A mind map is an excellent place to start a project. It helps you collate all the ideas and potential tasks for your project, but you might not realise you can easily use the same data to build your project plan. Here’s how to take the unstructured data of your mind map and transform it into a Gantt chart.

1. Ensure all the tasks are there

First, you need to be sure that your mind map encompasses all the tasks that you want represented on your Gantt chart. If you think you’ll want additional tasks, build up your mind map so that it includes those extras.

Of course, you could actively choose not to include everything. The result of this would be that your project plan doesn’t have all the project tasks – this could be perfectly acceptable if you are building a sub-plan or only planning for one phase of the project. Use your professional judgement to decide what needs to be included.

2. Set task properties

Choose the task that you are going to work on right now. Find the task properties in the task information panel or similar. Set the start date and end date for your project task.
That’s all you need in iMindQ mind mapping software, to ensure those tasks show up on the Gantt chart view.

3. Add dependencies

Whether you are building a Gantt chart from scratch or using mind mapping tools, you should add dependencies (links) between tasks so you can determine the overall project duration and establish how the tasks interact with each other. This is important for planning the work – you need to know when your team will be required to start working on tasks.

You can do this directly from your map: click the relevant task, add a relationship to another task and amend the constraint type if necessary so it reflects the type of dependency you want to use.

If you prefer, you can also add dependencies from the Gantt chart view: some people prefer to work this way. Then click back to the map to see how the tasks link in a different visual format.

4. Add resources

Typically on projects when we talk about resources we mean people. This could either be a job title or skills set (such as ‘tester’ or ‘developer’) or the name of an actual person who has been allocated to work on the project. Knowing who is doing what on the project, or what skills you need, helps the project manager acquire the right resources at the right time, so it’s an important part of building a project plan.

Navigate back to the task properties and add the details about resources. Type the names of the people who will be working on those tasks.  You can set the working time for resources and also manage exceptions to those calendars, for example when they are away on vacation.

5. Add other details

There is a lot of other data you can add to the task properties such as:

· Priority
· Percent complete
· Task at risk flag
· Task past due date flag
· Date constraints such as ‘start no earlier than

You may also be able to add custom fields or other data.

6. Change the look and feel

Don’t feel constrained that the way your mind map or Gantt chart look is the final presentation. There are lots of ways you can make your documents look and feel more attractive or more in line with your company branding.

For example:

· Format the timescale on the Gantt chart so it better shows your data
· Change the colour and format of lines on the mind map to show task relationships visually
· Add headings and titles
· Add pictures

Have fun with it and create some maps that help explain your project visually for your stakeholders!

Mind maps are a naturally starting place for planning your project and you can also use them to save time when it comes to preparing your schedule. Get a head start creating your Gantt chart by using the same mind map data to build your plans.

Have you used mind maps to create a project plan? Let us know how you got on in the comments below.