Episode #28: GTD and Mind Mapping

David Allen and Coach Kelly Forrister talk about using the creative technique of mind mapping for project brainstorming, meeting notes, checklists, gathering project data, and more.

Listen Now

Subscribe or Download

Google Play Music

Podcast Transcript


ANDREW MASON: You’re listening to Getting Things Done, the official podcast of the David Allen Company, with our feature webinar with David Allen and Kelly Forrister on Mind Mapping

Welcome everyone to Getting Things Done, GTD for shorthand. My name is Andrew J. Mason, and this podcast is all about helping you on your journey, practicing the art of stress-free productivity.

Today we’re excited to bring you a webinar that David Allen and Kelly Forrister did on Mind Mapping, which can be a part of the brain-storming component of project planning. Sometimes, I think the free-form nature of brain-storming can cause those of us who haven’t really ever experimented with it to undervalue it’s worth and our hope is that after today you might give it another look.

I love David’s quote in Making it All Work, “If your focus on any project or situation seem scattered and disjointed and every time you bring the topic to mind your brain goes slightly on tilt, bouncing around like a pinball, the ideal solution to get your thinking under control is to brain-storm.” He goes on, “If you write down the idea, a part of you knows that your brain no longer has to keep hold of it, so it’s free to range and roam into new territory.”

We do want to make you aware that this webinar first showed up on GTD Connect and you can get early access to hundreds of other webinars instantly, as well as become part of an amazing community by heading to GettingThingsDone.com/podcast and clicking on GTD Connect. Stay tuned to the end of this webinar as well and they’ll be a special coupon code waiting for you then.

And now, without further ado, here’s David Allen and Kelly Forrister, with a webinar on Mind Mapping.

KELLY FORRISTER: When we looked at today, we actually wanted to come up with some both framing for mind-mapping, some of you might not be familiar with it, except to know that it’s in the GTD book or you’ve heard of other people doing this concept and this technique, so we’re going to give you a framing of what it is if you’re brand new, remind those of you what it is who’ve been practicing it and stepping into it.

David can you kick up off and talk about: What is mind-mapping?

DAVID ALLEN: Sure, and I’m sure there’s probably a range of all of you listening in right now and watching in terms of what your familiarity is. I ran across mind-mapping many, many years ago when Tony Buzan, who’s right and left brain researcher in England, is very involved with the education system and schools and kids and how they learn. I think we can attribute to Tony, I haven’t coined the concept or coined the idea of mind-mapping, though I’m not sure he was the only one that did it, but he was certainly doing a lot of the original writing and research and still doing – the Buzan Institute and Buzan Company is still doing a lot of that.

But mind-mapping in this more generic way that we’re gonna be talking about it is gonna range everything from – if you followed Tony’s work in very, very detail, if any of you are familiar with that, it can pretty intricate and pretty detailed in terms of using colors, of what kind of lines you use and what kind of things you can do, but all the way to the more informal just side of bullet points on the back of the omelet. Any of you just turned a napkin over and said, “Let me just get some ideas out of my head.” In a way that is mind-mapping. Obviously, the term refers to the fact that you’re trying to map what’s going on in your mind and the mind doesn’t necessarily many times move in any kind of linear or sequential way. It tends to hop around in various ways.

So mind-mapping was merely a technique for being able to essentially lower the barrier of entry to your mind to actually do some thinking and start to capture thinking that might be relevant. I think that’s a key factor here when we get into mind-mapping would be what actually might be relevant to a topic or that might be of interest at all? So just learning to grab that stuff right away.

You know, if you’re familiar with my book Getting Things Done, the Chapter Three where I discuss mind-mapping. Actually it’s discussed in the context of The Natural Planning Model. The Natural Planning Model and that’s the whole other major topic to get into itself. We won’t get into too much of that detail, but mind-mapping oftentimes has a lot to do with project thinking or situation thinking and analysis, not as the totality of it, but a very critical component. You know, the natural way your mind plans going out to dinner or plans anything, is first of all has some sort of objective or purpose, you know: We want to go out to dinner. And then has a vision. Okay, here’s what we want to have true. As soon as you imagine something that’s true that’s not true yet in reality, it creates this creative dissonance in your head. Your head goes, “Wait, we’re not out to dinner yet. We’re here and I’m hungry and the picture says we’re gonna be out there.” The why question and the what question – those come first. Well why are we doing this? I’m hungry, I want to have a great evening and it’s gonna be fabulous. We’re gonna meet with friends.

