A few months ago a I happened to glance over at a co-worker’s laptop during a meeting. He had some app running that was showing a wild looking spider like diagram that I had never seen before. I asked him what the app was and he said “MindManager. I use it for keeping track of my thoughts and ideas. You can download a trial from www.mindjet.com”. I followed his advice and my life changed as a result.
My thoughts are generally pretty disorganized; at least when I’m forming them, and that can take a while. I’m constantly juggling 10-15 things simultaneously and have a tough time focusing on a single thing for long stretches of time. I obviously do OK managing this, but I often feel out of control and know that I forget things I shouldn’t. I’ve tried many tools to try to keep me more organized; until I found MindManager the best tool for me was grid-lined paper notebook that I tried to carry around (along with my Tablet PC or laptop). This method helped me mostly by forcing me to write down my thoughts, further etching them into my memory; I rarely referred back to my notes.
Being a visual person, I was always drawing diagrams showing relationships between components, resources, people, objects, time, etc… Again, the real benefit was how my memory was improved by doing this. It really didn’t help make me more organized. Microsoft Office OneNote is a suitable replacement for my paper notebook, but for some reason I still gravitated to the paper version.
MindManager fits into the category of software known as “Mind Mapping”. While writing this post I scoured the web for a few other Mind Mapping packages and spent a few minutes playing with each. I remain confident that MindManager is as good as or better than any of them. I have been blown away by the number of useful features, seamlessness of the UI design, and quality of this product. It feels just like a member of the Microsoft Office family and is rock solid.
“OK, great”, you say, “but what the heck does this thing do?”
For me, it organizes my thoughts by letting me draw diagrams showing the relationships between things. It has a really slick and intuitive UI for first throwing down your thoughts and then organizing and formatting them. I have “mind maps” for my team, the product we are building, my decision process on what new laptop is right for me, my career goals, and so on. For the current milestone my team is working on I have a map that has four main nodes:& Exit Criteria, Deliverables, and Schedule. Each item off of these nodes has priorities labeled, owners identified, due dates, and relationships to other things called out. At a glance I can see the whole picture and I can add notes or other items at any time.
MindManager does a really good job of exporting to PowerPoint helping create PPTs. It also exports to Outlook tasks, but I don’t find that useful. The printing support is very solid as well.
I have no affiliation with MindJet other than as a very satisfied customer. I am just so in love with this product that I want others to know about it. Try their time-bombed trial version for yourself and let me know what you think.