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Mind Maps in Action: Personal Dashboard Maps

In this edition of our Mind Maps in Action series of blog posts, we talk to Mathieu van der Wal about the use of Personal Dashboard Mind Maps, and the free webinar series he, and the World of Minds team, are offering to help you make the most of this superb tool!

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Having a background in Interaction Design, I always had this urge to figure out ways how to present information in a meaningful, useful and humane way. After graduating in 2004 I joined aHa!Coaching in The Netherlands to work on integrations of Mindjet MindManager in different work processes by developing add-ins and custom integrations. After a couple of years of working with visual maps I used them so much that I started to think about broader applications of visual mapping and got certified as a trainer. In 2008 aHa!Coaching joined the network organisation World of Minds, where we share a vision that people can (and should) be less busy being busy and that visualisation can play a part in that goal.

My current projects involve (educating on) integrating visual mapping as part of A New Smarter Way of Working to gain a competitive edge of teams and organisations by improved usage of their human capital.

How were you first introduced to mind mapping?

Back in 2004 there were some ideas at aHa!Coaching on how we could use mind mapping software to help people in their line of work. However, my colleague Jerre Lubberts always stressed that it is not only a software tool but that you also need to know the underlying techniques of mind mapping and the way it is both a thinking, writing and memory technique. With a software engineering background, actually the process of ‘building’ maps from different parts of information felt very natural and liberating to me.

How do you now use mind maps in your working life?

I use them on a daily basis, both for myself as for our clients. Actually, the ‘back bone’ of my roles, goals, projects and tasks is my Personal Dashboard map.

I use my Personal Dashboard map in a weekly process to review the work that has been done and the work that has is yet to come. If I keep my dashboard up to date it actually saves me time as I can make better decisions on what to do and what not to do. I use the saved time much like 20Time: don’t fill it with ‘busyness’, but work on improving processes, try a new project or experiment etc. along the principles of methodologies like the Lean Startup philosophy.

What do you think is the greatest benefit of the usage of a Personal Dashboard map?

Working visually with such a Personal Dashboard map certainly made the process of keeping overview of your work more fun, which motivates me to keep doing it. I like how the structure of the map provides context on all the work that’s going on,instead of just a list of projects and things that I want to do ‘some day’. Also, the map helps me to find information from a project-perspective point of view and allows links to existing information, whether that be e-mails, local files or cloud based files.

Once you start adding information in a software mindmap there is so much you can do which adds value to having your map instead of having lists or paper overviews: hyperlinks to existing documents, filtering based on codified information (color, icons), task-based filtering like deadlines and synchronising with existing task lists.

The map quickly becomes a ‘living document’ which is more than just a snapshot of the information you had at a specific time: it becomes a true dashboard (like the one in a car) to help you to make the best decisions in the moment.

What do you think are the greatest barriers to wider adoption of mapping?

From my experience it seems to have to do with not being a part of the process of creating a map and a fear of having to create the perfect map at once.

We do a lot of sessions with clients, and it makes a lot of difference if we create the map together with the clients on a big screen (or online) or if we just send the completed map after the session. Having clients participate in creating the maps really helps them to see the value of the mapping process and helps them to working with the thinking and memory techniques that are part of mapping as well.

It feels like people are attracted to the mapping purely based on the visual aspect, but this one-sided approach results either in people jumping to the software and creating huge unusable maps or that they never start practise mapping by hand because they think you ‘need to be able to draw well’ or ‘need to be creative’ (which is another discussion... :) so they just stop there and never pick up the mapping.

To quote Mikko Arevuo from the latest BPUN London: "It is ok to map poorly. What is important is how you USE the map"

Would you like to add anything else?

Yes, I know from my own experience that people have difficulties starting their own Personal Dashboard map because they’re “just too busy right now” and they think they need to create a perfect overview in one take. However, having such a perfect overview (does it even exist?) doesn’t help much as the world just keeps on spinning, things keep coming in between and priorities shift: working smarter is a process that you need to repeat every day, week and quarter.

So, I would like to offer to the Biggerplate Community to join me in our ‘Personal Dashboard ’webinar series for free so they can start creating their own Personal Dashboard map in their mapping software of choice and customise it to their needs.

We will be starting a new series on the 12th of May in English, and another series (in Dutch) on the 26th of May. If you’re interested, but can’t make it to one of the series, just send me an e-mail at mathieu@ahacoaching.nl and I’ll keep you updated on the new series.

A huge thanks to Mathieu for sharing his thoughts with us and we wish him the best of luck with the webinar series!

Have you got a 'Mind Maps in Action' story to share with us? Then get in touch by commenting below, or via Twitter!

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Barney is Community Manager at Biggerplate and shares user stories, mind mapping tips, and other news and updates from our global member community!
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