FreeMind|GTD

FreeMind|GTDFreeMind|GTD is a free on-line tool for extracting Next Actions from a FreeMind Mind Map and presenting them grouped by context (GTD-style). Your Mind Map needs to use a simple, natural mark-up on Next Action items (see tutorial and example mind map).

A Quick Tutorial on Using FreeMind|GTD

This tutorial will briefly cover how a mind map can help organize projects and the details of simple, natural mark-up needed to identify a mind map node as a Next Action. Refer to the FreeMindweb site for details on installing and using FreeMind. A good introduction to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology can be found here.

Using a MindMap to Organize Projects

Mind maps provide graphical, hierarchial representations that can be very useful in showing the relationship between a goal, the projects that support it, the tasks needed to complete a project, and the Next Actions required for each task.

The dynamic environment in FreeMind makes it easy to brainstorm and drill down on various aspects of projects and re-organize the structure quickly. The draw-back is that it can be hard to get a list of Next Actions from the graphical mind map. This is where FreeMind|GTD comes in: the on-line application reads through the mind map and collects a list of Next Actions organized by context.

What is context? Context is the situation needed to perform the Next Action- for example, email, desk, home, or shopping. You can also apply context to people who you need to speak with or need to get you something.

Two other useful attributes for a Next Action are the due date and level of effort. FreeMind|GTD uses three level of efforts (easy=1, hard=3) to help you gauge whether you have the bandwidth to address a Next Action when you’re in the proper context. A core tenet of the GTD method is to think through (ahead of time) how you will handle things.

OK, let’s look at the mark-up to indicate Next Actions:

Section of a mind map showing FreeMind|GTD markup
Section of a mind map showing FreeMind|GTD markup

FreeMind|GTD Mark-up for Next Actions

Groan… another mark-up to learn? The idea was to keep it as close as possible to what you might use when taking notes in a email, i.e. use a “natural” mark-up. Let’s look at an example:

* Download Version 9.1 software @_web [28-Dec] #1

Any FreeMind node (entry) is treated as a Next Action if it contains an asterisk (*). Note that if you leave off the rest of the mark-up discussed below, the node will be assigned a context of “_anywhere”, a due date of “TBD” and easy level of effort (#1). This lets you collect things quickly in the mindmap- you can go back later and change the other attributes.

The next attribute is context, which is marked by a “@” symbol. It can be useful to proceed a physical context (like desk) with an underscore (@_desk) so these are grouped together instead of mixed with people. Contexts are listed alphabetically.

Due dates are enclosed in square braces, like: [28-Dec]. If you leave off a due date, it is listed as “TBD”.

Levels of effort are denoted with a pound symbol and value between 1 and 3, like: #2. If you leave off this attribute, a default of #1 (easy) is assumed.

That’s it! Take a look at the examples in the Next Action Formats mindmap. You’ll see the markup is very flexible- you do have to follow a rigid order. Use what works for you.

Next Action List

After uploading your mindmap (with the above mark-up) and generating your next action list, you’ll see Next Actions grouped by context. Within each context, Next Actions are sorted by level (easy to hard) then due date.

Section of an extracted Next Actions list
Section of an extracted Next Actions list

The level of effort is color coded: black=easy (#1), brown=medium (#2), and white=hard (#3). The second box indicates due date status: green= OK, yellow= due in less than 7 days, red= overdue. The actual due date is listed to the right of the Next Action (not shown in this snapshot).

Give it a try…