I love the white board. I didn’t think I would at first. I had been held captive in too many meetings where the presenter scribbled away as he spoke, thinking we would be able to decipher his frenetic chicken scratch. More than likely he did not have fresh pens and he used a wide tipped green pen that barely left an image. It’s almost as if a ghost had been there.
I didn’t think I would like the white board after spending 16 years of school staring at a chalk board. While the teachers wrote well enough the scratches still make my skin crawl just thinking about it. Some teachers used the overhead project and would write on a film overlay with the same pens I mentioned above. I remember this overhead from my geometry class. I don’t like remembering my geometry class.
One day at work I realized I needed a white board. I can’t remember the project or the reason but it became apparent that I needed to buy a white board, and I did. It was 6 foot by 4 foot beauty that had a metal back so you would use magnets to hold up project printouts. I moved that board to two offices where it had a prominent space on the wall by the conference table. At the third office space I didn’t have a wall but I gladly gave up natural light and covered a window with it. At my current office I had to turn it on it’s side and now I work from floor to ceiling.
I don’t give presentations on it, I work on it. If I need to come up with creative ideas or map out a story or project I get out of the chair and go straight to the white board. There is something liberating about standing up and moving about and letting the ideas flow out of the pen. It’s almost as if it’s a dance.
At the computer I get too wrapped up in the technical part of the program to really let the ideas flow. Don’t get me wrong, I depend on technology and will eventually move my ideas to the appropriate software.
Generally there are two ways I work on the white board. The first is by outling an idea. I use Omnifocus on the mac where I flesh it out but by starting on the board I can really let the ideas flow.
The second way I work is by mind mapping. I start in the middle of the board with a central word or idea. Then I link outward to new words, ideas, tasks or other ideas and start fleshing out the idea. Sometimes I am suprised where I end up.
Once I have taken the idea as far as I can on the board I move it onto the computer. As a backup I take a picture with my iPhone, move the image to iPhotos and can refer back to it later.
There is no shortage of stories about the benefits of standing at work. Standing desks are all the rage and blogs promote the physical and mental benefits. There is also a lot of talk lately about the benefits of regular breaks on your work productivity. No one at the water cooler is arguing that.
I have my own theory. There has got to be something about standing up and letting the blood flow. Maybe it goes straight to your head and flushes out the brain. Whatever it is in my office the white board is here to stay.