So now I’ve got the big picture stuff, but at that point the mind goes, “Now how are we gonna make that happen?” But as I indicate, there’s how part A and how part B. The how part A says, “Wait a minute! Are we dressed okay? Well what time will we be going? Where do we want to eat? And who’s going? And do we have time to do this? And what might else we want to do?” And all of those ideas will, well you can’t help it, you will start having random ideas about what is – what’s gonna fill the gap between here and what I’m imagining? But it seems like, the way the mind naturally works is, it doesn’t start in some sequential 1-A, subset B, here’s what we do first. The mind just starts having all those ideas. And then very quickly will start to sort them. Well first, let’s call them and see if they want to go to dinner.

The how part, as we’re thinking about things, oftentimes shows up and for the most part naturally does, in a bit of a random order. But then we oftentimes, we’ll very quickly move into a more sequential ordered components and priorities, more of a typical kind of a logical or a sequential or linear way of thinking about things, oftentimes coming out of our random and associated thoughts.

So mind-mapping is a key component there – you know I do a whole shtick about mind-mapping as being – as opposed to, if you grew up in the school systems that I did where you had to sit down and start to write an outline about something first and you know, you tend to short circuit all the fuses there because the mind says, “Well Roman Numeral I – what the heck does that need to be?” as opposed to, as I say, lowering the barrier to entry. Well let me just start grabbing ideas from anyplace and then find a way to hold them.

So mind-mapping actually has a – I guess as a context or a technique, it is a way to really start to say, “Okay, let me create some sort of a format, essentially for grabbing what might be relevant to me. So even to begin with, I’d like to trigger you folks to add into that question box there, if you’ve been using mind-mapping at all or anything like what I’ve been talking about, what are some of the things you have used that for? I’d be curious to get some – to have you folks to engage your brain a little bit right here. Those of you who’ve used it, what kind of things have you used it for?

KELLY FORRISTER: So, I’ll read these aloud. Some people are saying: for homework, some projects, teaching fourth graders how to write, meeting notes, project planning, brain storming, building processing, staff meeting agendas – wow! Incredible ideas here! Summer plans, vacation planning, organizing personal files, staff evaluations – many on project planning, work charts, moving my office, logistics, natural planning, mind-sweep.


KELLY FORRISTER: Certainly plenty.

DAVID ALLEN: Well you could have just come together in our forum and facilitated this yourselves too. Fabulous! As you’ll see, Kelly and I’ve grabbed some of the most common ways to do this and you’ve come up with – we have too, some intricate little spins on some of those things as ways to use this. Great stuff!


DAVID ALLEN: Yeah, so the idea is, is basically once you focus on a topic, you focus on something you want to think about, whether that’s a meeting agenda, building your dream house, how to build a lesson plan, any of those kinds of things. Once you have the topic, then the idea is to give yourself a place, so you can grab place-holders for any potential thing that could be relevant; not the most important, not the best – no, this, that or the other. There really are almost an infinite number of things that you could use this for, because there’s an infinite number of things your mind would think about and this would just be a way to start to express or objectify that.

So Kelly and I sort of grabbed together one of the most common ways that we have used these and I think all of you have mentioned all of these already. Project research; fabulous way to do that. If you start to – “Hey here’s two new cameras that I might want to buy. I want to start to do some research about that, so we just start to grab a mind-map and start to do that.”

Obviously project brainstorming, once you have a project, using it in that format of being able to just get lots of tons of ideas, check lists. It’s a great way to build check lists and by the way, I just found out recently that Atul Gawande, the guy who wrote The Checklist Manifesto, if any of you’ve read that, he happens to be a big GTD fan, so he and I have exchanged e-mails before and it would be nice to hook up with him, but obviously there’s a huge, huge value to being able to say, “Okay what are all the things I need to be aware of?” especially if you have a mind-mapping program or something that you can build templates for checklists where you can pull those up and use those to then fill in; meeting agendas, for instance, or briefing with clients, which is one of mine. Obviously treasure maps – treasure map meaning, “Wow – let me just do some ideal sceneing about what would the coolest vacation be, or include – or my dream house or my life – or my lifestyle?” Ideal scenes – the same thing, another version of whoa – what would my life be like two years from now, or let’s think about what a fabulous annual conference. What are all the things and outside the box ideas and creative ideas we could bring to bear early on in our thinking so that we don’t miss some great opportunities to be highly creative about how we manage our annual conference for our staff, meeting notes, etcetera.

