In the previous post I demonstrated how MindManager (MM) tasks could be integrated with Outlook categories when tasks are synced between the two programs. In this article I’ll show how a single dashboard map can be created to provide a snapshot of progress across multiple projects by using MM in combination with Outlook and how once this map is created you can also use it as a “one stop shop” to update progress across a number of separate project maps. As with part one, this approach is best suited to MM users who have had some experience in using MM as well as Outlook. A copy of the PC desktop version of MM from version 9.2 onwards and Outlook 2007 onwards are required and you need to have established that these programs can sync with each other. The following process also assumes that you have set up one of more project maps and that you have linked the tasks in these to Outlook using the process I described in the first post.
- Set up a new blank map in MindManager (MM) and insert an Outlook query. Go to the Advanced tab and click on the Outlook items under Queries. A list of query options should appear; we’ll start with This Week’s Tasks. Click on this and all the tasks that have been synced from your project maps and which are active this week should appear as sub-topics grouped under main topics representing their categories and in most cases coloured appropriately (I’ll come back to this in a moment) under a single main topic with the name of the query and which has the query icon.
- Choose a map layout and edit the query. The map layout is a matter of personal choice but I think an org chart works best with dashboard maps (you may have to apply the map style to both the central topic and the query separately before the map formats properly). Now click on the query icon in the main topic; the Outlook Query dialogue box will appear. If you have followed step one the fields for Query Name (This Week’s Tasks), Folder (Tasks) etc should be filled in. The things you should check are the Sort by field (ensure this has Due date showing), the maximum number of results (the default is 30 but you might want to increase this) and that Category is set to Any and the Group topics by category box is ticked. When you click on OK the query should update and may change depending on what parameters you have entered.
- Filter the map. Despite choosing to sort the dashboard map by the due date in the previous step, you will notice that the map shows tasks which fall due both during and after this week, which is a little confusing. What the query is actually selecting are the tasks which are current for this week, which includes tasks that are due this week, tasks which commence this week and tasks which run through this week, all sorted by the due date. If you want to show only the tasks which fall due this week you need to take one more step, which is to filter the map using a Power Filter. To do this, click on the Power Filter button, click on Power Filter in the menu and then click on Task Info in the menu that appears. Starting and Ending fields should then appear – leave Starting and the other fields blank but click on the drop-down arrow next to Ending. Choose This Week from the list that appears, then click on Filter and click on Show Matching Topics. The dashboard map should then show just the tasks which are due this week. You can save this query for later use and to remove it just click on the Remove Filter button.
- Review the dashboard. The dashboard map should now be ready for review, showing just the incomplete tasks that are due this week, grouped as subtopics by category. You might expect the category colour also to be displayed both for these subtopics and the parent main topics, but one interesting aspect of maps prepared from Outlook queries is that MM’s Task Roll-up is applied automatically at the category level, whether or not it was used in the parent maps. As a consequence two things happen; first, task roll-up icons appear on the category main topics (more on that in a future post) and second some of the tasks themselves, as well as the category main topics, will be highlighted with MM’s past-due and at risk task colours as selected under the Calendar & Display Options. These colours override the category colours.
- Update task status and re-sync the dashboard map. You can now update the proportion of progress made on each task. To transfer this to the project maps you will need to resync the dashboard map back to Outlook and then in turn sync the project maps with Outlook. To start this process, click on the Microsoft Outlook Query icon on the central topic in the dashboard map and then select Sync query topics with Outlook. Also confirm that the Power Filter has been retained – if not, reapply it. When the sync and filter processes are completed the updated status should also be reflected in Outlook and in turn should appear in the project maps when you sync Outlook with them. If a task is ticked as 100% complete then it will disappear from the This Week’s Tasks map entirely. Importantly, when the calendar rolls over into a new week and you update the dashboard map, it should reflect the new week’s tasks
In my next post I’ll discuss some of the other interesting things you can do with these dashboard maps, as well as their limitations. For now, please bear in mind that dashboard maps are designed primarily to review and update task progress and that if you are planning any major changes these should be made in the main project maps.