Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mind Mapping my Annual Review

One of my favorite blogs to read is Lifehack.  Recently, Dustin Wax had a post on a mind-mapping software called X-mind.

I have heard people to refer to mind-mapping before, but it always seemed too cumbersome.  I never really had any project that made me think "this needs to go on a mind-map.", until about a week ago.

I am coming up for my annual review @ Farm, and as is the case of a consultancy, the past year consisted of a very broad spectrum of projects and tasks.  Knowing fully well that my annual review would one day come, I had taken periodic (read: sporadic) notes, snapshots, etc.  The problem was, those notes were typically done in times of easy, steady work, not in the midst of a mad rush to get deliverables out the door.  This being the case, there are a few gaps in my work history that need filling, enter X-mind.

Recalling the past year was a surprisingly pleasant experience.  There was an organic flow from my meandering mind through my fingers and onto the "mind-map".  I started with a project name, and within 10 minutes I had listed the 10 or so subsystems, the specific areas I worked on, what I learned, the technical challenges, the design intent and so on.  When I was finished, I looked at the map, stunned.  How could I never have used this before?

I should also note that I am by no means gifted with a super-memory, far from it.  Instead, I liken my recollection that of a song coming on the radio that I haven't heard in years.  If you asked me out of the blue to recite the lyrics, I would be stuck.  On the other hand, once that same song is blasting and the first few lyrics are sung, I can remember the next few lyrics, then the next few.  That chain continues until the end of the song, at which point I have recalled every lyric without fail.  It was this type of chain that empowered me to recall details of the project with surprising accuracy, the mind-map just served as a catch for the memories I was throwing out.

After doing the outline for my review, I had an hour or two of downtime at work and checked out some free ANSYS webinars.  As I pulled out my notepad to take some notes, I thought of Xmind and figured I would give it a shot.  What an excellent choice.

I've seen my fair share of training webinars, and many of them tend to have similar structures: An intro, an overview of each section, then details about each section, and a conclusion.  I find that this doesn't mesh well with old-fashioned, linear note-taking.  Your notes on the overview of the first section and notes of the details of the same section are pages apart.  With a mind-map, you can bounce around with the presentation, and export into a nice indented outline.  Nice.

Did I mention it's free?

No comments: