Sunday, August 15, 2010

Second Winner of the MindManager 9 Give Away!

Organizing my Business Day

As a consultant for IT Technologies and Architecture, I am using Mind Mapping for many purposes, e.g. for brainstorming when developing new products. Getting more and more familiar with Mind Mapping I realized that it not only perfect for complex tasks but also for organizing daily tasks which are only simple on the first glance.

Consider some kind of “normal” working day: You go to your desk and start working on your duties because you perfectly know what to do. But then all of sudden your business day gets out of control: One colleague wants some important information, the quality manager calls for an updated document, your manager wants a detailed status report you haven't even prepared and not to forget the meeting with a customer in just 5 minutes. And this is the “perfect” start for using mind mapping to avoid getting lost in your tasks.

The Structure

To get an overview over these many open ends, I use mind mapping to structure my tasks, the one I know will come as well as the one I cannot precisely assess. To find my way through them, I have structured my duties as follows: First, there are meetings, i.e. fixed dates which I have to attend. Second, I have to fulfill several tasks which most have a fixed end date but I can freely decide when to work on them. Third, some of these meetings or tasks have to be done on a daily basis while others are only relevant on a certain day. The mind map is structured accordingly as you can see in the screen shot.

On the other side, there are more variable duties which I organize in the “Task Stack”: This comprises all tasks that have to be done at some point of time, but not in the current week. At the beginning of the week, I check which of these tasks must be done in the current week. If so, a task is moved from the Task Stack to the Weekly Tasks.

Besides these regular tasks and meetings some other kind of duties appear in real life: “Unplannable Events” contain interrupts like support requests and “Optional ToDos” addresses some interaction on a more informal base, e.g. communication with colleagues or customers. These two categories help you e.g. to plan some buffer time in your business day according to the criticality and number of the entries here.

The Approach

There are two major steps which help me to keep on track during my business day. The first step is to gather all my tasks, meetings, etc. continuously. If possible, I assign a requested date and an estimated duration to get a better overview how much time it will cost me. This is an ongoing activity, i.e. new tasks, meetings, etc. are added each time I identify a new entry I cannot complete at this point of time.

The second step is to plan my current day. Therefore, each day I start with checking my daily and weekly tasks concerning their relevance for the current day. With this information, I am able to decide if my business day is already too crowded with entries and thus it would be better to cancel some of them. On the other side, I can also see if there is some time left and if it is possible to start some things in advance thus that I am prepared for the things that will come sooner or later. At the end of this, all tasks I am going to work on, are moved into the “Today” node of my mind map.

At the end of the day, I check back which of the entries I have completed successfully. Meetings which I have attended can be deleted – but first I check if not new tasks have been assigned to me in this meeting. If so, these new tasks are added to the “Task Stack”. Meetings which I couldn’t attend due to some unforeseen interrupt also cause a new task, e.g. asking for the meeting protocol or organizing a follow up meeting.

Tasks that have been completed are also deleted; in this case, no follow up activity is required. But very often tasks are only half ready. Then, I adjust the estimated duration and move the task back to the “Task Stack” hoping that I can finish it at one of the next days.
Finally, at the end of the day the day my “Today” node is empty and all meetings and tasks are either finished or moved back to the task stack. Then, the next business day can come and its work can be assigned again...

This is only a short overview how mind mapping can help you by organizing your business day. This simple approach can also be extended, e.g. you can assign priorities, end dates etc. to your entries as you see in the screen shots. More, it is also possible to merge it with the widely known “Getting Things Done” method, but this would be another story…
Jens Pipka- Bio

Working as senior consultant for IT Technology and Architecture since
more than 15 years, I am struggling with the pitfalls of software
development in all kind of projects. As a consequence, my focus lies on
improving software development processes as well as the underlying
development techniques. To break down complexity within my projects and
identify applicable solutions, I use Mind Mapping quite often. It gives
me a powerful technique and allows me to focus on the real important
areas within software development – namely interacting within a team
and managing technical complexity.

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