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Time management and mindmapping: 'getting things done' with Freemind

CEO, Co-Founder
Dec 06, 2008

This article is about mindmapping and time management. It is an introduction to the new attribute feature in Freemind 0.9.x Beta, an open source mindmapping tool, and how you can use it to 'get things done'. I am a great fan of mindmapping. When a new colleague joins our team, I always ask them to keep track of the project briefings/feedback I give in a mindmap. It lets you capture ideas, reorder them and then structure them into tangible actions. It's especially useful for making notes in meetings and it allows you to structure your ideas before you capture them in a project management tool. I'm also a great fan of David Allen's 'getting things done' (GTD) time management methodology. However so far I couldn't find a GTD system that worked for me: I tried paper based, but I hated printing out things. I tried GTD for Gmail, but soon gave up because I was again duplicating stuff. Then I started thinking about using mindmaps (in Freemind in my case) for GTD. If there are tasks that you don't share with your colleagues (in my case, business development, research, etc.) it would be awesome to have the project details (your notes from meetings, any thoughts from brainstorms, contact details, etc.) available on the same place where you have your action list. It saves you a lot of time if you have to call somebody and you have the phone number and an overview of the project you want to talk about available from within your todo list. For about half a year I stored my actions in context branches of my mindmap (e.g. phone calls, emails to write, etc.). But this meant I had to again duplicate actions between my 'brainstorming' and my 'GTD' mindmap... That's when I started playing with attributes in Freemind 0.9.x (not the stable release, so look for the beta release in the Sourceforge download page!). Attributes are the more exotic new feature of Freemind. I assume that attributes were introduced to allow the integration of Freemind and Taskjuggler, an open source project management tool that runs on Linux. Attributes allow you to tag your nodes with attribute pairs. When I am processing my mindmap (e.g. in my weekly review) I can tag the next action for a given project or subproject with the context in which I can take that action. Together with the new filter function in Freemind you can then depending on your context only show those branches of your mindmap where you can take action in the given circumstances (e.g. all the phone calls when you are near a phone, emails when you are writing mails, errands when you go out, ...). You can try it out using my template file with the attributes that I am currently using (right click here and save as, don't forget that you need Freemind 0.9.x). If there is sufficient interest, I will post a screencast that shows how I configured Freemind and the modi operandi that I am using. I am publishing this article on the Drupal planet, because I know that a lot of people in the Drupal community are interested in these concepts. Is this proper? If you have an opinion on whether this article does or doesn't fit on the Planet, or if you want to share how you use mindmapping to improve your productivity, or you are interested in the screencast, please leave a comment.

Kristof Van Tomme is an open source strategist and architect. He is the CEO and co-founder of Pronovix. He’s got a degree in bioengineering and is a regular speaker at conferences in the API, developer relations, and technical writing communities. He is the host of the Developer Success & the Business of APIs and the API Resilience podcasts.


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