Mindmapping and goals


Well, it’s that time of the year where I start wrapping up loose ends. I quickly survey the scene and find goals that have been accomplished, goals that just never got started, and goals that still have some legs and are ongoing. I really needed a better way to keep track of my goals. My goals just keep getting lost in the weeds of OmniFocus’ projects and next actions.

I’ve always been great at using OmniFocus for my tasks, projects, and Areas of Responsibilities. But I never really quite got around to wrapping my head around goals. Maybe it’s the fear of failure or I’m just unsure of what my goals and visions are.

I just saw the MindNode 5 came out and I thought I’d give mind mapping another go-around to see if I can map out 2018. I wanted to find something to test out MindNode 5 and took advantage of its 2 week free trial. A quick download from the Mac App Store and I’m ready to go.

I had an old “goals” mind map from iThoughtsX and decided to restart from scratch. I haven’t been really good at using mind maps. It was a class exercise that I remembered using in 8th grade but I never developed my mind mapping skills after that. I started mind mapping in 2016 because it seemed like the big thing to do. A number of mind mapping apps such as MindJet Mindmanager, Novamind, iThoughtsX, and MindNode were pushed out to the market to entice people into this different way of thinking.

I was happy when I created my first goals mind map and thought of all the different strategies, projects, and goals that I’d be accomplishing. But I think I stopped trusting my mind map because it wasn’t updated to reflect new changes in life every couple of months. Yep, it’s time to reboot my mind map and figure out where my head is at now and where I want to go. I think I need to make this as part of my monthly review. I can’t trust it if I don’t update it. The only way to update it is to review it on a monthly basis so that it will reflect the current reality and not the reality of 6 months ago.

I based my new mind map on my OmniFocus folder structure. Each folder represented an Area of Responsibility that I am in charge of. As a starter, I did half of my folders so far. I’ll need to flesh out the other Areas of Responsibility but I did some of the more important folders as a way to start this experiment. Then I added a few of the currently active projects from each folder into this mind map. I’ll add the “On Hold” projects later.

OmniFocus folders

Here’s part of what I came up with.

I think I might have to look at some mind maps that are probably within a Google search distance away from me.

For now, I have the Areas of Responsibilities (House,Office, Personal, Toys to buy [big boy toys], Personal Development, and my side job at UOG) and a subnode representing a project that I am responsible for.

I think I might have to rename some of these subnodes and use more descriptive verbs to indicate a goal that I am trying to achieve (“Renovate the house so that I can live in a beautiful castle” or “Create a new home office that will become my center operations to rule over the Evil Empire.”). So I’ve got work to do here when it comes to properly renaming projects in the mind map and in OmniFocus.

It was interesting to see MindNode 5’s ability to add tasks. I liked being able to check off projects and see the status circle slowly fill up. In my Office node, it looks like I have about 50% of this area completed. I wonder if this might be a better way to gauge how much I’m getting done in this node and if it will actually compel me to try to complete the status circle to 100%?

My Life node

I think I’ll need to work on this a bit more to flesh out my specific situation. It’s the end of the year and it’s the perfect time to reflect back on what was done in 2017 and to envision what to work on in 2018. Maybe this will kickstart my underlying desire to start a 12 week year habit?

Does anyone have any ideas about how to make your own “goals” mind map? I’m curious to see if there are any strategies about goal planning. I’m sure I could use something like Trello or an outline instead. Maybe it’s a mind map or it might be another way creating a goals vision. Anybody have their own ideas?

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A side note about MindNode 5. It’s an interesting app. Straightforward interface and easy to look at. But there isn’t really anything here that would make me want to change from iThoughtsX. The only addition that I might find vaguely interesting is that MindNode 5 has an outline view so that I can see my mind map in a different perspective.


Sometimes I revisit a previous post and I found Kourosh Dini’s excellent video on using mind maps to take care of deadlines and multiple projects. It’s a great listen if you haven’t tried mind mapping.

I’ll confess. I’m not a visual person. I’m more comfortable creating outlines in OmniOutliner. I’m trying to think outside the box and using mind maps to try to view something from a different perspective.

Many mind mapping apps also have the ability to see your mind map in an outline view. This view can help if you’re interested in seeing your structure in outline and map views simultaneously.


You’ve given me some good ideas here! I’ve always struggled to connect the various GTD altitudes (purpose, vision, areas, projects). I too would have said I lean more toward outlines than mindmaps, but between a bit of inspiration I got from the mindmap David Allen includes in Getting Things Done and from watching a Pat Flynn video on using mini Post-Its to create a mindmap for a book, I’ve tried to use mindmaps more.

