Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Personal (Dis)Organization System - 2 of 2

Hello again,

In the first post, I described some of the high-level concepts I use to organize things. Now, on to specific tools...

The two tools that I can' live without - ok, a bit melodramatic, but you get the point - are MyLifeOrganized (MLO) and MindJet's MindManager. I have gladly paid subscription/software fees on both tools and will continue to do so.

MyLifeOrganized is a VERY capable to-do manager with superb outline capabilities. It allows for nested tasks, advanced recurrence schemes and is quite fast and inobstrusive to use. Without going into too many boring details, I use it to keep track of everything that "needs to be done" in my life. I have four master "branches" in my overall task list:
  • Work - this is where I keep track of everything to do with my job - customers to follow up with, administrative tasks, etc...
  • Career - this is DIFFERENT from work - here I keep track of my own personal development independent of work-specific topics. Certifications, professional memberships,etc... come up here.
  • Home - this is a biggie: everything around the house, from keeping track of finances to household chores. One of the things I've done over time is to create "Prep Lists" for key times of the year that really streamline what needs to get done.
  • Personal - this is for own projects, tasks, etc.. that are, well, personal. This is where I track specific birthdays or key dates to remember, fitness goals, self-study goals, etc...
How do I use MLO? Well, it is the central storage system for every task I need to do. Usually, I will add tasks to it from a variety of sources:

  • After scanning inboxes - Google Mail, Outlook (MLO allows drag and drop from outlook, nice!), voicemails, even feeds such as Twitter or RSS.
  • Directly into it from a Rapid task entry system tray icon.
  • Directly into the main interface and being able to add details such as recurrence, dependencies, ...

For those familiar with mind-mapping, Mind Manager should need no introductions. It is a professional-grade (i.e expensive... :-( ) mind mapping application for Windows - there's a version for Mac too - that has a ton of features. I rely particularly heavily on linked maps and hyperlinks. To make a long story short, I create mind maps of any topic I'm working on as a way of organizing the information in whatever format makes more sense. Some of the maps I've created over the years include:
  • A whole process of how to study for certification exams. This actually became a guest post on (thanks Michael!).
  • Personal and professional dashboards - usually single maps with a high-level view of things going on with links to specific maps or other files (Excel, Word, ...) as needed.
  • Status maps, presenting in a single, clear page all the relevant for status for initiatives, from the state of personal finances (my wife and I review them regularly) to a project status report at work.
Mind Manager is the central repository for distilled information - anything I learn, anything I think about in a structured fashion, etc.... I have several maps on topics ranging from golf to mathematics, from wines to study notes, ...

There's still other tools out there that I use more or less on a regular basis, but I'm still trying to figure out how to best use them:
  • Evernote shows great potential as a knowledgebase, but I still need to figure out how to best interface it with Mind Manager, which is my primary study tool. I also use it as a bookmark organizer, but certainly not to its full potential.
  • Read it Later is great as a repository of "should check out" links that may eventually make their way into Evernote or some other repository.
  • I like Google Reader's "Star" option for marking posts for later reading, but these usually just end up accumulating with limited follow-up. Gotta thing about this one...
So, I'll stop here on this topic... for now. I keep trying to optimize how I use these tools, so expect changes next time I come back to this topic...


  1. Hi Fernando, great post! I am thinking of trying MLO. Do you sync it with a BlackBerry and if so, does that work well? Have you found any limitations of MLO that you think is worth considering before buying the tool? Thanks so much!

  2. Hi!
    By all means give MLO a try. I do not sync with anything at this point for a couple of reasons:
    - first, the iPhone version is not available yet.
    - I'm not too keen about having a separate "MLO Cloud" subscription. Maybe if there was an option for something like Dropbox support...
    - most important though, I really don't like managing my todos in a small screen. The *key* benefits of MLO to me are not only the support for subtasks, projects, etc... but the fact that it is VERY responsive and easy to use on the PC screen. I don't think that ease of use can be replicated on a mobile device due to the small screen size and keyboard input.

    I believe you can have a 45-day trial of the full version before buying it. If so, I recommend you try that.