If you’re like me, you can get distracted easily or you forget tasks that need to be handled ASAP. You might get a few things done on your daily check list, but by the time the day is over, you still feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.
Today I’m going to share with you a technique that an industry friend taught me at the end of 2019 that has revolutionized my productivity, schedules, and ability to prioritize my work.
So what is the technique that changed everything for me? It’s mind mapping.
Mind mapping or mind sweeping, is a technique that allows for you to empty out everything in your head and allows you to focus on the now. This will alleviate the overwhelm you might feel when looking at your to do lists, and allow you to take control over your life (yes, seriously).
I’ve also put together a free reference pack for you that includes a cheat sheet to easily remember the 7 Things That Will Maximize Productivity While Working From Home and a template for your master list that you’ll learn about down below. Want those now? Click here!
How to do it
The first thing is to set a timer for 10 minutes. Grab a blank sheet of paper or use a whiteboard, and write your name in the centre; put a circle around your name.
What you’re going to create is a bubble map, and for the next 10 minutes, you will write down every thought in your head, every task, reminder, or future plans, write it all down.
- Stick to it for the entire 10 minutes, there might be periods of time where nothing comes to mind, but it might come in a minute or two, be patient
- It might feel overwhelming to look at your board/sheet once you’re finished, but it’ll get easier with time; the more you do mind maps and scheduling, the less crowded your maps will become.
Now that you’re finished your mind map, write everything down as a list on a new sheet of paper – we’ll call this one the master list. It doesn’t matter where you start, but I find it easiest to start at the top of your bubble map and work your way clockwise. Once you’ve written everything down, erase your whiteboard bubble map, or stash your paper away.
On your next sheet of paper (or backside of your master list), write four different categories: this week, next week, ongoing, and future projects. Once you create your categories, slot everything from your master list into the appropriate category. I usually start with the this week category, and write down everything from the master list that would fit here, then I move onto the next week category, and so forth.
- Highlight or cross off items on the master list so you know what has been taken care of
- The second week you do your mind sweep, everything that is in the next week category (of week 1), will be moved to the this week category (of week 2)
Now finally, take everything from your this week category and enter it into your scheduling application of choice. I use google calendar as I like how dynamic it is and infinite range of colours allow me to create categories easily.
So why is this better than a daily to-do list? Because you can see the amount of time it will actually take you to complete a certain task – it might mean you daily lists get smaller, but you’ll feel more accomplished once you can visualize more realistic timelines.
Here’s an example of what my weekly calendar looks like. Note that I do hyper schedule everything I do only because it’s very easy for me to get off track. I don’t get overwhelmed when I look at it solely because I’m not super rigid with my calendar. If I need to move things around or change the tasks as I go about my day, I do it.
So let’s look at it again, the calendar above is what my schedule looks like at the beginning of the week when I plan it, and below is my calendar that has been shifted around as I’ve gone throughout my day to day tasks by the end of the week.
Things to note
You’ll notice I don’t schedule lunch in very often, I don’t have a regular eating schedule and since I work from home, I can take lunch whenever I want (this is not good for habit building, but c’est la vie. When I do take my breaks, I will adjust my schedule to include the break, and move tasks around accordingly.
When working from home (WFH) becomes your new normal, I get why it’s hard! Your bed, the fridge, and your beloved TV is RIGHT THERE, and you’re overwhelmed with what you have to tackle without the structured time and environment you might be used to.
But I promise, with mind mapping you’ll be able to see what’s up and coming for your day or week, it’ll help reduce overwhelm, you’ll feel less foggy, and you’ll always know what to do next.
Thought it might seem like a really rigid way to work throughout the week, it’s not! Unless there are hard deadlines that need to be met, I allow myself to adjust as I go, and give myself the grace to take time off to mentally recharge if need be.
I find the best time to do this is either Sunday night or Monday morning before I’ve started the work week. It helps set the tone for the next 5 or 6 days, whether it’s a week that’s mainly office work, on-site photography, or more marketing and learning based, I can get into the right mindset and take on the next time.
The biggest hurdle I have is creating realistic task timelines for myself. I like to think that I can do everything in a week but most of the time, it takes 2-3 weeks depending on the amount of projects on the go. I’m trying to be more liberal on timing and scheduling in larger time blocks now.
Another hurdle for me remembering that my calendar is a 24-hour calendar, and I don’t need to fill it to the brim every single day. Scheduling days for rest and planned time off allows for guilt-free relaxation; no worries during that time, no stress.
I hope this technique helps, especially if you’re new to WFH – if you are, I’ve also created a guide on how to maximize your productivity while WFH, and when you combine that with mind mapping, you’ll be unstoppable.
I’ve also created a cheat sheet that you can download and print out with my productivity tips and mind mapping outline, refer to these often and watch your productivity skyrocket!
Disclaimer: I do not have children so this won’t work for everyone. Work chunks might have to be broken up differently, but you will know what will work best for you. Regardless of your circumstances, this will always be a constant process of refining and changing up your tactics as you grow into your career or business.
Need some help getting started?
I put together a free reference pack that’ll make remembering the 7 Things That’ll Maximize Productivity While WFH and also a master list template to get your going.
Grab your free resources down below!