Mind Mapping & The Action Machine

by JL Beeken on 6-13-2011

The Action MachineMy two favorite organizational tools are mind mapping and The Action Machine.

Mind-mapping for detailed categorization of ideas and plans. The Action Machine for setting it up in time slots and getting it done.

If you don’t yet understand the concept of The Action Machine, it’s based on the Pomodoro technique which roughly goes like this:

1. Write down all the tasks you want to get done today.
2. Assign a specific block of time for completing each task.
3. Select a task, start a timer, and focus on nothing else until that task is complete!

This works incredibly well because our minds are goal-oriented. If we give ourselves something to do with an end-point defined we’ll get it done.

I’ve used The Action Machine for several months now and it can blast through the worst excuses for dreaming my way through another day. I started mind mapping before I started using The Action Machine. Consequently, a lot of my lists were in mind maps and how could I get them into The Action Machine without re-typing the lists? Or maybe I didn’t need to?

To-do’s can be typed or copied and pasted directly into The Action Machine one at a time or they can be entered directly into the built-in Action Lists. I use both methods. The Action Machine is perfectly designed for getting things done. There’s nowhere else to go, there’s nothing else to do because focusing effort is all it does.

If you don’t believe in the power of focus, try this: Decide on something to do, maybe something you’ve been procrastinating on for weeks, set a timer for 20 minutes and work on that one thing. It’s not a long time; it’s only 20 minutes. Until the timer goes off, focus on that one thing.

About a year ago I got onto a folder division that helped straighten out my computer. I use the same folder division in my bookmarks, EverNote 2, KeePass and my Lightning calendar, so why not The Action Machine?

The Action Machine

And then I decided I didn’t want categories, so I put everything into one list called To-Do. It’s a very long list but it’s right next to the timers and that’s key.

The Action Machine

This list is only related to my computer activity. I don’t use it for non-computer lists or traveling lists. For instance, if I was going to a court house looking for assorted records, this is not the tool. That’s better generated from a genealogy database.

There are two main ways of creating lists.

You can create a list of things to do directly in The Action Machine and export it as a plain text document for backup. Or work the other way around creating a list in Notepad and then importing it.

Create A Timer, The Action Machine

You can also add items on the fly. This is how I bring items over from my mind maps.

Add An Action, The Action Machine

When it comes to planning your day, just move your cursor along the blue bar that will pop up next to any item and choose an amount of time for it.

Create A Timer From An Action, The Action Machine

It will automatically jump onto the timer board ready to go. The big clock will add the total amount of time on all the timers (up to 12 at once) so you don’t over-exert yourself.

Timer Groups, The Action Machine

That’s about it. The Action Machine comes with notification sounds, background patterns, priority flags, a break timer, detailed reports and inspirational sayings but it’s the underlying theory that makes things happen. Intent+Time=Done.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Regina 8-26-2011 at 6:04 PM

Hi! I’ve been following your journey and am really impressed with your organization and time management skills. You keep mentioning The Action Machine. Is it really worth the $$? I’d hate to shell out for it and never use the darn thing. (It happens to me all the time.)
Thanks a bunch for sharing.

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JL 8-26-2011 at 7:13 PM

Interest in organization and time management comes along naturally with computer life, I think. At least it has for me as my lists have grown longer and longer. And then there’s the have-to’s that sit on my belly like a bowl full of grease.

Answering your question could easily turn into an encyclopedia because you hit my passion-nerve.

I think The Action Machine is a great piece of software built by someone who really cares what they’re doing and what they’re contributing to the world. Having said that, I don’t use it exactly the way it was designed for. For instance, I don’t keep my lists there; I keep them in mind maps. I know; I said the opposite in the above post but I changed my mind and went back the other way.

The Action Machine is based on the Pomodoro technique of time-boxing which, according to anyone who uses it, is the best thing going for time-management. And I wholeheartedly agree.

You could do the same basic thing with an egg-timer. Minus the added benefits of using The Action Machine instead. Read the sales page. He’s telling the truth. This is not hocus-pocus internet marketing designed to suck the money out of your pocket. It’s a great tool for focusing time, overcoming procrastination, and simply getting things done. It’s helped me to accomplish things that I was in total resistance about. It still does every time I use it.

Here’s what I would suggest. It comes with a 60-day money back guarantee (and that’s for real) so try it. Watch the tutorial videos, grasp the concepts behind the design and see for yourself. If you don’t ‘get it’, get your money back.

If you’ve been reading me for awhile you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been all over the map with my experiments. After many trials I’ve gotten it down to a combination of mind mapping and The Action Machine. I don’t think I can do any better.

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Regina 8-29-2011 at 8:01 PM

Thank you, Thank you! =^)

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