MindManager Project Management Part 1 – Definition

As regular readers know, my Saturday morning hobby for the past few years has been to develop and share new ways of using MindManager for implementing David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. The past several months I have been more focused on quietly using the tools rather than procratinating by tweaking them, but the release of MindManager 9 is pulling me me out of semi-retirement with changes in how Mindjet handles tasks that impact Gyronix ResultsManager and the MindReader add-in available on this site. This Saturday morning my head is swirling a bit in deciding what is the next action? Complain to Mindjet? Dive into coding workarounds? Abandon the tool?, Mow the lawn?

I believe that certain creative/semi-ADD personality types are highly drawn to the use of GTD and MindManager for getting organized. The approaches and the tools can take a situation like this and help define a constructive and creative path forward when faced with a daunting problem. I thought it might be use this episode as a case study to share how I use the tools and along the way get reader input and collaboration on solutions.

This issue clearly isn’t a “two minute action” and doesn’t seem like something I can delegate, defer, or “trash”, so it’s a “project”. If I was very busy at the moment and I was becoming aware on the issue via an OutLook email message, I would just use Outlinker on a email related to it and send the email into my GyroQ queue with an “isproject” keyword so that it would show up later in my dashboards as a project needing a next action to be defined. If the next action were clear I might include the first step as well using the << operator. In this case I know this is going to be a drawn out project that will require a dedicated map, so I’ll toggle to the MindReader “nm” tag (new map tag) by hitting Control-Q to bring up GyroQ and then typing “nm” to toggle to the nm tag to set up a project map for it.

The first step is “To begin with the end in mind”, and describe an ambitious desired outcome: “GTD tools working well with MindManager 9 next month”

I’ll also tack on some quick markup using Mindreader keywords to set this as a priority 3 project I own in the “blog” area of my life:

“GTD tools working well with MindManager 9 next month [R:AO P3 blog]”

nm tag used for project setup

When I hit enter, the tag will first prompt me for where to save the map. I’ll save it in my 2010\blog folder so that it will be automatically picked up by my map central link to that folder when I run dashboards.

The tag next prompts for what the next action is for the project. In this case I will take a convenient short cut and define the next step as “Brainstorm next steps and subprojects for MM9 compatibility”.

Finally, the tag prompts as to whether I want to assign a keyword to the project map. Because this will likely be around for awhile and I anticipate needing to send ideas and email messages into the map, I’ll assign a keyword that comes to mind “mm9project”.

Now anything I send to MindManager with GyroQ or OutLinker will be directed to the in-tray of this map if I include the text mm9project, and the keyword will automatically be removed once processed.

In order to remind myself get back to this soon, I’ll use the “m” tag to set the target date for the brainstorming as “next week” and I’m left with map below.

Coming Next: Part 2 — Brainstorming

Ideally we’d brainstorm together on a collaborative map using Catalyst, but I don’t have an account set up that I could use, so if you have ideas on how to proceed, what needs to be done, subprojects, solutions, etc., just shout them out in comments below and I’ll include in my brainstorming map. Remember 1st rule of brainstorming — don’t judge others ideas.

See next entry in series: MindManager Project Management Part 2 — Brainstorming.


  1. Marco said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

    First of all: it’s good to have you back in the “virtual world”!
    I’ve been a long time fan of your tools, and I found myself looking forward to seeing what new features you had implemented in each new release (I remember running updates daily while you were developing the Outlinker front-end).

    Anyway, my cent’s worth for the brain storm:
    – determine if you really need to make changes (couldn’t this new “feature” be fixed in MM9?)
    – determine where changes need to be made (given that the answer to the item above is Yes). there could be an action in this to get some people to do some testing to help you out.

    From here, the standard actions apply – prioritising issues found (must, nice to have, some day, …), development, testing, beta, roll-out; so no input in that area for the brainstorm.

    I know you like to do the coding yourself, but please feel free to let me know if there is anything I (we?) can do! Speaking for myself: I think you have given so much to make my life easier, I would be more than happy to pay back a little!

    Good luck on your new project, and thanks for showing us your working method,

  2. Charles Bartlett said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

    Thanks for this. Interested to hear what you have to say about brainstorming, but generally it’s a 2-3 minutes exercise that could be accomplished in the specific map, or maybe even GyroQ. Even for a group, after 3 minutes, you’re not going to get much, although you may come back to it later for another 2-3 minute session and uncover more ideas.

    The MM, GyroQ, ResultsManager, MindReader is a daunting system to stand up to say the least. So I started (but abandoned) a map that provides a high-level overview of how the parts connect, and what directions I should follow based on the input channel of the information. (I abandoned the overview map because of other commitments and Results Manager trial ended.)

    The central topic of the map is the Dashboard I want to create, and all of the different input and output channels branch out. This map would become a personal reference to answer ‘What do I do when I…’:
    – get an email that should be a project task in MM (and Outlook)?
    – get a phone call (or voicemail) that should be a task in MM (and Outlook)?
    – think of a new idea that needs project planning?
    – want to actively manage all of the tasks in my projects to load balance?
    – want all of my tasks synced with my smartphone?
    – need to pull in an RSS feed to keep up to date on a specific project?
    – want to actively manage the Outlook Task and Calendar information of a team of people to load balance? (and they do not use MM)

    I’m sure there are more scenarios, but my 2-3 minutes are up and I’m drawing a blank. :-) I understand that half of those questions can be answered by reading different articles and forum posts. But I’ve already invested dozens of hours into learning/installing/configuration and still don’t think I have a handle on it. I could certainly make a second go of it and make it work, but the problem is that it’s a significant amount of time to invest when you’re not completely sure the process will work and stick.

