Track your creative projects with mind-map software

Jonathan MathewsPublic

I’m a huge proponent of using mind maps in creative work, which you may know if you’ve read any of my previous articles or follow my podcast.

Most folks know mind maps are great for organizing your thoughts and brainstorming ideas for a project. The semi-free-flowing, branched structure of a mind map really lends itself to helping you wrap your brain around whatever it is you’re planning to work on. But it doesn’t end there. Modern digital mind maps give you so much more. In fact, for me, mind maps are a critical tool for managing my creative projects. A mind map is not just an idea board, it’s a living document, a dashboard for planning my projects and tracking my progress.

For the examples in this article, I’ll be using a handy little open source mind-mapping program called VYM, short for “View Your Mind.” If you’re interested, I have a pretty thorough podcast episode covering my fairly extensive hunt for a new mind-mapping application. Whether you use VYM or FreeMind or XMind, the approach I cover here should work.

The reason why it works in all of them is because the way I work relies on a fairly simple common denominator: the hyperlink. Most modern mind maps can treat a map node as a clickable link. In VYM, you can make any node a link by right-clicking it and navigating to the References submenu. In that menu, you can select the Edit URLmenu option and paste any web link as a reference.

Most people use this feature to link to websites or online images as reference material. But links don’t have to point just to things that are online. They can also be links to local files on your hard drive. VYM gives you convenient access to this capability in the same References menu. Just choose the Edit local URL menu option. VYM will pop up a file dialog, and you can pick any file on your hard drive. As long as you have your desktop launcher configured properly (more on that in a bit), your mind map has everything you need to carry your project from a loose set of ideas through to completion.

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