So we have some examples of those kinds of things as well. I’ll be speaking kind of ranging around, there’s obviously a number of you that are quite familiar with mind-mapping. Uh, if you’re not really, the typical format, and it’s not the only one, but a typical format for brain-storming would be to start with the thought or the focus in the middle of page, and ideally give yourself plenty of room. This can certainly be a white board, it could be a big piece of paper. I like using graft paper when I’m doing this with pen and pencil – just to be able to sit down and put the thought in the middle of the page. It kind of gets you away – that automatically gets you more into the right brain, which is the part of our brain that sees associations. The left brain, and it’s a fairly simplified way to explain this model that is pretty sophisticated, but in the simplified version the left brain likes to see things in order, sequence: a then b plus c and then d and well then e, f and g will follow. And by the way, that’s absolutely fine even when you’re brain-storming to be doing linear thinking. But the idea here is to put a thought in the middle and then as things occur to you. Let’s suppose you’re brain-storming with another person or two: hey, we’ve got to move our office, what do we need to deal with?

And somebody may say, “Well let’s get boxes” or “We got to pack” and so you put that idea up there first. And then somebody else might come up with the idea of, “Oh yeah – furniture and what about the new location and what about closing up the old location and how much is it gonna cost?”

And again, this would be the typical kinds of things that would tend to surface and it’s obviously nice – it’s a great tool to be able to then use for a conversation so that you’re not sort of talking at each other about this, but you can both go up to a white board or to a big piece of paper and start generating ideas and those ideas will often generate other ideas. So there’s really no right or wrong way to do that.

KELLY FORRISTER: David, lots of people ask, “What should I use, paper or electronic?” do you have a preference, ‘cause I know you use both, but is there any official word from you on that, or recommendation?

DAVID ALLEN: No. Ha, ha, ha. It’s kind of like what’s around – what’s available for me.

To me, the importance is, is this is not some final result. Some of my mind maps, you know, I like to keep around in digital form so I can share them with other people and send copies of them to people and especially the templates that I can then pull up and start to add, create a new mind map off an old one. You know that’s – I think some of those are the real advantages of digital. Also, if you happen to be keyboard friendly and you sort of like this kind of gear aspect of this, and especially if you’re sharing things through webinars or through visual medium and through Skype or any of those other kinds of things. These become great tools, if you have a good tool for doing it digitally.

And at the same time, you know, drawing on the back of an envelope, fabulous book in terms of getting access. There is a lot of advantage, I think, to the subtlety of having pen and paper and just the kinesthetic touch and feel of paper, where you can play with it, you know it’s informal – there’s just something about it. There’s something about that and I would put that in the same category as a white board. It’s like the informality of it itself actually adds to some of the creativity and inclusiveness of it and lowering the barrier to entry doesn’t have to be so right to be able to do that.

KELLY FORRISTER: I was trying to think – yeah, I was trying to think when I collaborate with other people on them, they would tend to be a certain format but not really. I know John and I, my husband, have done, once, every time we move, we’ve done an ideal scene. What do we want this next place to be like, at least 51% believable. It’s been helpful to do it on paper. And we’ll just – we get colored markers and it becomes a really creative process on this big white paper on the floor. But then I was in a meeting recently where we were strategizing a whole division renovation or re-ord and it was helpful to do it on the screen, five of us in the room and did it that way.

So I guess it really doesn’t matter. It’s just like whatever works. I don’t have a rule about it either.

DAVID ALLEN: Yeah. You know, this is the stress of opportunity here. I mean there’s so many possibilities about what you could do. So all that’s a way to kind of say, “Yeah – kind of beats me.”


DAVID ALLEN: Yeah, whatever feels good in the moment.

The main thing you want to do is just make sure that some part of you gives yourself a tool that you don’t stop your creative process that triggers it.


DAVID ALLEN: So just sort of pay attention. Look if the tool is working for you and keeps your ideas going, even if you do it by hand, just go to your scanner and scan it in, then you can share it with other people and you know have a lot of the advantage of the digital as well.

KELLY FORRISTER: For those of you who are brand new, grab a piece of paper and a pen or a pencil, whatever you can write with and we’re gonna go ahead and have you do that. So really, whatever’s quick and easy to grab, even if you’re electronic and paper’s right there, so do that.

