Back in the Saddle Again

I’m back into the productivity/notebook blogging game again.  This is the place where I ruminate on my own productivity (and unproductivity) practices.   My life these days is very library centered, take what you can and adapt it to your life.

I’ve been away for over a year because I’ve been busy.    On top of being in my second year as a high school librarian, I’ve also was chosen to be an American Library Association Emerging Leader, where I worked with a great group of librarians to create a resource guide called Defending Intellectual Freedom:   LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries.     On top of managing a school library program (or trying to)  and being a parent, I’ve agreed to do some interesting committee work.   Many fingers.  Many pies.

Mind-mapping the Overwhelm

Mind-Map for Managing My School Library

An online mindmap allows you to move different branches to create priorities. This mindmap has not been fully prioritized but since I updated it at the beginning of the school year, “Startup” was the most important and therefore is at the one o’clock position.

To deal with some of the overwhelm of conflicting interests and projects, I’ve gotten back to a web and app-based mind mapping program called Mindmeister.    This program allows you to create mind-maps to organize a project or your life.   Mind-mapping online or on an app has several advantages over mind-mapping on paper:

  • You can have access to it from anywhere with an internet connection
  • It is easy to move the different branches of a mind-map to reorganize your priorities.   (I’ve learned that it is good to put your most important or pressing branches at one o’clock.)
  • It’s easy to add smaller branches.
  • You can add documents, links, notes and much more to an online mind-map.

Also, you can switch from the large overview picture to zooming in on more granular details by opening and closing sub-branches.   For example, the mindmap above is a good overview of the different aspects of what I’m trying to do as a librarian.    One specific goal is to help Global Studies teachers adapt to new standards and a changing state exam.  I created sub-branches with links so I can get back to the key resources that will help me get a handle on the shifts that will be involved.

Example of Sub-branches

By clicking on the circles next to a branch, you can open sub-branches. The arrows next to sub-branches are web links I’ve created to other sources.

Mind-map Meets Samurai Mind Notebook


I was at a conference and didn’t have a notebook so I bought a fancy one and put on a cool Libraries Transform sticker.

Of course, now you are impressed.  I am so organized and everything runs so smoothly.   I click around my mind-map, clicking branches, collaborating with teachers, aligning standards, getting grants while forging new community partnerships.

Ummm, no.   Sometimes, I’m a hot mess.   I know that I really want to follow up on a grant but the dust in the library is driving me crazy.   Sometimes I don’t know what I want to do next.   Sometimes I don’t even want to look at the dang mind-map because I “don’t have time” or because it will just remind me of so many conflicting concerns.

Mindmap to Notebook

Moving an online mindmap to a physical bullet point list firms up priorities while at the same time creating opportunities for new ideas and action plans.

One of the latest samurai “hacks” I’ve discovered to deal with this sense of overload, is to simply move around the online mindmap and transfer the ideas into a real, physical notebook in the form of a bullet-list.   Physically writing down ideas, plans, and brainstorms from the mind-map is a good way to “do” something and silence the monkey-mind chatter of self-doubt.   Even if I’m not dusting or collaborating, I’m getting my mind organized.   Also, since I periodically review the notebook through the Samurai Mind Notebook method, I know that I’m going to run across these ideas strategically over time.

A physical notebook also has some of the following advantages:

  • the physical act of writing may actually trigger memory and thinking better than looking at a screen
  • text messages and notifications don’t come up while you are using a physical notebook (please let me know if they do)
  • if you get ideas while you are writing down ideas from the  mindmap on an app, it is often quicker to write down new ideas in the notebook
  • you can look retro on the subway while everyone is staring at their phones

If you get a chance, play around with mind maps.   They can be fun ways to restructure your brain and activities.   Mash it up with your physical journal and supersize (samurize?) your experience.