More complex does not mean more robust

May 19th, 2009 by Pamela Poole

Wondering at this point if I just had special needs that defied the limitations of the “simple” to-do list format, I thought maybe what I needed was a mindmap… The word kind of captured what I was looking for: a “place” to record and organize all the random stuff that was always cluttering up my head.

bubblusSo I went mindmap shopping. First of all, they’re all ugly, and I don’t do ugly. And surprisingly few of them are free. The least horrible one I found was

I spent several hours creating my map: color-coding things to group them, creating sub-bubbles and co-bubbles and bubble bunches and linking them with arrows… When I was done, it felt good to have all that stuff out of my head.

But it had been a very painful process (color coding, editing, moving bubbles—all very user-unfriendly), and the end result was barely adequate. The freeform layout made it hard to parse at a glance. There was no way to keep track of your history. And every time I wanted to go back to the map and add something, I’d spend five minutes attaching it to its group, color-coding, rearranging existing bubbles to make room and prioritize… All for one to-do.

Unacceptably inefficient. As a to-do list, at least, it was useless. So it never became part of my workflow either.

(It took me about 20 minutes to enter and organize in Doris all the info I’d spent hours putting into a mindmap. And it takes about 5 seconds to add something new. No brainer.)

After I gave up on the mindmap idea, I found a partial solution: a collaborative project management app that at least took care of the details of my two large, ongoing projects.

However, because I have multiple smaller, short-term projects going on all the time (personal and professional), with at least as many details to keep track of, I still desperately needed a solution…

Still not a believer? Read the whole series of articles on my quest for the perfect task-management app:

  1. Doris saved my sanity
  2. Goldilocks and the Holy Grail
  3. What do you have to do to get a decent to-do list around here?
  4. More complex does not mean more robust
  5. Then along came Doris…

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2 Responses to “More complex does not mean more robust”

  1. Will McClellan says:

    For mindmapping give a try. It’s a much nicer interface to that screenshot from

    To-do lists are a great way to organise information in a hierarchy, but lose out when that hierarchy gets 2 or 3 steps deep – which is when it’s time to move it to a mindmap.

  2. Pamela Poole says:

    Hi Will.

    Thanks for the link. I looked at Mindmeister back when. From the screenshots on the Browse page, I can see the 2-3 steps deep you’re talking about, which is important if there are dependencies. I don’t find that to be true for my to-do’s in general. If I have an event to plan, I just create a group and organize the related tasks within it. Even for multifaceted projects, my needs are met by Doris’s groups feature, and the “More” option that allows you to add notes related to tasks.

    But maybe I’ll need a mindmap one of these days though, you never know!

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