The challenge for me has been to write more about Ayoa when I am no longer entirely convinced – and no longer use it operationally. I was very keen at first and included Ayoa in my trusted information system. I built quite a few conceptual models and projects in Ayoa. But after ‘defining’ these projects, and starting to implement them, I found that it just not fast enough for my operational needs were quite different from the design phase.
The interface on the desktop is pretty good but one of the main requirements I have is for speed on the android app. You can do most things you need on the desktop and it is reasonably fast, but the android app is clunky, mainly in terms of presentation. The small screen is difficult to read, you have to scroll sideways to get the list of recent task boards or mindmaps, and there were a myriad of little things that held me up.
I have quite a list of bugs registered with support about aesthetic UI issues such as the way lists work.
Mindmaps don’t work well on the android app. The screen is too small and again speed is an obstacle.
So despite this, this article is an attempt to balance the useful and interesting functions against the areas where implementation is an obstacle to using Ayoa as an operational task manager.
Ayoa: Project Planner or Task Manager?
First off, I wonder whether its mission is as a task manager. The problem that Ayoa has competition – particularly from Todoist, which is fast to open and quick to sync. I think this is a real requirement for a task manager. I want an extremely responsive app – when I think of a task to do, I want to get in there quickly, modify it update it and then invariably bounce onto updating and rearranging other tasks.
This is a problem for Ayoa. the app is just not dynamic enough to bounce around between one task and another and it quickly becomes frustrating to see the wait icon on opening. Perhaps that’s just me, but when I get an idea, I want to get it down as soon as possible – not wait until it evaporates. Again, Todoist does this fast and well, as does Google Tasks.
I would like to say that Ayoa has its place. I feel it does, it just lacks that little something to make it the long term one tool choice. The concept is attractive: create a mind map and create or associate tasks with nodes on the mindmap.
But here its a little slow to find an existing task. Finding a task on a mindmap node is a little slow. It requires you to go to the task menu on a mindmap node and then click a further sub-item find task. I think either add or find a task should be at the top level menu inside the mindmap node.
For me linking tasks to a mindmap is one of the key concepts. I’m very big on mind mapping but what I want is to be able to mindmap as analysis (phase) of a project. So I want to be able to mind map freely and then transform the ideas into action. I discussed this in my post moving new ideas into action, where I recognise that there are many influences coming into decision-making and mind mapping is a key technique to sort out these multiple influences and ideas. The mindmap helps to sort these things out, to clarify them. And once you see more clearly, you can start to build a project around them.
Create tasks from a mindmap
Note – other mindmapping apps offer to link tasks to a mindmap – notably MindQ and Simplemind. But intuitively, I look for these tasks to be in ‘my task manager’. I don’t want to have multiple task managers. David Allen (GTD) is right to say that you can have multiple task lists, but they have to be functionally different, otherwise, you end up not knowing where your task is, and worse, its difficult to set priorities, without having an overview of everything you want to achieve.
So Ayoa should be perfect for this mindmapping to tasks function. Mindmap, add tasks, arrange the tasks into a workflow, to remodel the workflow in the canvas view and add sequencing and dependencies. But once you have a workflow, you cannot really use it seamlessly operationally on all platforms. Again, I need to play with my tasks on the phone in off time. And when I do the app needs to be fast, responsive, and allow thoughts to race ahead. If the app is slow, the train of thought is stunted.
The ability to link mindmaps and tasks in Ayoa is a key function for me, to get that feeling that I’m not just mindmapping for fun, that the ideas and concepts developed (in the mindmap) can move through into action and therefore be an effective vector for change. The ultimate challenge (GTD) is to set goals on the strategic horizon and for them to trickle down into real operational actions day to day. In this way, you can feel that daily actions contribute to the whole.
The Ayoa My Planner
One of the functions I really like is the planner, which divides the screen into Now, Next and Soon. These statuses, columns are an interesting mix between Eisenhower and GTD. Eisenhower talks about urgency, differentiating what is urgent from what is not, what is important from what is not. So very much liking both these concepts Eisenhower and GTD I was enthusiastic about the planner. You have the now (urgent), soon (less urgent but upcoming) and Next in between.
So you can easily distinguish tasks that are in progress, things that you’re doing or should be doing now, the ones just after (next action) and the ones just after that which you should start to be thinking about on the horizon just after the current one. So it nicely models the low level GTD horizons.
Sliding items between now and next and soon is easy. And the view gives you a succinct summary of what’s going on. It enables you to focus on the immediate stuff, while preparing in the background (off planner) your workflow for after-the-soon.
