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  • GTDing on higher altitudes with PersonalBrain

    I have known this application for quite some time, but never really bought the concept for two main reasons. At first it always looks nice and promising (Minority Report effect?), although I could never stop thinking that it was a fine solution for a not-so-well-defined problem (do I really need a file explorer "on steroids"?). Secondly is the "stuff-factor": it really looks as a potential BIG blackhole, and the suggested use by the developers only reinforces that perception (listing and linking all your thoughts in a big brain).

    Nevertheless, considering DA's recent interest, I decided to spend some time with it. What I discovered is that it is a superb application, ONCE you define very hard edges for it.

    My current GTD system is based on KEWS's posts (MindManager and ResultsManager) with a twist for project planning (JCVGantt), as I want to know WHEN my projects will be done. However, I have also always wanted something as a big life map (CosmoGTD's idea), but the 10k to 50k altitude was really hard to manage with MindManager.

    So now I have a brain only for this. As the relationships between higher levels are much fuzzier than the project-next action combo, PersonalBrain does a much better job of actually reproducing them. Even my Someday/Maybe items at these levels are easy to control, since I can see them isolated, but also attached to a specific focus area, vision or goal. By the way, I consider anything on higher altitudes as projects: you need to define a successful outcome and next actions (in this case, itens in an altitude immediately below). Appropriate reference files are also linked to each item.

    So, how are you organizing your higher level itens?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Zatara
    So now I have a brain only for this. As the relationships between higher levels are much fuzzier than the project-next action combo, PersonalBrain does a much better job of actually reproducing them.
    So, do you feel this representation has been helpful?

    Comment


    • #3
      Models

      In short, yes.

      But to understand my answer, you need first to know about my failures.

      1) Paper

      By nature, 10k+ items tend to be in a constant editing mode. Don't get me wrong here, I love paper for capturing, there is nothing better! But it wasn't working with all the fine-tuning, so I moved to digital...

      2) Outliner (Brainforest, Bonsai, etc)

      Better, I could edit easily the contents, but the structure was too rigid. 10k+ items tend to have strange relationships among them. For example, one important professional project may be part at the same time of a career goal and a financial goal. When I plan things at this level, I would like to see this item at both "branches"...

      3) Mind maps (MindManager, etc)

      Better yet, planning on mindmaps really made my creative instincts flow, so I could do some of my capture and analysis onsite. However, the structure was still to rigid, and relationships were too hard to establish and track...

      4) 2.25-dimension mind maps (PersonalBrain)

      I finally can have all the benefits and control of relationships.

      Of course one may say that keeping these relationships is not worth it. If it works, fine. But for me, GTD is about keeping things in a trusted system and out of my mind. Trying to remember that I had planned 20 projects spread through different focus areas to achieve one goal three months before, is just counterproductive.

      In the end, it is all about models. The way I see, my higher-level projects are better described by the PersonalBrain metaphor.

      Anyway, as GTD is not that strong on defining a system for these items, how are people developing their own systems?

      Comment


      • #4
        Quite interesting. But I'm actually a little more intrigued by your use of JCVGantt. Bringing moderate to mega-projects to fruition--within an acceptable period of time--usually requires a lot of concentrated effort, and perhaps a discipline greater than what's implied by identifying the next action and then knocking off next actions whenever in a suitable context. Just what needs to be done to get this project completed? How long will it take? What resources will I need? How much will it all cost? What milestones will I have to reach by when if I'm going to get a complicated project done on time? And what kind of a control system can I develop to warn me when things are beginning to careen off track?

        I can't help but think that a little more up-front structure to project plans is called for. I've dabbled a bit with MS Project but that seems to be overkill. Just the thing, perhaps, for designing and building a space shuttle, or organizing a big dig, but unnecessarily complicated when the resource I really need to keep a handle on is how much of my own time and attention I need to devote to this thing to keep it progressing as it should.

        If it were only no more complicated than that. Most of us, however, are juggling more than one project at a time. I can see how Gantt charts, etc. can help one keep on top of a project, but can they really help us decide which next actions of which of those multiple projects we need to focus on now in order to keep everything moving along on schedule?

        I would love to hear how you deal with this, and perhaps how JCVGantt has helped.

        Comment


        • #5
          JCVGantt

          Originally posted by smithdoug
          I can't help but think that a little more up-front structure to project plans is called for. I've dabbled a bit with MS Project but that seems to be overkill.
          This is exactly the niche where I use JCVGantt for. I'm not telling you that all my projects have a budget, resources and milestones completely defined, and I do actually think this is overkill. As DA says, each project will require its own level of planning. What I missed was a tool or a system to deal with projects that require more than the project-next action combo and less than what MS Project offers.

          I have one MindManager map for all my 0 to 10 k ft GTD buckets. I really mean all buckets, such as links to my email inbox in Outlook or my side notes in OneNote. All these branches are hidden from JCVGantt, except for a branch named Projects. There I list all my current projects and respective next actions, although some projects do require a separate map.

          After an initial mind dump, I use JCVGantt mainly to establish timeframes and relationships. It is perfectly syncronized with MindManager, so I switch between the two views as I need. Relationships are always defined between actions of one same project or two whole different projects and may not only be the "start-to-end" type. This also helps me to define hard edges for projects. All data is stored in MM, so I am not hostage of another proprietary format. And of course you can dig further and define resources or budget, but it is seldom necessary for me.

          When everything is out of my mind, ResultsManager collects automatically my commited actions for the week and exports to Outlook (and therefore my Treo). If a project is not being done on that week, it is on Someday/Maybe (thanks Katherine). So far, it has been working flawlessly!

          With this system, I have been using MS Project less and less. My main use now is as a conduit to my Treo of the projects I need on-the-run (MM => MS Project => Natara Proj@Hand).

          Therefore my 0_2_10k map is my bottom-to-top planning tool, which I now complement with a 10k_2_50K brain for a top-to-bottom perspective. It may sound complex, but works very well together.

          Originally posted by smithdoug
          If it were only no more complicated than that. Most of us, however, are juggling more than one project at a time. I can see how Gantt charts, etc. can help one keep on top of a project, but can they really help us decide which next actions of which of those multiple projects we need to focus on now in order to keep everything moving along on schedule?
          Well, yes and no. The weekly review is really the stage where all these actions take place, so my system is not a magic brain implant that will give you instant focus on your projects...

          However, I am now able to detect problems much earlier and take appropriate steps to correct them at the weekly review. I can really track the consequences of not "eating the frog". There is even a "critical pathway tool" to help us define which frog can be left for the following week.

          I hope this helps, but maybe we should start another thread for JCVGantt if you want more details. BTW, I have no links to any of the tools mentioned here, except for being a satisfied user of these applications.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks, Zatara. Quite intriguing. But one more point of confusion. Are you saying that you can link Mindmanager to OneNote? It would be very useful to be able to link a branch in Mindmanager to a page in OneNote. I had an e-mail conversation with Erick Mack about this some months ago and he was able to bring someone from Microsoft into the loop. I've asked the Mindjet people about the same thing, but my impression is that it can't be done.

            Comment


            • #7
              MindManager to OneNote

              I have shortcuts on my desktop to all my GTD buckets. So one of them, called "Inbox Notes" points to "C:\My Documents\Inbox\!Inbox.one". When I was making the 0_2_10k map, I've just included a link to this shortcut (Inbox Notes.url). I cannot go to a specific page, actually never tried to, since this section should be empty most of the time...

              Comment


              • #8
                Do you currently use is this system on multiple computers? If so, how do you sync them?

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