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Sticky Notes Are For More Than Your Desktop And Its Surrounding Walls

Post-Its or sticky notes or scotch and a square all have magnificent capacity. The capacity of metaphor.

The bright colorful squares with an uncanny ability to repeatedly stick to page after page after wall after desktop and then some. With an investment in the proper stationary brand-named product you can pull each and any note from surfaces to edit, adjust, remove or replace more times than there are permutations for its use. This is wonderful. It is one the first aspects that allows these products to transcend their stationary label and garner a cult following in business, art and home crafts circles alike.

For the purposes of this article I would like to share how I use the paper swiss army knife in my everyday notebook.

I, as should everyone, carry around a small paper notebook for a myriad of uses: jotting down notes, quick TODO lists, phone numbers and names of people I may meet, grocery lists, uses uncountable. I am an absolute digital native. I used to wait in lines to get the newest iPhone models, I have an app for everything and develop apps for myself when I can find the excuse in a need. I even jot down my thoughts and opinions on a digitized journal which is posted online via this website. Yet still, I carry an analogue, handwritten in, paper notebook wherever I go - and I insist everybody else do the same.

For reasons that go beyond the scope of this blog post writing notes by hand, jotting ideas down on paper, building lists with a pen and pad, even if they are migrated over to a digital task management application shortly thereafter, writing by hand is the subconscious thought of kinesthetic body processes. And just like linguistic, communication oriented thought, subconscious processes are instrumental to its ability to so concisely orchestrate the many vast networks of neurons firing into comprehensible symbolic thought recognized by the conscious mind. Take it like this, hand written notes are the, eh, handwritten notes of your mind-bodies intended action. Of course your mind and body know just what they intend to do and how they intend to do so, however, in our cluttered and stimuli rich lives it is easy to get tripped up and lose ourselves in a moment or an afternoon and find ourselves lost to our earlier goals.
It is when you look back at your beeping of your phone to read an alert you wrote last week:
“Don’t forget to bring X over to Y”
to which you respond with a wince followed by a:
“Whaa… t was I talking about?”
A note written last week that started out as a handwritten note, however, has the added reinforcement of tactile and kinesthetic muscle memory to jolt context back into place.
“Ah I remember being at the grocery store learning on the cart as I wrote down this note.”
“Of course ‘X’ and yes, yes, ‘Y’”

So please, don’t get caught up on the perceived extra effort or excess material of an analogue notebook and carry it everywhere you go. Your context rich memory content will be there to reward you.

Finally, now we can get on with the purpose of this post, to share with you how it is sticky-notes play powerful roles in my notebook and bring to life my paper toolkit.

Scrum Artifacts

I am a huge proponent of the agile framework. I love agile and lean everything. I even take a lean approach to the kitchen and my fashion accessories and clothing. Efficient, Powerful, Agile, Intuitive, these are all words with powerful meanings that I feel all coalesce to an archetype of why I love the results I get from Scrum which bring to the collection: Context, Reflection, Projection, Iteration, and Assimilation.

Most of us should be familiar with Kanban boards here. For those who aren’t:
A Kanban board is like a TODO list that moves. It starts on the left with a column titled “TODO”, then moves to the center column “DOING” then finally it proceeds to the terminal third column: “DONE”.

To create and use one in your note book simply write out those three columns vertically across an open two pages in the notebook. Then, using Post-Its, write down a task item. Ideal task items are independent action oriented concepts or tasks that can be completed in and of themselves. This is important so that any single note can travel from “TODO” to “DOING” or “Working On” then to “DONE” without needing other notes to travel with it.
This is a good way to look at your errands and tasks in general. Scrum is great at forcing you to see projects and goals through independent task oriented iterations. It allows you to breakdown the biggest of problems into short tasks that can be run independent of each other - great for distributed workload across teams or for accomplishing different items in different environments such as doing “work item at the office” and doing “family items at the house”.

Data Tables

I love Disc Golf. So much so that I have been training, that’s not practice that is training ;-) and taking notes. When I am performing a putting exercise I track performance of my intervals on stick-notes. I use them because they stick to the tree, the ground, or even a disc, whever I need them to while I write on them or place them aside in order to putt. Afterwards, I rip the note off of whatever surface it was last and place it into my notebook. Generally it will find itself in similar company around other notes with grids of numbers and fractions representing previous scores and performance metrics.

The sticky-note is an amazing piece of office-ware turned cultural tapestry. So many people use them for so many things and to those who do they are absolutely essential.
Similarly the notebook is quintessential buffer for your mind. Offloading thoughts, comments, and tasks or expanding upon concepts and ideas into coherent narratives that someday live digital lives, eternally grafting their experiences to the minds of others who keep the cycle going and jot down their thoughts on the matter in a trusty notebook - full of sticky-notes I hope..

Jerad Acosta
Transducer of Information

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.

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