I have one currently for a big writing project that includes blogging, newsletters, and an eventual ebook. Mapping it out, and using the ability in MindNode to draw connections between otherwise unconnected branches, has really helped me organize my thoughts in ways a simple outline could not. I still like the outline display in MindNode you mention specifically because I want to avoid going too deep down in the outline. I try to keep the organization of my writing at the subsection-to-paragraph level, but no deeper. With a mindmap, you can branch off indefinitely. (This mirrors the classic digital organization problem of nested subfolders.) Moving back and forth between the mindmap and outline views helps me rethink the organization.

Where I struggle is coming with original projects for myself. I allow my job and day-to-day life to pretty much run my schedule and to-do list. Your post here gives me hope that I could break away from that at the areas of focus level. When I took Things 3 for a test spin, I really loved the ability to post into Things from MindNode, with automatic sectioning of tasks based on the structure of the mindmap. I still fiddled with the end result in Things (probably too much), but I do see great potential for tightening the relationship between the brainstorming, organizing, and task assigning steps of the GTD Natural Planning Model.


Here’s a question I always have to ask when I see this posed: why? Why try to connect them explicitly? In most cases, they are only tangentially related so why go through the trouble of putting them together?

Something I’ve been playing around with lately is the use of a paper notebook for general ideation or thought collection with the intent of creating mind maps in the future. As an example, I recently created a mind map for business strategy in the world of web development. But that started as a four-page dump of ideas in my notebook that took two weeks of on-and-off work. At the end of it, I’ve been playing with the creation of mindmaps for long-term collection of ideas.

@JWellsCFO, do you do anything like this? Or is it purely for projects in your system?

  1. I suffer from some not-atypical problems from a meta-productivity standpoint: I have the habits of committing to too many things and falling for shiny new objects (projects). For me, I see the strive toward better, tighter alignment as a way of both reigning in myself and attempting to focus on fewer, better things; in short, reversing my natural inclination toward quantity over quality. This is where mind mapping helps: if I need a big new branch for the next thing, I need to seriously consider whether I should include it or not.
  2. So just as (or maybe slightly before) you started publicly discussing your shift toward analog productivity, I headed the opposite direction toward paperless. In fact, over the past few months, I’ve also been working toward reducing the number of apps I use and attempting to limit myself, in terms of productivity, to the stock Apple apps: Reminders, Calendar, and Notes. Until Apple either provides a stock mindmapping app or adds that functionality somehow to Notes (I don’t really anticipate either of these), MindNode is one of the few non-stock apps I’m relying on. (By the way, MindNode exports to both Things 3 in a fairly impressive way, but it will also export and sync any tasks [marked as such within MindNode] to Reminders via the share sheet.)

That said, my typical use case for mindmaps so far has been planning blog posts. I export the mindmap into Markdown and open the file in Ulysses (another app that currently makes the cut. I don’t have an iPad, but if I did, Tim Nahumck has me almost convinced I could get the job done with Drafts). From there, I have the section headers ready to go, so I fill in the paragraphs.

I neeeever do this. :wink:

Have you ever used TheBrain for this? I recently downloaded it again and have been rethinking my use of it. Maybe there’s room for a dedicated discussion about it, but I’ve been enjoying the simplicity of a single, large mindmap to rule them all. :ring:

I’ve seen TheBrain and looked at the website, but I’ve not used it myself. My one hangup with mindmapping is I’m ultimately more a textual than visual thinker, which is why MindNode’s option to see an outline appeals to me. I actually don’t want the mindmap to do too much other than organize topics and section headers. I haven’t gotten into assigning tasks (now that I know MindNode tasks sync with Reminders though, I may try that) or using notes (though with an ebook project, that might help).

This may be a bit more meta, but I go back and forth on this “one app to rule them all” mentality. For example, OF3 and Things 3 include calendar items in the task list, and Todoist syncs to put scheduled tasks on your Google Calendar. At first I say yes, that would help me plan my whole day, but then I start to realize there’s a reason calendars and task lists exist separately (whether David Allen says they should or not). I feel similarly—in both directions—about notes/planning apps. Anyways, that’s a different discussion.

Same. Most of my notes are outlines. It’s the random mindmaps that seem to be helpful in reorganizing big projects.

In this context I’m referring to a single mind map as opposed to multiple for multiple cases. But I also have thoughts on your point that I’ll post in your new topic on it.