Mind-mapping - too effective?

I’ve seen several sources recommend mind-mapping as a more effective way to organize your tasks than the traditional bullet-point to-do list. (If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a different way of taking notes, where you put the main topic at the center and all the sub-points branch off from it like a tree.) I was a bit doubtful it would help, but with several very long and complicated translation projects on my plate, I decided it was worth a try. I found a free mind-mapping app for my iPad and set to work organizing all the many tasks related to each project.

Well, it took a while to set up, but some time later I had multiple nicely organized mind-maps, so I got to work. And I was amazed at how effective it was! I didn’t realize how much time I wasted just muddling around trying to decide what I was supposed to do next with each project. Now I know exactly what needs to be done next, and I’m ready to just dive in and do it! Well, I admit the dishes are still piled up in the sink and the laundry basket is overflowing:blush:, but at least with the projects that really matter to me, I feel organized at last. I’m most impressed.

But now I have another problem. It’s too effective! Now I know what I’m supposed to do, I can’t find enough hours in the day to do it! I’ve worked two or three 12+ hour days this week, and I still don’t feel I finished half of what I wanted to do each day. I’m getting more done than before, but I actually feel less productive. It’s frustrating!

I suppose the solution should be to break up the projects into smaller portions, which I’ve tried to do with limited success. I tell myself I will work on this project for just half an hour, or check X number of vocabulary words in this list, or the like, and then I will move on to a different project. But then I fall into hyperfocus, and the planned half-hour becomes two hours, or the 20 words I was planning to check become 50… and before I know it, it’s past my dinnertime already.

So this mind-mapping technique is working great for organizing my tasks, but how can I use it to get done what I actually need to get done each day?

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So let me get this straight… each of your mind maps are supposed to cover one task but it’s somehow also supposed to be done in one session?

I think you might be confusing the act of organizing your tasks with the act of organizing your days. Those are two very different challenges and one, sadly, doesn’t affect the other quite as much as we’d want that.

How you organize a task helps you a lot in getting it done. But it doesn’t help you structure your day. That can only be done by knowing in advance how long a task is going to take and only scheduling the ones you can actually do in that time. Or better, half of what you think you can do. The ADHD books I read all recommend never scheduling more than three tasks per day. I like to schedule five so I can choose three, knowing in advance I’ll have to re-schedule the other two.

Don’t be afraid of leaving a task half-finished. As long as you’re making progress and the project is still in the schedule (and on schedule), you’re good.

I’m not using mind maps myself - I tried that but got confused by the multidimensionality of it. I use nested to-do lists. I have the big list of my tasks for the day (or, realistically, for the week), and I structure each task into steps that are easy to take (or leave). It helps if every step comes with a realistic time estimate, but the main thing is to cross off each step once it’s done because that’s fun and I can pick it up at any step later and I get to see what’s next on the list.

I don’t know if that last bit works as well with mind maps. It might, though.

What I haven’t gotten to work yet is to actually remember to work from those lists. I use Trello to organize them and I also have a post-it book, uh, somewhere, but often I don’t really remember to consult them, so that’s a work in progress, no matter how neat my nested lists are.


Thank you for the good advice!

I think this is something I’ve also experienced, and I would guess that it isn’t uncommon among ADHDers, though I’m not really an expert.

In my experience, what happens is, that the act of creating task-lists becomes the task which overtakes all other tasks. I get excited about making a list; I get excited about organizing that list; I get excited about dividing, sub-dividing, and organizing each and every task within that list; and so on. Soon, all the aspects of behavior associated with MAKING the list of things-to-do becomes something I am hyper-focused on. For example, I’ll learn to synchronize my task-lists from laptop to cellphone. I’ll figure out how to make tasks dependent on one another, or how to make the right to completion of one task related somehow to the actual completion of another. I’ll tag them, calendar them, color-code them. And then …

… I won’t actually DO any of them.

I know that your story is not identical to mine. But it’s related, isn’t it? I mean, you’re a master of creating mind-maps, yet you remain unhappy about the degree to which you’ve actually accomplished the tasks in those maps, right?

For me, meta-thought is a never-ending fascination. It’s one of the reasons I like this bulletin board, and it’s one of the reasons I know a great deal about my own (and other people’s?) experiences with ADHD. I want very much to be involved in the THINKING ABOUT THINKING. And with that, goes the idea of planning to perform tasks. Not ACTUALLY performing them; just, meta-performing them, or, thinking ahead about how to best do them.

Recognizing all of this in myself is an interesting phenomenon, sure. But overcoming it? I dunno if I can. Perhaps I’m describing the cart before the horse, here. Perhaps, it is not that I am intrinsically fascinated with meta-performing tasks, at the expense of actually performing them. Perhaps, instead, I have throughout my lifetime noticed my failure to actually perform tasks, and then, subsequent to that failure, I have figured out a weak substitution, that of meta-performing the tasks. So, maybe it’s the case, as I first related, that my meta-tasking somehow precludes my actual taking. But maybe instead it’s been the case, to the opposite, that my meta-tasking is the only actual tasking that I accomplish precisely because I know I’m weak at actual tasking and simply want to fill my lost time with something that vaguely feels just a little bit productive. Knowing I probably won’t be very productive, I at least get a little productivity out of making a list. And then fail at the list itself, again. But at least I did that one little thing, of making the list at all.

I suggest that your mind-mapping could be the tip of the meta-world iceberg. For me, overly indulging in task-list-creating used to be a super huge tip of a super huger iceberg. Only when I realized that the tip of the iceberg was growing every time I indulged in it, did I also figure out, that the rest of the iceberg was also growing in equal proportion to the visible tip. I tried to stop indulging in it.

That doesn’t mean you have to do the same of course. Just what my own experience was.

Now, to (slightly) beat this, I do have one strategy. I MINIMIZE my task lists. I always do only the least amount of writing or color-coding possible (or anything else organizational) when creating a list of things to do. I make a bullet-point and stop. For example, yesterday I wrote down, “new health insur / vs. vyvan”, and I am deliberately NOT writing anything else on that sheet of paper; I know what it means; it’s not synchronized; it’s not color-coded; it’s not in any list anywhere except right there on that one page of paper. With minimal task lists, I find that I actually do some of the things on the lists, now. Some of them. Not all, but … uh … a little bit more than ZERO of them, at least. :slight_smile:

Thanks so much for all the helpful advice. I have kept my mind-maps but more as a reference, especially for the complicated projects. But I have the projects grouped into three major categories, so now instead of trying to do some of every project, every day, I just pick one project from each category each day. This is working so much better! I’m not getting as much done as I’d like to get done, but I am at least making some progress on some of the projects each day instead of running around like the proverbial beheaded chicken. :grin: