My 2012 To-Do List: Desktop Mind Map, Part 1

by JL Beeken on 12-30-2011

FreePlaneThis was not on my to-do list for today but it came to me while I was taking a nap. Napping is on my priority list.

As I’ve been watching 2012 resolutions appear online, I got to thinking that one of the ways that I sabotage myself is by having a to-do list that’s hidden inside software that’s easy to forget about. It’s just the way of computers. And if I could find a way to keep my to-do list in my face maybe I’d have a better shot at reaching my goals.

I think it’s not so much that we have too much to do, it’s that we can’t decide what’s most important, i.e. what our goals are. And if everything is important all the time, it’s too much obviously and we give up instead. At the end of each day we’ve still done what we’ve done so it must have been ‘most important’.

These days, and blame it on computers, there are so many places to go, so many people to talk to, so many things to read, so much information to collect, so much to learn … and I tend to think, if I could just be more organized, I could handle all this better. Bullshit. It’s just simply too much.

Since I want to do what I want to do anyway and I have an endless list of ideas that pop into my mind as appealing, I’ve reached a compromise with the onslaught by learning to write it all down. And I’ve discovered mind mapping as a perfect tool for collecting those random thoughts. A single mind map is expandable in any direction forever.

There’s nothing wrong with setting a list of priorities. Considering the burdens we take on, it seems necessary. But don’t be surprised if the list changes. I’d be shocked if I can keep a priority in mind longer than one day.

Instead of nailing myself to specific tasks, I like to reinvent my priorities on a daily basis. Having an ongoing list of what they are gives me that opportunity.

I keep FreePlane pinned to my taskbar. And I keep mind maps pinned to FreePlane. If you have Windows 7 you know how this works. If you don’t, it’s just drag and drop.

FreePlane mind maps

My TO-DO mind map is divided into main categories and projects and broken down into actionable steps from there. Every once in awhile I open TO-DO.mm and have a look around and decide there’s nothing I feel like doing right now. Obviously, something else is more important and it’s not on this list. Sometimes while I’m trying to decide what’s ‘most important’ I’ll wile away several hours doing nothing. I think ‘doing nothing’ is valuable time so I’m not knocking it.

Making a Desktop To-Do List

What I’ve done to put all this supposedly ‘important stuff’ into perspective is to take a screenshot of my TO-DO mind map. In FreePlane it’s possible to set the background color of the map as well as the color of the text.

FreePlane color options

I saved this screenshot to my desktop. And then right-clicked and ‘Set as Desktop Background’.

Desktop To-Do List

I now have my to-do list on my desktop. When I make changes to the mind map all I have to do is take another screenshot, overwrite the old one and set it as desktop background again.

I focus my day by choosing an item from each goal and setting up timers in The Action Machine. In this way, each goal has some effort expended toward it. Small consistent steps work.

As my mind map changes so will my desktop. Because this is a mind map it’s possible to close off some of the nodes to focus down on a particular goal without being distracted by the rest.

If I get to next December and this map looks about the same as it does today, (and it won’t) I will not beat myself up, I will not give myself a grade, I will simply say “I guess it wasn’t important”. Because if I can’t get my to-do’s done when they’re staring me right in the face, they really can’t be that important.

I’m curious how this will go, so tomorrow at midnight I’ll take a screen shot of where I’m starting and another one a year from now. Maybe I’ll take one at the end of every month along the way.

Your Goals as a Screen Saver

Or put your goals into a rotating screen saver. (Thanks, Lavender!) In Windows 7, right-click on your desktop, click on Personalize and you’ll see the Screen Saver option. Click on that and you’ll have an option for Photos in the drop-down list. If you click on Settings, you can browse to the folder of photos you want.

So, first, make a folder containing graphics of your 2012 goals. In text or a combination of text and image. (Or even a series of mind maps.) Choose carefully. You’ll have them right in front of you throughout the year to reconsider. As they manifest, you can delete them and add new ones or put gold stars on them to keep up your spirits.

It’s almost New Year’s!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Timothy 1-04-2012 at 4:37 PM

Thanks so much, after hours of looking for a suitable application – ur idea is great. I have mind map and hv already done one from the templates. Thanks a lot

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Nancy 1-16-2012 at 3:15 PM

I was thinking yesterday that if I don’t see my goals I won’t remember exactly what they are. I like your idea but having them large as a screensaver is a little too in-my-face for me. But I think I’ll make a little box to go on my desktop (if I can figure out how to do it). Thanks for the suggestion and description of how to make it a background.

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JL 1-16-2012 at 4:04 PM

It’s a good point. If we don’t know where we’re going we might not get there.

‘Too in-my face’ was how it seemed to me, at first. For the first two days I couldn’t get over the feeling it was a window I was supposed to close. Now I can’t function without it.

A small box can be made in the same way. It’s just a picture that becomes part of your desktop, with your choice of background color. A mind map can also be created with a smaller font-size so it’s not overwhelming.

I’ve add a few things to mine, like putting repetitive steps in bold, and things that have an endpoint in italics and spruced it up with different colors. As I work my way around the wheel I use the green tick icon to show me where I am in my process. After I get around the wheel spending time in each category, I remove all icons, open up the map and start over. It keeps my life in better balance.

I’ve also added a category called The Idea Book for ideas that I may get around to someday but are not presently top priority on my to-do list. It’s an interesting evolutionary thought process.

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Timothy 1-16-2012 at 4:44 PM

A mindmap for a wallpaper works gr8 4 me, helps me also plan my work – combined with a time management app on my phone to track the much time I really work – I m realising better productivity

One more thing I have done is writing the time I spent on each day working on to my year planner – helps to see how many hours u really put to use

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JL 1-16-2012 at 5:07 PM

I agree with you. I also feel more productive. This is what I’ve been looking for in time-management; how to bring the to-do list and time and goals all together in one simple idea that lets me work without constant distraction.

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