If you send an email to Ayoa or from an Evernote integration, a notification appears at the top of the screen.
You can move the notification onto a task workflow board by clicking move task below. But it would be nice to be able to drag and dropthe notification straight onto (and in position) on a workflow board.
What place for Ayoa?
Task manager or project designer?
One possible conclusion is that Ayoa is just not usable as an operational task manager – due to the speed issue. Perhaps then it could find a place as a project designer: mindmap, create a workflow (WBS), play around with it and then use something else to manage everyday tasks. This would of course entail copying tasks from one place to another. Ultimately this won’t work – it would be more problems trying to synchronise the two tools together and create such a hair problems knowing what has been done and what not, that the benefits of the mind mapping to task process would be lost.
Ultimately then, Ayoa is a great product but is being let down by performance. As some time has passed since last writing, I may need to reevaluate the mobile app. I looked at the lists function again and it seems to be more streamlined. Perhaps my frustrations are being eradicated progressively by the Ayoa dev team, but the rythm up till now has been slow (comapred to Todoist where there are regular new versions).
The Ayoa team were initially I think suffering from the integration of iMindmap, a big step, and introducing new functionality (such as radial maps), that performance issues were being overlooked.
Gripes, bugs and feature requests
Moving a category from one board to another
The canvas view helps you move tasks in and out of categories.
But you cannot move a category from one task board to another. This is possible in Todoist. A section can easily be moved to another task board
Can’t import OPML
This might be more important to me than to Ayoa themselves. They might see other mindmapping software as competition, but they need to hasten the takeup by allowing users to import all their old mindmaps, most of which can be exported to OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) format. But I use many mindmapping software (I have a whole library of Simplemind mindmaps) that I can’t import into Ayoa. You can only import iMindmaps (from when iMindmap was a separate project launched by Tony Buzan).
Moving a mindmap branch
You can’t drag and drop a mindmap branch in organic view, you have to cut and paste it. Why break the drag and drop function again?
I’d like to use inline links
Currently, links pasted into notes show up as their full length
It would be great to be able to represent URLs with inline links so that you have a nice succinct title, much more important with extremely long URLs.
Attach a mindmap branch from a task
In the desktop version you can assign a task to a mindmap branch. In the Android app you can attach a task to a mindmap branch but you cannot do this from the task itself.When looking for a task to attach to a mindmap. Be able to select from task board and category on android
Move a category left or right on Android
It would be nice to be able to move a category left or right on Android
Benefits and strong points of Ayoa
Strong mindmap functions
The mind mapping functions in Ayoa are a strength. Although I had one gripe about cutting and pasting or dragging and dropping mindmap nodes, the general way of producing a mindmap works well. You can add nodes and subnodes quickly.
The organic view demonstrates the important view of Tony buzan that shape and form operate in a mindmap too, its not just about the data.
My Planner in Ayoa is a great view of the priorities. The principal of now, next and soon, helps to focus on current tasks and to decide on the rough timeline for other tasks
It’s easy to set the planner status on an ayoa task:
Its very useful to see task dates appear on the calendar.
Integration with Evernote
I initially come to use Ayoa back in the day when it was called Droptask because of the integration with Evernote. An Ayoa task can be sent to Evernote. An Evernote can be ‘promoted’ to Ayoa. This dynamic relationship (changing the title in one, changes the title in the other. Completing a task, change the Evernote tag.) is quite valuable, particularly because, while Evernote is fantastic as a document library, it fails as a task manager (despite the new reminders view).
Evernote sent a long questionnaire some time ago about using their software for task management, but their priority over the last year has been to change sync architecture, make the GUI the same on all platforms, not make Evernote into a task manager.
So there is a gap in the market, and Ayoa can fill it if they solve the mobile app performance. Sortd seem to have the same problem: a great desktop app, but non existent on Android.
To reiterate, Evernote fills with great ideas. It’s easy to have ideas, but much more difficult to realise them in practice. So the tool needs to drive this as I try to describe in my article moving new ideas into action.
Mindmapping with Ayoa and Evernote
Overall evaluation of Ayoa
However, as the Gannt chart is a bit clunky to use, I’m not sure I would (I haven’t yet) go all the way to planning and executing a project with Ayoa. My use seems to be limited to project definition and work breakdown structure (defining tasks from a mindmap). The follow up on Android is likely to be an obstacle due to slow app speed independent of the phone model and having tested similar apps such as Todoist and Trello.