Monday, October 5, 2009

The Great Disappearing Information - Sticky Notes

Sticky notes are a beautiful thing.  They sit there quietly on your desk or counter just begging to have something written down and remembered.  They love it when you peel off the top note and stick it to your desk, your calendar or your notebook. They thrive on the information stored there.  They also have the immense potential to drive you crazy!

Have you ever had a sticky note "disappear" and reappear someplace weeks later, long after you needed the information? Or you remember you wrote a very important phone number on a pink sticky, but now you have 30 pink stickies on your desk and not a single one has your needed number.

Sticky notes are a blessing and a curse.  As an organizational tool they are not the best.  I am sure I just offended half the population of "Post-It" but really they aren't.  I used to be the sticky queen, and I do concede that they have many important uses, just not organization.

What sticky notes can do...  Sticky notes are amazing for adding comments to reports.  Notes such as, "Great Report - make 50 copies and send to Siberian office" are appropriate for a sticky note because they leave the original clean and are quickly dealt with.  Another great use for a sticky note is a surprise "Love You" note in a school lunch.  Sticking it to the inside of a lunch box makes sure your child sees it, but they can quickly remove it if they don't want their friends to see it.

What sticky notes can not do... Sticky notes are useless for long term storage.  While some of you may argue they have sticky notes on their computer from 2 years ago, I would ask you how effective that is.  If you have too many sticky notes you will tend to block them out and not look at them, thus they are useless.  If you put them in a place you are forced to look at them, such as your desk top, they will adhere to other items and get ripped off and lost.  (Once again, not too useful.)  Sticky notes are meant to bring immediate attention to a comment, but if you have an entire desk full of immediate attention notes you cannot possibly pay attention to every one. Besides, if it was really important, wouldn't you have written it down someplace more permanent?

So what does work?  I have struggled with this myself.  I even spoke to a professional organizer, and here is what she said.  "Get a small notebook."  Yes, I know you were expecting something obviously profound, but that is what she said.  I journeyed to the local office supply store and I found a small spiral notebook (about 4" by 6") with a pocket in the front of the book.  I use the notebook for all the random notes I need to jot down.  I include shopping lists, phone numbers, addresses and to do items in the notebook.  The amazing part is the number of stickies I use has dropped to almost nothing.  I don't find loose scraps of paper around my house, and when I need something I wrote down, I know exactly where it is. That is profound.

The notebook idea may not work for you, so find something that does.  I have really enjoyed not having to search for old stickies and scraps of paper.  My time is better spent when I know exactly where the thing I need is.  In fact, I no longer dread "old info" which may or may not have fallen into the abyss of my office.

As a bonus organizational tip: Get a small box like an index card box and throw business cards in there.  We all get them and few of us have any idea what to do with them.  By putting them in the box you can find them when needed without the hassle of searching the junk drawer!

Today's Question: What can you do to clean up the stickies in your life?

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