I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned since I described my initial experiences in Managing Content with a Dashboard, Part 1, the first in a 5-part series. Since then, my content dashboard has become an indispensable part of my daily activities. Using the dashboard has become easier and easier, not only because it has become a habit, but also because I’ve learned how to take greater advantages of Mindjet’s capabilities–both features that have been available for several years as well as Mindjet’s recently introduced features and capabilities.
Original Content Dashboard Goals
My original goal in creating a dashboard was to help me save time, write more efficiently, and offer better client service. My original dashboard achieved my objectives; it enhanced my creativity, facilitated collaboration with clients around the world, and helped me become a more focused and disciplined writer.
Achieving these goals alone made my Mindjet content dashboard a bargain at twice, or even three-times the price!
Lately, however, I’ve wanted to upgrade my content dashboard for higher purposes, using my dashboard for more than just organizing ideas and project management.
Upgrading a Content Dashboard for Alignment
My new objective was to use my dashboard as a career driver, increasing the alignment between my daily activities and my long-term goals.
My upgraded content dashboard does this in two ways:
- Long-term goals. Adding a new high-level topic, Goals, reminds me each day that I have to serve myself as well as my clients. Many of the contributors to Manage Your Day-to-Day have commented on how easy it is to individuals to focus exclusively on obligations, rather than investing time in projects that pave the way for their own success.
- Acting on ideas. The other way I’ve made my content dashboard more “alignment oriented” is by adding an Ideas topic. As described below, this helps me take immediate action on ideas when they occur — instead of waiting until “later.”
Lessons Learned Setting Up an Alignment-Friendly Dashboard
The two biggest lessons I’ve learned involve choosing broader categories for my topics, and frequently revising the structure of my high-level subtopics. The broader your initial categories, the easier it will be to work with, and improve, your content dashboard.
As a starting point, I encourage you to begin with these:
- Clients. This topic provides an at-a-glance view of my current clients, links to their current projects, and access to their websites. In the beginning, I often use subtopics for different client projects. Soon, however, I convert client topics to linked maps, as described below.
- Events. I use the events topic for upcoming in-person events, like speeches, presentations, teleseminars, and webinars. Experience taught me that when events are included under “writing,” I tended to overlook them. Now, they’re more visible.
- Goals. The biggest change was to include a high-level Goals topic at the top level of my content dashboard. This reminds me to schedule daily time — even if it’s only 15-30 minutes — to address my long-term goals as well as my daily client or employer’s projects.
- Ideas. This topic also plays a big role by offering a “temporary” place where I can capture ideas and describe their relevance. Ideas don’t remain in this area for long, because I soon assign them to specific clients, marketing tasks, or writing projects. Having a place to store ideas also work well, because, often, new ideas can be adapted for more than one purpose.
- Marketing. This is another example of a “fluid topic,” one that is frequently changed. I originally add subtopics for each of my websites, blogs, social media, and blogs where I guest post. Again, as subtopics become crowded, I convert them to linked maps.
- Resources. Here’s where I link to the blogs, experts, and online tools where I find inspiration. In upcoming posts, I’ll be describing tools like my Mindjet Expert Tracker and my #Hashtag Tracker.
- Writing. Finally, I created a separate writing category for long-term projects, like books and eBooks. I found it very helpful to separate these tactical writing projects, from project-based copywriting for clients or my own marketing efforts.
There are no absolutes, however. The above simply describes what’s working for me; we’ll be revisiting the topics in greater detail in future posts. In the meantime, my goal is to encourage you to get started creating your own content dashboard that reflects your particular needs.
Remember, you don’t have to get it right on the first try! Mindjet makes it easy to adapt and refine your content dashboard as you move forward.
Mindjet Features Used in Content Dashboards
The following are some of the lessons I learned working with a content dashboard:
- Make your content dashboard your default map. This way, your content dashboard automatically loads when you open Mindjet. (Mindjet Options, General, Open document on Startup). It can always be in the background of your current projects, for easy updating, encouraging you to create the content dashboard habit.
- Plan for access anywhere. I encourage you to save your content dashboard, and linked maps, in a single “Dashboard Maps” folder that you can access online, using resources like Mindjet’s online storage options. A single-folder approach makes it easier for you to backup and update your dashboard from smartphones and tablets.
- Create a series of linked maps. Don’t think of your dashboard as a single map. Instead, view your dashboard as a series of linked maps. Mindjet’s Convert Topic to a Linked Map feature makes it easy to keep your dashboard as uncluttered as possible, focusing your attention on current projects. Equally important, Mindjet’s Search All Linked Maps feature allows you to quickly locate ideas, projects, or topics in linked maps. Add links to your content dashboard. When using linked maps, always include a link back to your content dashboard map in each linked maps. This saves a lot of time. For consistency, I recommend linking the center topic to the content dashboard.
- “Notes” breaks down barriers between planning and writing. Ideas and examples often show up when planning new projects. Mindjet’s Notes and Export features permit you to actually start fleshing out your ideas in your content map while they’re fresh to you. Later, you can Export your work to Microsoft Word (or PowerPoint, etc.) for editing and formatting. In fact, I wrote my latest book, #Book_Title_Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, and Event Titles in a mind map in one weekend!
Mindjet Advanced Features
Several Mindjet features can contribute greatly to the efficiency of your content dashboard. These include:
- Show this topic only. This Windows feature simplifies your dashboard, showing only the subtopics associated with your primary topic categories.
- Think “tasks” when scheduling projects. Always break complex projects into the specific tasks needed to complete them. For example, it doesn’t help you plan your time if you display book deadline in six months. Instead, display your book as a series of individual chapters, each with its own chapter title, start date, and due date. As a bonus, if you know how long it takes to write each chapter, you can use Mindjet’s Duration feature to help you plan your due dates and make sure they’re realistic.
- Start Dates, Due Dates ensure alignment. The ability to add Start and Due dates to topics and tasks is the key to goal alignment and efficient project management. As Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt wrote in The Power of Focus, “schedules replace wishes with commitment.”After adding start dates and due dates to individual projects, Mindjet permits you to Filter (or search) to display only current, upcoming, or overdue projects. You can also add Task Icons to track your progress.
- Resources. Mindjet’s Resources feature allows you to assign and track tasks delegated to coworkers, teams or freelancers. You can then Filter to view only the tasks assigned to various groups or individuals.
- Tags. The ability to tag topics and subtopics permit you to categorize topics and subtopics using keywords and phrases that you can later Filter or search. (A handy Mindjet feature is the way you can temporarily hide the tags to simplify your dashboard.) In upcoming installments, you’ll learn some additional ways tags can contribute to daily alignment and efficiency.
Not so long ago, you needed complex, dedicated project management systems to manage your time and break complex projects into their component tasks. Now, Mindjet, the visual tool you use for creativity and collaboration can also help you align your day to day activities to your long-term goals and objectives.
Are You Using a Mindjet Content Dashboard?
If you’re already working with a Mindjet content dashboard, share your impressions and questions, below, as comments (and, if you’re not using a Mindjet content dashboard, tell us why not!). Additionally, please let me know if I’ve omitted any other dashboard features or Mindjet commands that can enhance my example dashboard map (above), which is available for viewing or download here.
Thanks in advance for your comments!