In my last post I wrote about one of my favourite applications that I have used during my MBA, Evernote. However, I also regularly use a number of other applications, including MindManager, Pocket and Feedly.
I mentioned MindManager in a post early in my MBA studies, where I wrote about the different ways of taking notes. In addition to this, I also use MindManager for preparing for assignments – I find it’s a great way to capture lots of ideas and thoughts, which can then be easily manipulated into a structure that forms the basis for the assignment.
Although there are a number of mind mapping applications to choose from, I selected MindManager a number of years ago for the following reasons – although it’s likely that the competition has since caught up in some areas (and if you find a good alternative, please add to the post in the comments area below).
- It is very feature rich which allows me to both create mindmaps that capture all the required information, and review them quickly and easily. These include: extensive formatting, different map styles (eg. map, tree, hierarchical), callout topics, notes, links, and icons/flags – a full list can be found here, but a few that I find particularly useful are:
- Notes – I often included a screen clipping or image from the my.wbs lectures into the mind map
- Links – I sometimes added a link back to the WBS lecture notes page, providing me with quick access to the content when reviewing the mind map
- Boundaries – when writing notes these allowed me to include all the module notes on one single map, but then split into key sections that could be easily navigated when preparing for an assignment
- The application can be downloaded on a PC or Mac; although there are a few web-based alternatives, I found these were not quite as responsive and easy-to-use
- It has a really usable iPad application, when I often preferred when studying on a train or in a hotel room
- Warwick University has paid for a student licence, giving all this functionality at no cost (many of the web-based alternatives charge for creating more than a few mind maps)
There are three ways I have used MindManager over the last few years:
- During a module I would use it to take notes from the textbook and online lecture notes. I originally created one mindmap per lesson, but subsequently moved to creating one mindmap per module, as this allowed me to add links between the various lessons, and made it easier when writing assignments (see below). I also tried capturing varying levels of detail – sometimes I recorded every key point from the lesson in the notes, whereas at other times I tried recorded the headings and subheadings. Eventually what I found worked the best was to include everything but the last level of detail (e.g. all of the headings, and the one comment for each paragraph, instead of all the detail in each paragraph) – this was enough to remind me of the content, but not too much that reviewing it was unwieldily.
- I created a template map that had headings such as ‘structure’, ‘relevant articles’, ‘essential facts’, etc.; then for each assignment I would duplicate this to capture all my thoughts both before and during the writing process.
- During the last few assignments I found a really helpful way of using the mindmaps of my notes. Firstly, I would duplicate my ‘study notes’ mindmap, and then I would review all the content and quickly delete sections/notes that were not applicable to the final assignment. This helped me in three ways – it highlighted the parts of the module that would be useful to support the assignment, it helped me identify additional areas that were relevant but I had overlooked. and finally it made it easy to quickly locate the information I needed in order to write the assignment.
In addition to studying the module content, MBA students are also encouraged to keep up-to-date with current trends and news articles, both to support specific modules, and also to encourage an awareness of general challenges faced in a business environment. However, the wealth of information out there can be very difficult to keep on top of – especially if you want to keep up to date with both general business news and module-specific news.
To make this easier, I use Feedly to collect all these articles together so I can quickly review the day’s key articles and pick out those of interest. Feedly is a web-based application that links to a variety of news sources and journals (eg. FT.com, HBR, Business Insider), and can also aggregate lots of different news sources to find articles that are related to a specific topic (although the latter is a chargeable feature).
My reasons for using Feedly are:
- The interface design makes it very easy (and quick) to scan a large amount of content and identify articles of interest
- It is based on RSS, which is a standard way of sharing articles, and means that it can collect news from almost any source
- Although the recent increase in use of tablets has led to many really good applications for reading the news (Flipboard is one of my favourites), I wanted to be able to review the news articles on my Mac, and Feedly has got a really good web application
- It integrates very well with Pocket – see below
Although Feedly has the advantage that it can quickly bring together a huge number of articles, which can then be quickly reviewed to see if they are of interest, actually reading them can take time – which I often didn’t have when I wanted to quickly scan the news. This prompted me to use Pocket.
In its simplest form, Pocket is an application that allows me to store articles that I want to read later. However, as well as storing a link to the articles, Pocket also takes a copy of the article content (without all the menus, adverts, etc), and stores it with the link. These articles are then synchronised to the Pocket application on my Mac, iPhone or iPad, which means I have quick and easy access to all the articles that I want to read, and these are available regardless of whether I am sat at my desk, or travelling without Internet access.
In addition to the basic ‘store for later reading capability, Pocket also allows you to archive, favourite, and tag articles. However, I prefer to use Evernote for storing articles for long-term reference – this integrates directly with Pocket for Mac, so it is really easy to transfer articles between the two applications.
Including Evernote, these are the four applications that I use on a regular basis to support my MBA studies. However, I am aware that there are probably many others, so if there are any that you find particularly useful, please feel free to mention them in the comments area below for everyone to have a look at as well. That’s it for this post, but in my next one I’ll be writing about my experience during the final stage of my MBA, the Project & Dissertation.