" and "examples of how I use the tools". I figured coping with the current MindManager Task Date issue provides a good case study to start to address the later.

In Part 1 I set up a placeholder project map and gave myself a next action of brainstorming on a path forward. If this task had lingered it would have showed up in my Daily Action dashboard as an action with "no context". At this point I'd either work on it or add to my "@maps" context using the MindReader m tag (control-Q m @maps [enter]) for future processing when I had some quality time at my desk. If it lingered further it would show up on my "Next Action Analysis" report as not having a time estimate, at which point I'd probably assign it a "15m" duration and wonder why I hadn't gotten to it, particularly if it lingered long enough to make the "aging tasks" list :-).

Given I had some time, I put MindManager into brainstorm mode:

and set a timer of 10 minutes to bang out ideas that came to mind and that had been mentioned in the blog comments:

I could also have just done this in the project's in-tray, but for this I wanted to give myself some elbow room on a temporary map to sort things out. In a group setting 5 or 10 minutes is usually sufficient to get a good amount of ideas on the table. The key is to allow enough time for the extroverts to pour out there ideas and allow a bit of a lull and prodding to get diverse views from the quieter folks in the room.

Charles had a great idea of creating a "what do I do when I…" cheat sheet for the entire MM/RM/GyroQ/MR/Outlinker system. This addresses broader issues than the scope of this effort. Rather than create a project out of it using the "nm tag" right away, I decided it was a roughly a two minute action to put a placeholder wiki page in place and post a blog entry to get the initiative started. A reader has already jumped in and started adding to it.

I typically skip over the next step in MindManager's brainstorm mode "Enter Group Names" and just end the brainstorm at that point. If you have had a healthy session you may have dozens of floating topics accumulated. I usually find it easier to just drag all these topics up to the central topic and then start to sort them out.

The next step is to sort things out as you might in a traditional "Yellow sticky" group exercise. In this process other ideas come to mind and natural "this comes before that" sequencing emerges:

The next step will be to pull this outline back to the project map and start translating it to an actionable plan. Before I wrap up for the evening, I go back to the project map and use "Mark Task Complete" to mark the brainstorm step complete.

This optionally logs it in the reference branch of the map and to an August completed actions map.

Finally I select the empty "plan" topic and use the MindReader "b tag" to add the next step to the project so that I'm reminded to return to it (and avoid having the project show up on my "projects lacking next actions" list):


In this case I remembered to add the @maps context and 15m time required keywords.

See MindManager Project Management Part 3 — GyroQ Capture.

13 Comments »

  1. Xiahung said,

    September 1, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

    All these guides is very useful and detail. You always know how to give other people the easiest way to use this system effectively!!! It's wonderful.
    Always eager to see your new post, Sir AO!

  2. ActivityOwner said,

    September 29, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

    Sorry for delay in next post on this series. One of the reasons for using GTD/ResultsManager is to assess and prioritize work. After enumerating issues (1st step in project plan above) I concluded that I couldn't easily code around the various issues presented by MM9 on my own and best course of action given other pressing priorities was to set project with a "waiting for Mindjet" next action and a "someday/maybe" to continue the series as time permits.

    For now I'll be deferring my upgrade purchases and sticking with MM8.2, which is working well.

  3. Julion said,

    October 6, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

    Thank u very much, AO. I 've almost gone to this page each day to see if there's any new post from you :)

  4. Stefan said,

    October 16, 2010 @ 5:11 am

    Hi ActivityOwner,

    as all the others already said: Your work and energy is highly appreciated! I use your tools on a daily basis for my work flow.
    Just curious: anything new on the issues mentioned above with MM9 SP1?

    Thanks again and best regards

    Stefan

  5. ActivityOwner said,

    October 16, 2010 @ 11:30 am

    Hi Stefan — As I understand it, SP1 doesn't address the task date issue. It does fix a bug behind the scenes that might enable add-ins to be programmed around to some extent but this will take time.

    One key issue I saw was that in the ResultsManager dailyaction dashboard, the callouts on tasks that have parent projects with start dates but not due dates now have an artificial duedate=startdate entered. That confuses my NAA script into thinking they are all overdue. Based on this issue I gave up trying to work in v9. I suppose I could work around this by having code check to see if the start date and due date are the same and ignore the due date in those situations.

