My Least Expensive and most Effective organizational tool of 2014.

It should come as no surprise that I am a visual navigator. It's all good and well for me to stick an appointment in iCal but if I don't constantly reference the app and keep whipping my phone out I tend to ignore whatever is unseen. I set alarms but then again I go into meetings with my phone silenced and things tend to skate by without my noticing them. Like the urgent call that rings and rings as I walk oblivious past the jackhammer and churning cement trucks.  But if you put stuff in front of me I act on it. I check things off my list! I get productive.

Right after the New Year I headed to an office supply store and finally bought myself a nifty and right sized white board. It sits on the wall 24 inches from the right side of my head, at eye level. Future jobs go on the white board. Daily "to-do" lists go on the white board and I get to dramatically erase them, line by line, as I crunch through the day. My productivity has soared this year. I'm not spending any more time working, if anything I spend less because I'm not spinning my wheels when I am in the office. And there is something really great about checking stuff off. It's a nice sense of closure.

The other side of the board is the standard cork tack target. I have my birthday card from Studio Dog, a small note with Ben's contact info on it, an invitation to an opening of Keith Carter's Ghostland show at the Stephen Clark Gallery (oops! that happened a week ago...) and a copy of a bid memo I need to do something about. There is also a 50 swim pass to any of the Austin Municipal Pools. Stuff tends to linger on the cork side and change hourly on the white board side.

This thing cost me maybe $25 and it's paid me back over and over again. As I end up the year I can honestly say that our incidence of "things falling through the cracks" has declined in a most pleasant way.

Since most of the VSL readers seem successful in their fields I am sure everybody but me already knew about this. I'm not suggesting the acquisition of a white board for anyone else (although it couldn't hurt) I'm just writing this because the cheap white board has been my best productivity tool investment of the year and I wanted to give credit where due.

If you have a better idea for day to day organization (that doesn't require continuously holding a smartphone in one hand) please don't hold back. I could probably become 50% more efficient in the next year which dovetails with my annual business plan. Simply stated my yearly business plan (since 1988) has been to work 10% less each year but make the same income year to year. Anything that helps with that is most welcome....


Ian Kirk said...

Kirk...your handwriting is as bad as mine! In fact it could be my handwriting!


Dave Jenkins said...

I am also visually oriented, which is why I keep everything on top of my desk where I will occasionally uncover things that need to be done while looking for something else.

How do you know you're obsessive-compulsive? If you find yourself writing down things after you've already done them just so you can erase or cross them off, you are definitely O-C!

Art in LA said...

I use a stack of plain white index cards held together with a mini binder clip. This solution used to be called a "hipster PDA" when PDAs were popular, pre-smartphone. My small deck of cards is like the right half of your board, but portable and incredibly inexpensive.

Unfortunately, I don't have the equivalent of the left side of your board. Just a big pile of papers on my desk ... I'm still trying to figure out a solution for that!

Jerry said...

My white board is on the wall right behind my iMac. I have a white board calendar to the right of me. Nothing goes on my phone or iCalendar, only on the boards. Much easier to live like this than checking electronic devices for the same info. I'm fortunate that I don't have to travel for work though. I can see carrying a white board with me everywhere could be a problem......

Frank Grygier said...

I use this:


TonysVision said...

I tried a white board a while back, but made the mistake of putting my "forever" to do list on it. So, of course, nothing ever got erased. Daily would work much better, but my office now is blessed with many windows and no accessible wall space for a white board anyhow.

I do keep a daily journal that lives on my desk, and occasionally will insert a to do list for the next day. It does lead to getting things done, and it is indeed pleasurable to check things off. Your post may kick me into making that list a regular habit.

Noons said...

Why hasn't anyone created yet a "whiteboard" app for tablets and smartphones is beyond me.
The new ios8 "Reminders" is close, very close.
But I'd kill for something that can be prioritized by dragging. And with per-item alarms where needed.
Preferably something that can run on my Samsung tablet, on my wife's ipad, on my smartphone, and update each other automatically via wi-fi.
Now, that is something that might replace my whiteboard!

James Pilcher said...

I used to use a "ScanCard" system to organize my to-do list. It was ridiculously easy to create a task and then rearrange at will. This was back in the '90s. Alas, no longer available.

Today I use a 4x6 spiral-bound note pad. I keep a pen clipped to the spiral. This pad goes everywhere with me. Not only can I write on it and cross off items when finished, but it provides me a history of what I've done and the notes I've made over time. It is highly useful to be able to go back a week or three at a moment's notice and pull up a phone number, name, or useful URL that I scribbled at that time.

Paul Glover said...

Despite being around computers most of my life I just never get on with apps, programs and such for this type of thing. If it isn't right there in my face it will get overlooked. Though the system we have to use in work is one of the better ones I've tried, I still find myself clicking back and forth trying to get a feel for the tasks.

One thing I did before which really helped was a by-priority written to do list, prepared anew every morning. I'd leave space between items for new ones to be added, scratch out those completed, and the next day make the new list based on the previous day's without the completed items. Then previous day's list would be dropped in the shred bin. Gave me a good sense of what my day would look like...need to start doing that again.