    Much of the map and task processing comes down to learning the behaviors needed to feed the applications. I think an 18×24 inch printable map that works as a cheat sheat to answer the “What do I do when…” questions will get everyone (atleast me) through those 21 reps to form the habit. Most of the examples from Gyronix and in the articles provide some business context that is foreign to me, so my intention is to create abstracts of the different scenarios that require me to process information.

    The applications combined are clearly flexible and powerful, but something more “turn key” is needed to quickly get traction and value. I was at the MM9 release party in San Francisco, and thought everyone was great and are taking the product where it needs to go. However, the output of Results Manager is a superior idea, whereas MM9 is really just the standard tasks with categories solution with a good Gantt view. Showing me a Gantt view of just ONE project is kind of meaningless. Nice UI view… I always have around 10 different project initiatives I’m tracking, and shouldn’t have to switch back to Outlook to get the complete list of tasks.

    I do appreciate all of the work that went into the ActivityOwner site as an extremely valuable resource. Sending this because of your open call for ideas, and wanted to pass on my personal experience of where I’ve been, where I’m at, and what I’d like to do. Thanks again.

  3. ActivityOwner said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    Thanks Charles — My thought was to brainstorm around the specific task date issue that has arisen in MM9 but I suppose achieving the goal of “GTD tools working well in MM9” mean a lot more than that for the typical user!

    For a group brainstorming session, I’d say 5-10 minutes is probably the right amount of time. The vocal extroverts will dominate the early minutes and you have to get to a lull and draw out the big ideas from the quiet types. Declaring a brainstorming phase and putting a clock on it can help process.

    I like your idea of a “what do I do when” map. I admit the documentation side of the site could be much better, but then I’d have to double the price :-). My approach has been to post on blog in real time as I create/improve a tool, use the wiki to aggregate information around particular tools, and then just address questions quickly when they come in. The installation programs created for the GyroQ tag set and OutLinker have made start up easier, but it still needs the road map you describe.

    I think an overall flow map would be nice but perhaps the easier way create and share this collaboratively would be to have a dedicated wiki page. I’ put up a separate post to it to get started.

  4. What do I do when I… » ActivityOwner.Com – Getting Things Done with MindManager, ResultsManager, and GyroQ said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

    […] a coment on the project management series, Charles suggested MindManager map outlining how to accomplish […]

  5. Charles Bartlett said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

    Thanks AO. To be clear, any and all documentation on the ActivityOwner site is excellent. Not for a second do I think you have any obligation to build out an uber training site. I think that responsibility falls to Gyronix who charge $285 for ResultsManager. Because there is room for improvement in this training area by Gyronix, many people come to the ActivityOwner site to resolve issues and find solutions. Greatly appreciate the time and effort you dedicate…

    The Task Date issue is suspicious and I think more discussion with MindJet is needed on this. Surely it was not their original plan to directly connect ‘duration’ with Start/End dates. Because this happened at such a late stage in development, it seems like a work-around was put in place to protect the new Gantt UI functionality. The Gantt functionality HAD to work on the release date, where as redefining task duration would go unnoticed by 80% of the users. (Gantt UI bars coded using Duration and not Start/End dates, maybe?) This is pure speculation of course, but I’m not even sure the definition of Task Duration is workable in MM9 now. (Task that takes 8 hours over 5 days… can’t do it in MM9) Nevermind RM and MR….

    Even if MindJet rolls out functionality in MM10 that replaces 80% of ResultsManager functionality (shocking if they don’t), I think there is still room for all in the market place. The GyroQ, ResultsManager, MindReader combo will be seen as the Custom/Power user path. And MM with 80% functionality will be the Common user path.

  6. ActivityOwner said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

    Marco — Thanks for the comments — I’ll fold into the brainstorm.

    If you are looking for work, you are highly qualified to flesh out the “what do I do when I…” page :-).

  7. ActivityOwner said,

    August 29, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

    Thanks for comments Charles — one of the questions that came up in my brainstorm was how many users actually make use of the duration field today. For GTD task management, most things end up taking less than an hour, which is the smallest unit if measure available. I use start date to indicate when I opened a task and in some cases (repeating tasks) to defer having it show up until the future. I never have used start-due date as a fixed amount of time something should take in MindManager.

  8. MindManager Project Management Part 2 – Brainstorming » ActivityOwner.Com – Getting Things Done with MindManager, ResultsManager, and GyroQ said,

    August 29, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    […] Part 1 I set up a placeholder project map and gave myself a next action of brainstorming on a path […]

  9. MindManager 9 Task Date Issue » ActivityOwner.Com – Getting Things Done with MindManager, ResultsManager, and GyroQ said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

    […] I'm hoping these issues can be worked through as part of blog series on MindManager Project Management. See MindManager Project Management Part 1 — Project Definition. […]

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