Sunday, November 25, 2007

and the winner is...

Getting any project "mapped out" - ie writing down all the elements that need to be taken care of - is essential if everything is to come together on departure day and beyond. One tool I've found quite useful is mind mapping software. Though I'm a writer, I'm also a very visual person - what's out of sight quickly becomes out of mind. So in order to keep all the elements of the Labrador project in mind it's been a useful exercise to map out everything that needs to be done. This way, hopefully, I won't become too obsessed with one part while completely forgetting about another.

At the same time, a mind map records my latest thoughts, research etc. about each aspect. For example, there's quite a lot of new equipment needed. Keeping the list displayed on the mind map allows me to keep in mind what needs to be acquired while at the same time letting me add whatever research I've been able to do. In this way, I can come back to something after a few weeks and not have to repeat all the deliberations I've already gone through (and forgotten about).

I tried various mind mapping programs. Freemind was good but seemed unstable - and I just can't take the risk of suddenly losing weeks of work. The best program I've found is Xmind - a really powerful, graphically-sharp and fairly easy to use software. It's not cheap (the pro is $200) but fortunately I was able to work out a deal to do some work for the developers in Beijing in change for a license key. If you're serious about using mind mapping, I can recommend Xmind. (No, they didn't pay me or insist I write a favourable review!)

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