    The basic problem is in the general behavior of the software impacts all user. If you enter a task called "Buy wife birthday present" with due date of her birthday and a start date 2 months before, and then later decide to set the start date to 1 month before, MindManager automatically pushes out the due date by one month, as if the task must require a full 2 months duration of time to accomplish. The concept of a fixed due date does nto exist. This is an issue regardless of whether you are using and add-in or not.

    That type of behavior might be appropriate for some specific project management situations, it is not a good general behavior.

    In order to try to work around this in mindreader, we would need to find each and every line of code that sets a date and replace it with a subroutine that would check to see if the task already had a set of start or due dates or not, and then try to set and reset them such that the intended behavior is achieved.

    What I wish Mindjet would do would be to add a simple check box somewhere in the options that specifies "enforce fixed task durations" so the new behavior could be optional.

    I'm am guessing what has happened is that in marketing to new potential users they have been asked whether in the Gantt chart mode the user can change the start date of the first step in a project and have subsequent tasks push out their dates as well or they have found this looks cool in demos.

    In practice this has huge issues for practical use of the software for GTD or for serious project management.

  6. Stefan said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 4:16 am

    Hi Activity Owner,

    thanks for your detailed answer. Interestingly enough the fixed duration does not apply when you change due dates. Then the start dates are not changed.
    I have made the experience several times with Mindjet or their support that they don't really understand how the functions of MM are used in the "real world". So your guess about "marketing" seems quite realistic to me.
    I totally agree that there should be an option to select the specific behaviour. But there should be many more options to have e.g. Gantt View/project management in MM9 useful for serious project management.
    Just wait and see what SP2 brings and stick with MM8 for that time?

    Many thanks and best regards

    Stefan

  7. Stefan said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 4:26 am

    Hi ActivityOwner,

    I am little bit confused now. I checked the behaviour of start and due date in MM8 and it seems to be the same as in MM9 (changed due date when changing start date).
    Does that mean we already had these "general problems" in MM8 but it wasn't that obvious because of the missing internal Gantt functionality?
    Or do I miss something?

    Thanks and best regards

    Stefan

  8. ActivityOwner said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    Thanks Stefan — You seem to be right. In MM8.2, if you change a start date in the task info tab, it does move the due date. I rarely use that interface (use mindreader instead), so I hadn't noticed that. Perhaps it was introduced recently.

    The difference in MM8, is that if you change the start date through the API, it doesn't change the due date. In MM9 it does.

    I would recommend folks stay with 8.2 until this is worked out. Gyronix is going to have to modify the code in their "Edit Activity" dialog to work around things and we'll need to look at mindreaderNLP code to see if date setting can be adapted. I'll see if I can use some of my "hobby time this morning to advance this project management series and figure out a plan.

  9. ActivityOwner said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 10:13 am

    Note that it appears the "Trial" Download on mindjet.com is still pointing at the original 9.0.246 release while the service pack blog post points to the 9.1.157 download.

    http://blog.mindjet.com/2010/10/mindmanager-version-9-for-windows-service-pack-1

  10. MindManager Project Management Part 3 – GyroQ Capture » ActivityOwner.Com – Getting Things Done with MindManager, ResultsManager, and GyroQ said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    […] for delay in next post on this series. In Part 2 b we brainstormed ideas around the MindManager 9 task date issue and sorted the information into a […]

  11. MindManager Project Management Part 4 — Project Planning » ActivityOwner.Com – Getting Things Done with MindManager, ResultsManager, and GyroQ said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

    […] Part 2, we had generated a rough outline of actions to be taken to address issues with Task dates in […]

  12. MindManager Project Management Part 1 – Definition » ActivityOwner.Com – Getting Things Done with MindManager, ResultsManager, and GyroQ said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

    […] MindManager Project Management Part 2 – Brainstorming » ActivityOwner.Com – Gettin… said, […]

  13. David W. said,

    June 16, 2011 @ 1:56 am

    Love the article, has helped me get even more use out of the program. I've been using a template plug in I purchased from www smartermindsolutions com as I just didn't find that jetpack gave me the flexibility and depth I was needing. But wow, when I use your tutorials on this site in conjunction with this platform I am able to get new staff up to speed so easy. Keep up your fantastic work!

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