Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Out of sight - out of your mind?

I have been working on a wide variety of projects lately, and keeping track of the details and status of them all has been a bit nerve-wracking. Putting them on project lists helped a lot with what to do, but I still found myself searching for status information such as:

  • What have I done on this already?
  • Who am I waiting to hear back from?
  • What's left to do?
  • What's in process but not complete?
  • etc.

Managing this with context lists in the "GTD way" wasn't quite cutting it for me (or maybe I'm doing it wrong). I found myself going to multiple lists very frequently to try to get a holistic picture of where each of my projects stood. To solve this, I turned to my old pal Mind Manager to help me create a "status map."

My "real" status map has too much work-related information that I can't share publicly, so I have mocked up an example of one here. For each project, I map out things such as:

  • Desired outcomes
  • Research
  • Next actions
  • Other
  • Completed actions
  • Waiting for
  • Calls to make
  • To be done

You can (obviously) customize this in any way you'd like. I find that I can keep multiple projects current on my status map (I currently have 4 major "domains" of activity on my map - 3 for work, 1 for home). When I have status meetings, I can print a particular "branch" of the map if the status meeting is about a particular project, or I can print the whole map (I use 11" x 17" paper for better readability). I print the whole map (with the "Home" branch collapsed) when I go into one-on-one meetings with my boss, so I can take him through what I'm working on and where things stand.

As we go through the project review, I write on the printed copy of the map and re-integrate my notes back into my Mind Map later.

This is working pretty well for me, and makes it a bit easier to keep the plates spinning without letting any of them drop.

Here is another mocked-up section of a project to give you an idea the kinds of things that might be in some of the buckets (you can click to zoom in).

If you want to see a blurry, unreadable, zoomed out picture of my real map you can see it here, just for grins.

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[Updated] A map for easier performance reviews

[Updated July 2007 to correct broken links]

I'm in the midst of writing annual reviews. For the managers that report to me, I typically ask for input from people in their teams, people they interact with, and customers they work with. This is a great process, as you end up with a lot of different perspectives, stories, suggestions, kudos, etc.

One of my challenges in the past has been summarizing that in a concise, meaningful way. This year it was so much easier - it's the first year I used MindManager to organize the input.

I created a basic template to categorize and summarize the input and stories. Using this template, it was very easy to collect the information, and organize the information into summary "themes." You can download the template here: PersonnelReviewTemplate.mmap (16 KB).

I organized each person's input into three top level categories: input from their own department, input from other departments (I included customers in this category), and my own perspectives as a sort of summary.

Under each of these major categories, I created a branch for what they do well, and a branch for areas for improvement. I included stories and meaningful quotes from the feedback I received.

Then, as I wrote the review I had a handy reference catalog on each person. This made it easy to find relevant examples - for example, if I wanted to talk about the person's performance with regard to follow-through and effective communications, I could quickly scan the map and pull out a few nuggets along with an example or a quote for emphasis.

This year, I found that this method made it much easier to write these reviews. I also have a one-page summary of the input that I can keep on hand to refresh my memory as I develop coaching plans for the coming year. I think this approach will be part of my toolkit from now on.

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