FreeMind: Prioritize Your To-Do List

“You have to prioritize. It’s all a matter of priorities.” How many times have we heard that?

Simple yet profound.

I’ve tried a few things. At one time I had post-its on my bulletin board. It’s a large bulletin board over 4 feet wide by 3 feet high. It used to be a window. I covered it with Styrofoam and sheet metal and bought a box of magnets. When it was still just a window with plywood nailed over it, I would shift the post-its higher or lower and left or right throughout the day until the glue wore out and they’d fall on the floor. That was good because, frankly, it was psychologically disturbing to see all those to-do’s at one time.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been shifting some of my life into the mind mapping software, FreeMind. And in preparation for my new computer I’ve also been using it to create mind maps of my to-do lists.

Although I’ve known forever that I’ll never catch up, I’ve also been living in denial. The truth is, without time-management and a set list of priorities, I’ll just keep treading water. Considering my propensity for workaholism this is a relative thing but, nevertheless, I’m not accomplishing some of the things I want to or, at least, think I want to.

So, in conjunction with The Action Machine, (my rack of digital timers for staying focused) I’ve come up with a plan. Yes, another one.

FreeMind has a long list of icons that can be applied to nodes (nodes are mind map language for ‘items’) including handy numbered ones. They can also be accessed in a box through Alt+I.

Icons, FreeMindSo, I’ve marked a few top priority items. I’m only using the #1 icon because it makes me choose. Two to nine would just confuse me.

It’s not that everything else isn’t important, but it’s all relative and relative can change. Since my mind maps are mostly computer-related, when my computer is up and running again I’ll be launching into those first. When those are done, the icon can be changed to a green tick mark or the node deleted and I’ll pick another few. Like so:

Prioritize Your To-Do List, FreeMind

If you follow, there are two advantages to this approach. One is that you have to think, every single day, about what’s most important to you. Second, no matter where life interrupts you, you’ll know that the most important things are D-O-N-E. Or, at least, that you were trying really hard.

I’m not saying FreeMind is the only way to do this. I think anything that allows you to prioritize your time easily is a good thing. Especially if you have a tendency to wander around like a loose end, or spend way too much time in front of your monitor.

4 thoughts on “FreeMind: Prioritize Your To-Do List

  1. Marco van Lieshout


    Although we’re in totally different cultures and working environment, prioritizing is a must for every manager (and I dare say for every “worker”).

    Did you ever find a way to let Freemind order your (manually set) priorities? I also work with a maximum of priorities (2 sounds good, I work with 3 and sometimes run into trouble that 2 becomes the “hmmm, I don’t know so let’s put a middle mark there”), but I sometimes have a real list of issues. It would be a real trick if you could somehow order them, oso that all “1” comes on top.

    I tried to find a way through export, but to no avail.

    Any ideas?

    1. JL Post author

      I have not been able to figure out how to use attributes for anything, let alone sorting icons. Could you please contribute a mini-tutorial?

  2. JL Post author

    I found one thing for the icons, or anything else, using Filter. It doesn’t put the list in order though. It just filters out whatever you choose. If you click on ‘show Descendants’ in the Filter toolbar, it will bring along any sub-items of nodes with the #1 icon.

    I tend to work more by exporting branches in HTML, and then printing to paper if I want a longer outline. If not, I can (on a good day) keep one or two priorities in my mind. If not, I write them in large letters on my bulletin board. It’s a never-ending battle of distractions.


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