So we’re gonna dive in here.

DAVID ALLEN: And first, we’ll go through some of the guidelines for this. Again, if you’re new or just as a reminder, even if you’re not, to this, what you want to do is when you start emptying your head, you want to go for quantity and not quality. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to have a quality thought, it just means you don’t want to try to evaluate – well I only want to have quality thoughts for here.

You know, as Linus Pauling said, “The best way to get a good idea is get a lot of ideas.” So if you really want to make sure you get a really good idea, just start dumping out all the bad ideas, all the whatever, and you don’t want to analyze or organize this to begin with.

Again, you don’t want to have that be a constriction. The whole point here it to get rid of your restrictions. So if, for instance, you were mind mapping, well let’s say moving an office. Let’s say you’re mind mapping moving the office and say, “Well who are the personnel that we could use?” and then right there, as under that leg you could say, “Well we want Bill and Jose and Maria”, that’s a linear thinking. So you’re actually doing linear thinking and you’re kind of organizing. They actually blend together. You just don’t want to stop that and unfortunately if you were raised – if you’re as old as I am and raised in the school system I was and the culture I was, oftentimes we’ll tend to constrict ourselves and think that it has to be organized or be good before we’ll put it down. So you just want to bust through that and again lower the barrier to entry here just to get it going.

There is – you know, one way to think about it is there is a great idea waiting eight ideas later. So have the first seven as fast as you can. And then that may show up.

Again, same idea, no judgment, challenge, evaluation or criticism. You really want to just go for this, called anything – everything is fair game.

So here’s what we’re gonna do. Whatever kind of a mind mapping tool you have right there, just put this in the middle, put frogs and what we’re gonna do is just give you a couple minutes to come up with whatever pops into your head about frogs – anything. So again, no judgment, no evaluation, no criticism – go for quantity and as they show up, we’ll start capturing some of the things that you guys see and …

KELLY FORRISTER: But do it in a mind map first and then we’ll have them type into the questions box, I think – yeah. So do it in your own mind map first, just free form, quantity not quality. Go.

DAVID ALLEN: And if you had any other crazy ideas what would they be? Just keep going. If you go blank, just keep going – anything.

KELLY FORRISTER: All right. Now we’re gonna have you type in what you came up with about frogs. What kind of frog experts are you? Type that into the questions box please. I’ll read these aloud: Food, hopping, flies, Kermit, croak, water, slimy, toads, frog-legs, ugly, warts, Muppets, reeds, lily pad, tadpole, calvarias, egg masses, prints, springing, jumping, big mouth, kissing, fairy tale.

DAVID ALLEN: Okay well …

KELLY FORRISTER: All right. We got the idea.

DAVID ALLEN: Yeah. So, you can see – I’d be curious, how many of you had noticed that things showed up here that didn’t show up to you, that you hadn’t thought of yet? The interesting thing about it is that did all these ideas exist in the universe before you started thinking about them? Sure.

So as I say, the music’s not in the radio, you just start to tune to the channel and all kinds of things may show up once you create that context.

Obviously, if you were trying to do something a little more rigorous, you know the next time you might start to tie some of these together. I mean obviously we have calvarias jumping frog, so we might tie that together or you know, racing, big mouth, Muppets and Kermit, you know that obviously fits together. So you can start to rearrange these. They may even give you more ideas when you do that.

Ha, ha, ha. I was doing a seminar on Wall Street and I had a guy come up with “risk management” when he was doing this.

And I said, “Risk management, you know – talk to me about that.”

He said, “Well if you kiss a frog, what are the chances that you’ll get a wart or what are the chances you will get a prince?”

The guy was a risk management guy on Wall Street. I thought, there’s an out of the box thought I had never thought of risk management when you think about frogs. Well – so what? I mean, obviously that’s not the most productive exercise you’ve ever been in before, but I wanted to give you something really simple and stupid like frogs, so that you didn’t feel like, okay this has to be right – let’s have some fun with this in that way.

Oftentimes when I’m doing a seminar, I will then have people grab a real project, you know – next, in terms of what you would then think about and with the same kind of freedom and the same kind of fun and the same kind of out of the box thinking, you know what would you add to that?

