Published 25th August 2004. Copyright © Marc Orchant, 2004.
Every once in a great while, you encounter something so unusual, so "paradigm-shifting" that it redefines the way you approach how you look at the big picture. Getting Things Done, David Allen's personal productivity system had just that effect on me. It literally redefined the approach I take to my work and my personal life. I've learned to deal with the pressures of daily life in a very different way than I used to - with less stress, a greater sense of control over my own destiny, and with greater confidence that I'm doing the most important thing I can be doing, almost all of the time.
Since I first encountered GTD back in 2001, I've read the texts, studied the system, attended a seminar, listened to the books and seminars on CD, and participated in a number of online discussions with others trying to implement the system in their lives. I've tried dozens of different tools to help me embed the principles and practices of GTD into my work and my life. As a self-confessed and unrepentant gadget freak, I've experimented with an amazing number of combinations of hardware and software, trying to find just the right tool kit to make GTD work.
Many of those tools didn't make the cut. There are any number of software solutions for personal time and task management and finding the right ones can be a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Prior to my exposure to GTD, I never would have imagined that Microsoft Outlook would become the center of my work style - an information portal from which I would run my work and my personal life. Now, Outlook has become one of my essential tools.
Another tool that has earned a lasting spot in my kit is MindManager, a brilliant application from Mindjet that takes the concept of mind maps, the product of Tony Buzan's insights into how the human brain works, and makes them useable for a wide variety of knowledge work. I use MindManager for a wide variety of tasks including brainstorming (personal and in groups), planning writing projects for my blogs and book projects, planning and conducting meetings, and yes, managing my tasks, appointments, and commitments in a GTD workflow.
About a month ago, I learned about ResultsManager, an add-on program that provides powerful capabilities to MindManager for organizing, visualizing, and tracking these commitments. ResultsManager automates the process of using MindManager maps for GTD, allowing me to focus on the work itself and not the management of the data itself. That's important. I have, from time to time, become so caught up in the "how" of GTD to really reap all of the benefits of actually "doing" GTD. Read any online group list or discussion forum and you'll find a number of folks wrestling with that particular question of focus.
The team at Gyronix, led by Nik Tipler and Nick Duffill, have created a tool that helps keep that focus where it belongs - on what needs to get done. It's an astonishing accomplishment; one that, over time, reveals layers of nuance and power that is not immediately apparent. And, like just about every complex and rich application I've adopted, there is a decided learning curve that needs to be mastered to take maximum advantage of that complexity, richness, and power.
For this reason, I'm not convinced that ResultsManager is an appropriate tool for the GTD novice. Implementing the basic disciplines of the GTD system is a real challenge. A lot of habits have to be changed and that takes time. Making the commitment to do a weekly review and to separate the activities of collection, processing, organization, review, and action doesn't happen overnight. I strongly encourage GTD newcomers to get a solid handle on the workflow and then investigate ResultsManager.
That having been said, Gyronix has gone to extraordinary lengths to make ResultsManager accessible and efficient. The new version (2.0.1 as of this writing) offers an Express Mode for quickly adding elements to your project maps as well as the Power User Mode for maximum control over each node. It's very easy to switch back and forth between these modes depending on the complexity of your projects and the time you've allocated for getting your project maps built.
ResultsManager comes with an excellent user manual that provides an overview of Getting Thing Done, a primer on MindManager and mind mapping, and a thorough explanation of how to properly construct maps for each of your projects to generate the ResultsManager Dashboard maps. These Dashboard maps become command central for your project tracking, reviews, and communications with co-workers, supervisors, vendors, and partners. After helping you get comfortable with this mind mapping technique, called left-to-right mapping, the documentation then provides an easy-to-follow process for collecting your maps using a Master Projects map and from that linked master, generating ResultsManager Dashboards.
ResultsManager has a demo built into the program that shows you everything you need to know to quickly get started using the application. In less than an hour, you will be familiar with how to build project maps, link them together, and generate a Dashboard map to track and manage your current commitments. The demo even provides a project map that guides you through the process of implementing ResultsManager itself.
Let's break the process down to give you an idea of how the technique works. It's decidedly different than the way most people I know approach mind mapping and it's absolutely essential to get your basic information units constructed properly to get the maximum advantage from your Dashboard maps.
ResultsManager takes full advantage of MindManager's Smart Map Parts, task information tools, and other features and adds it's own interface for creating new items (in either Express or Power User mode as mentioned earlier). It's a seamless integration that provides a winning environment for visualizing, organizing, and managing everything you have going on. As I said earlier, I don't think this is a solution for everyone - there is a decided learning curve and you have to learn new habits to take maximum advantage of the tools. But it is an investment that can pay big dividends and give you an entirely new way to get things done.
I think it's also important to note that ResultsManager's embrace of the Getting Things Done paradigm doesn't make it any less compelling for people who don't use that system. The environment it creates stands on its own and can provide great benefit to anyone looking for a solution that helps them visually manage their commitments. Whether you've been influenced by David Allen, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, or any of a number of other productivity gurus who offer sound advice and practices for maximizing your potential, ResultsManager can be adapted to support your methods. The Gyronix team are big fans of Robbins' Rapid Planning Method approach and are working on a white paper discussing integration RPM techniques into a future version.
Trial versions of both MindManager and ResultsManager are available. My recommendation is that you take full advantage of the time these evaluation versions provide to determine if this combination of applications is right for you and the way you work. As MindManager was already an essential tool for me, the decision has been easy. ResultsManager has become an integral part of my daily, weekly, and monthly management of tasks and projects and has provided me with a way to quickly and effectively communicate with my team what I'm working on and how I'm progressing. Like my other essential tools, it has fundamentally changed how I get things done.