My case for mindmaps being at the centre of your writing workflow
Working in small teams and often in isolation creates a dependence on yourself and also opens up the possibilities in using productivity tools and your personalized techniques.
I have been in a selling role for some time and largely dependent on my own activities to develop opportunities for my sales pipeline. This involves a lot of face-to-face as you would expect but I also create targeted communications to attract prospects’ attention on the path to gaining executive access.
In broadening my capabilities I have added a few tools which I will reference in this article:
1. ThinkPad X1 Carbon - Lenovo laptop.
2. Evernote - note-taking and collaboration software.
3. ATR2100-USB - a microphone that is external to the PC and USB connected.
4. Dragon - voice-to-text software.
5. MindManager - mindmapping software.
7. Camtasia - video editor software.
8. PrompSmart - teleprompter app.
9. Vimeo - video storage and sharing subscription.
I will explain my workflow from brainstorming to outline to content development through to text and video production.
Have you ever been in a team session with a flurry of ideas and a whiteboard and post-it notes and a facilitator and you don’t have a way to recreate this environment on your own - well there is an option.
I didn’t buy MindManager, Dragon or the ATR2100 for personal brainstorming sessions but it is a great combination. I was brought to this solution out of my frustration with the broken flow of thought, stop and write or key into software and start again…then to recover from the pause.
The way that I tackle this task now is to:
Open a MindManager document.
2. Attach the mic to the PC.
3. Start the Dragon software.
4. Double-click in an open space on the mindmap and start brainstorming into the “bubble” on the screen.
5. I press “enter” and “enter” again which closes the first thought and opens the next “bubble” and I say the next thought and watch it converted to text.
6. Which means - at a level of pace - it goes:
Repeat until you are finished.
You now have a screen of thoughts which you assemble into logical groupings as branches of the mindmap. From there you can prioritize.
The beauty of this personal brainstorming approach is that it is equally effective in a group if you have the mic and repeat the words from the team member and watch the screen fill up in front of the room. There is an immediate productivity gain when you and the team move seamlessly into the topic grouping and prioritisation.
With this step complete, I know move to content creation.
I won’t go through the mechanics of creating the content but MindManager offers efficiency when moving from the brainstorming to outlining to publish.
Before going to this step I would like to share an element of the software that can play a role on a personal level, when managing team input and when communicating your plan with managers or collaborators. That is to create a timeline.
MindManager is able to treat each element of the mindmap, from the subject through every branch level if you want that level of granularity, as a task that can have project attributes associated at any and all levels.
To go seamlessly from ideation, to outline to content creation with project attributes is powerful and the mindmap can now be published in a variety of formats:
1. As a project plan in a Gantt chart that can be exported to an actual project planning application.
2. PDF for general status viewing.
3. To a Word document with each of the branches as a sub-point.
When I reach the actual writing, I mostly use Evernote to capture my first draft content (actually doing that right now) which gives me access across multiple devices and I take the content and paste it into the mindmap notes field associated with the relevant mindmap branch as in the screenshot below.
By repeating this process I have an automatic backup of content via Evernote and a composite document as created inside MindManager.
This method also lends itself to external content creators - you paste their input into your single mindmap outline document that is now becoming more than the outline with each additional piece of content.
In addition, you are able to update the progress against each element/task in the project plan.
Whilst this is my approach in the creation when it comes to publishing, I take one of the following approaches.
Publish to Text
Barely warrants a heading? Probably, though there can be an efficiency based on the mindmapping software. I rely on MindManager for most of my mindmapping and the structure as detailed above can be achieved with other applications I expect, but I will explain the MindManager steps from creation to publishing.
You go to the “File” menu then to “Share” then to “Word”. From there you can choose from a few output subtleties - export - you now have all of your mindmap content down to the text under each heading in a single Word document.
Publish to Video
As a writer, you may want to approach a certain audience using video. If so, you will first need some extra tools. At a minimum, you will need software. I use Camtasia but have used Screencast-O-Matic which is an excellent application at a different price point and will meet a large number of use-cases.
At a base level, I take screen grabs of mindmap branches and paste onto a PowerPoint screen and repeat. I then use the text at a detail level and use this for my narration script associated with the relevant slides. I have recently taken an approach where I use a teleprompter app on my iPhone or iPad to lay the narration down and then associate the PowerPoint slides to deliver a smooth and professional representation. Well worth a try - I actually recommend it as an effective method.
My next step is to publish via Vimeo. I am able to make the access private and as such create personalized messaging through the narration for prospects and clients.
Ultimately I have a process with simple and repeatable steps that support my own work requirements and is easily scaled to include team activities.
I am sure there are many varied workflows and I would be keen to hear how other people assemble their favourite tools into a content creation process.