So as we go along, and we’ll want to end today at walking away from here hopefully that this will have galvanized some of your own thinking and inspiration about where – what you might want to apply this to now while this energy or enthusiasm, if you have any, or inspiration about this, or reminding about this, where would you like to point this? I have to say. I look around and I say, even though I had probably – I don’t know Kelly, how many mind maps did you see of mine?

KELLY FORRISTER: Oh my goodness.

DAVID ALLEN: And you didn’t see the archived bunch.


DAVID ALLEN: I probably got 200 active mind maps right now on my computer that are just place holders. Look I want to start grabbing a few ideas, so I just put it in there. You know, the idea may disappear and dry up and blow away. Every once in a while I need to go back in and purge all my old mind maps because they were just important place holders.

You know, you guys know me, I’m the laziest guy on the planet, so I hate having a thought more than once – that’s why as soon as I have any kind of a creative thought about anything, I don’t want to have that thought again and I want to be able to park it somewhere that I can then refer to it again, when I might need and want to do that.

I keep thinking, gee how many other things could I – even as many as I have, how many other things could I be sitting and mind mapping and tapping and accessing creative ideas about.

I think a lot of where we’re going with our research in GTD and at the David Allen Company and as we’re looking forward into the future, I think that’s a big, big arena still for all of us, even though mind mapping’s been around and a lot of creative thinking tools have been around and creative thinking models, I think being able to put ourselves in an environment where we can say, “Okay, once your head’s clear – once you sort of GTD’d yourself and you’ve got a working good cockpit system, now how many things could you then point that at and how many more creative ideas are there to have out there in the universe? How many more places and things could we think about. Tune your radio station to Creative Things to Do With My Kids; you know, Fascinating Ways to Acknowledge Staff, you know, What Are Some Just Incredibly Fun Ways To Think About How To Spend The Summer – or any and all of that, but pretty much everything on the radar.

Oftentimes I think if you looked around your 20,000 foot areas of focus and responsibility you could probably see a lot of areas there that you could use mind mapping to just develop those out.

KELLY FORRISTER: Yeah, so here’s one John and I did on – we were going on a beach vacation, so we literally just sat down and we did this one together, looked at all the different places we could do, where we could go. “Oh yeah, we’re gonna want to find a house sitter. What’s the budget? What special things are we gonna wanna take that aren’t otherwise on my packing list, my travel check list? So here’s an idea …” You know, that kind of thing can work.

And some of these obviously have pretty clear main topics: place, packing lists, activities, stuff we want to do, etcetera. That might not be evident when I first create the mind map. That’s the nice thing about electronic, it’s easy to move this stuff around. So I might just do raw capture and collect on the mind map and then move it around.

So here’s one where this is a current project for me, so you’d find this on my projects personal list and my ma has asked for a new portable computer, although I was laughing with David, she’s now on Facebook, and she has eleven friends. And I said, “Mom I haven’t seen you on Facebook lately.”

And she said, “Oh, I’m just exhausted Kelly.” You exhausted eleven people. I laughed – that’s very cute. So …

DAVID ALLEN: By the way, I think to this point, I think this would be a good point to bring in. I know we’ve gotten a lot of questions, Kelly you said folks that are curious, how does mind mapping fit into GTD …


DAVID ALLEN: … and in what context? And obviously when you’re talking about projects, the project would be, you know, is your project what – research a portable computer or get one? Do you know …

KELLY FORRISTER: It’s actually scope and research because she may put the kibosh on it because of price. She may end up deciding she doesn’t really need it, so it’s still actually research – scope laptops for mom.

DAVID ALLEN: So I’m gonna bet that’s on your project list, if it was to do that. So this becomes project support material.


DAVID ALLEN: Your familiar with all of our, you know the maps that we have about what stuff is – this is all the collateral and support material relative to a project.

By the way, to that point, you may have heard me over the years use this term “distributed cognition” and you know as much as I teach this and as much as we’re familiar with this, it’s one of the reasons that whenever two or more are gathered and somebody starts to talk about anything, just to break that habit and go up and start drawing on a white board, or just start drawing something as people are talking, if it’s something that they can look at and invariably it is a more rich conversation, easier to stay focused, everybody can – it just seems to take it to a different level when people are able to look not at each other but at the thing that’s the developing conversation. And I’m not sure all the reasons for it, but I know the psychologists they call that “distributing cognition” getting the stuff out of your head and capturing it.

