A few months back, I read a very interesting article from Alpha Efficiency about saving time and improving productivity using mind maps to plan your day.
Traditionally, mind maps are used for creative processes, so it’s a great fit when you consider that our productivity often hangs on us being creative not only in our work, but also with how we plan and manage the use of our time.
The result? A more visual, tangible guide to the day that helps identify and organize tasks in a more natural, logical way, and making better decisions about which areas to put time and focus.
For the past few months I’ve made daily to-do maps at the beginning or end of the day. I found it helped me get a better snapshot of what I needed to do and overlay that with my goals and principles at varying altitudes to ensure they’re aligned. I would also draw the path for the actions I need to take and the things I should do first on particularly hectic days. Being able to see my tasks laid out visually helps me group tasks in the most efficient way.
Every day doesn’t always go as planned, but even if that’s the case, I still know exactly what it is I’m not getting to. I can renegotiate those commitments or change their priority if need be. It lets me plan better around meetings, interruptions, deadlines, energy levels, priorities, all in a way that makes sense to me and what I have available at the time. By spending this little bit of time planning, I’m never poring over notes and wasting time trying to figure out what needs my attention next.
There’s not a right or wrong way to do this. I like to start with putting the day and date at the center of my page to anchor me to today. I look at my system (tickler, calendar, projects, next actions, waiting-for items, etc.) and determine what needs my focus based on context, the time I have available, my energy levels, and priority. Sometimes I’ll add little notes, updates, or additional branches on certain tasks during my planning, though usually having the task captured is enough of a placeholder to keep me on course.
What I’ve learned from this is that spending 15 – 25 minutes a day actually thoughtfully plan my day has saved me so much time streamlining and transitioning my work. It might feel a little silly at first blush, but it works amazingly well.