How to Create a Project Planning Map

New Yorker cartoon - I still think a simple pedestrian mall would have sufficed

When you first start a project you may want to spend some time brainstorming the main tasks that will make up your work. This will naturally lead you to think of smaller sub-tasks. When you start, you may not know what you want to assign to who or how long each task may take. The first step should be just trying to get a sense for the scope of the project by writing down everything needed.

This is where a project planning mind map really helps.

Begin by opening up a SmartDraw mind map found under the Mind Map category.

This tool allows you to quickly set out your plan with an interactive outline.

Mind map template

You'll be able to create a hierarchy of tasks and add notes and links as you think of them. After you finalize your mind map, you can convert it to a Gantt chart or project chart or assign tasks to other people on your team using a Trello integration.

Let's walk through making the project plan.

Step 1: Identify Your High-Level Priorities

Start by identifying all of the major projects or activities you need to accomplish within a given time frame. We'll map out a weekly plan for this example.

Identify priorities

It may be difficult to estimate the length of complex task categories like these. Especially if they are dependent on other people completing portions of them. It's much easier to accurately estimate the length of smaller, simpler subtasks that comprise the major activity categories.

Step 2: Break Complex Tasks into Simpler Tasks

Simply expand your planning map to include all the sub-tasks for each category.

Notice how easy this is to read. It's clear to anyone, without special training of any kind, how the tasks flow outwardly from the center of the planning map. More importantly, creating this diagram is as easy as opening the template and adding items with a single mouse click. If you prefer, you can use keyboard shortcuts that make the process even easier. No drawing is required to create a diagram like this using SmartDraw, and all of the formatting is done for you automatically, so you can focus on your content - without worrying about formatting.

Break complex tasks into simpler tasks

Step 3: Convert the Planning Mind Map into a Project Chart

With SmartDraw you can convert your mind map to a project chart automatically with a single mouse click. You can also toggle between mind map and project chart views for easy editing.

When you switch views, you'll note that SmartDraw has taken your mind map and created a project chart. Note how the tasks from the mind map are given numerical values in the first column, and the subtasks in the second column are indented under each major category for ease in reading. Again, this is done for you automatically.

Convert your plan to a project chart

You can start with a simple brainstorming outline and end up with a complete project chart:

A project chart

Just fill in names of people assigned to tasks, add completion dates, and your planning map has now become a fully functioning project plan.

SmartDraw makes diagramming easy