If you don’t do that, there’s a part of our minds that keeps trying to keep hold of potentially relevant things and trying to make the connections, whereas if you start to do this, even if – and I’d say nine times out of ten, I just throw it away after the meeting or after the conversation because we don’t need it anymore. But it did make sure that we matured the conversation and it also made sure if anybody wanted to capture something they could loop back around to it, and now of course, as many of you I’m sure do, you take pictures with your cell phones, you know, your I-Phones of mind maps that you probably drew on the wall, which is great, another way to capture that stuff.

So again much deeper of this allows just such depth – when I say such depth, I don’t want to say – there’s part of me that says, “Don’t make people think this is a really heavy-weight, really deep thing to do.” This is light weight. It’s fun. I think what I’ve discovered is we need to sort of just break the code that says, “Before you write it down it has to be good” and I can still feel that inside of me. You know, I’ve taught this stuff for 30 years now and I still go, gee if I go up and draw something it has to be the best thing to draw. It’s like – wrong.

KELLY FORRISTER: I was struck David when we were going through your 200-something maps, how many seem half-baked. You really abandoned a whole bunch of them.


KELLY FORRISTER: Which is great. So start one – you go, “All right, I got as far I needed to. I just needed to download those four points and move onto something else.” It doesn’t have to be something you maintain from now on, it just worked for that moment, whatever it was.


By the way, somebody was asking about the different colors and shapes and so forth and how does that affect your thinking?

Actually if you go back, if any of you go – want to dig into Tony Buzan’s work, uh Tony is a big, big proponent of using color. He thinks color makes a big, big difference in terms of how your mind things. I think shapes would probably do that as well. I have never dug deep down into the research and usually I’m moving too fast to try to make all that work in terms of color, so I’ve never done the diligence that actually go down and figure all that out. You know …

KELLY FORRISTER: I’ve heard theories, like green will bring up money ideas, blue will bring big sky – bigger ideas – somebody’s theory at least will map to specific things, some are bring family and love and …

DAVID ALLEN: I actually had a guy in one of my seminars who was a student of Tony Buzan. He actually came over. I think he was a taxi driver in London. I love the taxi drivers in London. They’re so great. You know, they were fabulous readers, they do all kinds of things. Anyway, he was sort of a personal growth junkie and he came over to do a seminar of mine and the whole seminar he had a big pad with colored pens and he mind mapped the whole seminar I was doing while I was doing it. You know, and I just looked at that and went, “Oh my God! I am so impressed!” And I’m so much too lazy to have done all that rigor about any of that, but I think you know, if it rings your bell, I think there probably is a lot of value to that in terms of the creativity. So try it out.

KELLY FORRISTER: And somebody’s asking, “What’s the difference between say doing just a mind sweep versus let’s say this mind map?”

DAVID ALLEN: I think the difference would be a mind sweep about a topic. A mind sweep about life is sure – that’s what that is. That’s how you start GTD, is just dump everything out of your head. I think that that mind sweep you will ultimately would want to throw away because the mind sweep of the things that you get out of your head if you’re in a GTD context, you’d want to then process those. You know, what does it mean, what’s the action, what’s the outcome – and you’d want to then capture that and then sort of get your in-box empty. If you’re talking about a mind sweep about a theme topic, that’s absolutely what a brain-storming would be. I think the difference would be that once you have a tool, a digital software tool that once you start to get it down as you’ll see – once I had those ideas, I’d see where two or three related to each other and then I can drag and drop them together so that you see more of a relationship and then at some point you would want to go linear with it, especially if you’re doing a more rigorous project. You’d want to organize it and to make key components, because the organizing piece is still a very critical component to project planning. Even if you don’t do an outline or a project plan off your mind map, you’ll still organize it in your head that way. So mind mapping – that might be a distinction. It might be just how you’re using terms there, but as opposed to just a random bunch of things that then you wouldn’t do anything with, mind mapping itself oftentimes then start to morph this into a much more sophisticated way to then have a better and more complete organizational structure.

By the way, great ideas some of you are coming up with. I mean, using teams to mind map stuff together. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve actually created. Actually when I was spending a lot of time up in San Francisco – remember old actioneer days Kelly? How many things got created on the hip table clothes in San Francisco restaurants where you know there – actually with crayons and paper, you know and how many things did we draw truly on the tablecloth and just tear them off and take them back to the office? You know – that’s fun. Lots of – I can see a lot of your sharing, very creative ideas that you’re already doing with this. Looks like a teacher who’s working with students says, “Some of them relate to colors better than others.”


DAVID ALLEN: Probably lots – boy an infinite number of spin one could put on this and probably research to do at least informally.

KELLY FORRISTER: So as we wrap up here, how else could you use mind mapping? For what? How would you expand, stretch into any new ideas you got out of today?

DAVID ALLEN: Yeah, so you know, take the next five minutes and get some – hey was today useful for you, was it inspiring, what’d you get, what might you do and how have you seen to use it that you might want to – hey I could use that for these kinds of things and also how many of you have real attention on something right now that you want to apply this to? You don’t have to tell us exactly what that is, but I’d be curious to see, if this created any stick value for you.

KELLY FORRISTER: I’m gonna read some of these aloud: Plan retirement; use for transcribing a meeting; working out; ideal life planning; write a book.

DAVID ALLEN: Improve discussions with your husband on these areas, you know, which you have different ideas and be able to integrate that. Fabulous! Boy that’s a great way to use this.

KELLY FORRISTER: I think for planning, especially the more weird and ambiguous and daunting a project feels …

DAVID ALLEN: Yeah, like weddings.


DAVID ALLEN: No kidding.

KELLY FORRISTER: Five projects within that project.

DAVID ALLEN: Teaching skills, development. Great!

Job description. Oh, no kidding, that’s a fabulous thing to do – those kinds of things.

Political planning for grass roots groups. No kidding.

Starting a business – oh boy that’s a great one.

By the way, in terms of if you’ve got your own business or small businesses, it’s a great way to start to create your own, what are all the things that I had my attention on? So relative to GTD, a great template is to sit down and say, “What are all the things that I need to be aware of right now?” I use that for myself. I use a mind map to see an overview of all the things in my job I need to be watching and keeping track of. What are the big things coming toward me that have my attention that are not standard and cruise control stuff? And what are the main things I have attention on strategically? So that’s an overview mind map that I use by the way, in addition to my standard GTD lists of projects and actions.

KELLY FORRISTER: Yeah, lots of you seem to be saying the horizons of focus that will help you with those. I find it really did. It took – it’s just one thing I didn’t want to do very linearly. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t then put it into my linear system but in terms of what unleashed the gates of creativity, it wasn’t in my list manager – frogs.

DAVID ALLEN: Frogs – yeah. Absolutely. Well I grew up in Louisiana, we love frog legs.

KELLY FORRISTER: You know what, I’ve done that example. I don’t know how many times have I done the two day seminar, just so many times and every single time without fail somebody says something I’ve never heard before about frogs. I mean it’s fascinating. I know more about frogs now in my life from people pointing things out.

DAVID ALLEN: You could write a book on it.

KELLY FORRISTER: Yeah, I could write a book about frogs.

DAVID ALLEN: Great stuff folks.

KELLY FORRISTER: Yeah, thank you all. Terrific participation on this, so I encourage you to keep the conversations going, the great ideas that you’ve had, how’ve you used it.

All right. Well thank you David.

DAVID ALLEN: Been fun Kelly. Again, this is one of the – I think this you know, this is a lot of the sleeper of GTD is I think The Natural Planning Model and the whole idea of how do we use creative ways to help format how we think and how we access our creativity.

ANDREW J. MASON: Well we do hope that that was a fruitful session for you. If you would like to read more about mind mapping or brain-storming, we recommend you check out Chapter Three of Getting Things Done, entitled Getting Projects Creatively Underway, The Five Phases of Project Planning. Also, do be sure to check out GTD Connect, where there are hundreds of other webinars, chats, discussions and resources that’ll help you along the way. Head over to GettingThingsDone.com/podcast and click on GTD Connect. Then use the coupon code podcast on checkout to receive a special discount when you decide to join.

Well that’s gonna do it for me, but until next time, I’m Andrew J. Mason asking you, now that you’ve listened to this episode, what’s your next action?


Join the Conversation


  1. Than you very much. I just finished reading your book, GTD, and I feel myself ready to fight!

  2. Mind Mapping has been a big hit in working with my high IQ students. It inspires creativity and helps organize their thoughts so well. Thank you.

  3. Er, just for info… … Tony Buzz-an as a pronunciation rather than a what sounds like a town in Korea. : )))))

    Otherwise great chat guys, thanks.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.