Blog Post

8 Ways to Use a Whiteboard in Your Home Office

The traditional whiteboard isn’t exactly a hip Web 2.0 app, but it has many uses for the web worker. If you already have one or you’re thinking of getting one, consider the following roles it can handle when it comes to your work and life:

Daily task list. If you prefer to do your task management the analog way, you might find the whiteboard to be a very effective task list – assuming it’s visible from your work station. Having a private task list makes it easier for you to switch your schedule around and procrastinate, but if your task list is on a whiteboard and out in the open for everyone to see, it might be more embarrassing for you to leave some things undone.

Pending area. Some whiteboards are magnetic. If you have a magnetic whiteboard, you can attach your “pending” items to it. These pending items are the paperwork, receipts, letters, faxes, etc. that you receive but don’t know where to file yet. This keeps the clutter off your desk while keeping it in an area you can easily access.

Message board. Face it – the other people living in your house aren’t as web savvy as you are. Sending them a short note via Twitter just won’t work. In this case, you can use a whiteboard to write little reminders and notes to your family. When a friend lived with me, she’d use a small section of my whiteboard to say where she went and what time she’ll be back.

It’s also handy to use a whiteboard as an ongoing grocery list that everyone can contribute to, and anyone who happens to see it can pick up the listed items and erase the list.

Calendar. You can draw a calendar template on your whiteboard in permanent ink and just fill out the dates and days each month. It’s not as feature-rich as your Google or Outlook calendars, but like the messageboard, it’s a good way to share your schedule with your more analog-inclined housemates.

Also, not all web workers are comfortable with digital calendars. So if you find that you prefer to use pen and a planner for note-taking and and scheduling, then you might find a whiteboard calendar useful.

For bloggers, you can also include your editorial calendar on your whiteboard to remind yourself of your blog’s regular feature articles.

Brainstorming. If you prefer brainstorming using a tactile medium, you can opt for the whiteboard instead of your mind-mapping software. For the draft, at least. Designers might also find a whiteboard handy when making quick sketches or studies. It’s not going to be as wasteful as using all that paper. Personally, I’m often intimidated by the idea of drawing directly on blank paper when I’m starting a design project, but it becomes less daunting when I already lay out the basic elements on a whiteboard and move on from there.

If you’re brainstorming with another person face-to-face, a whiteboard can work much better than software – because you’re both equally familiar with the tools and the brainstorming isn’t constantly interrupted by technical errors and questions such as “What button do I press now?”

Inspiration area. If you like receiving a dose of inspiration throughout your workday, you can use your whiteboard as your source of inspiration. You can write down motivational quotes (in my case, it’s “Stop looking at this and get to work!”) or attach photos that interest you.

Contact number list. My whiteboard contains a section of emergency numbers, as well as the mobile phone numbers of everyone living in my house. That way, we don’t need to waste time going through an address book (digital or otherwise) during emergencies.

Presentations. If you need to create a video presentation for your vlog but don’t have the time or skills to make a tight PowerPoint slideshow, making the presentation via a whiteboard could work if you’re a good enough presenter. After all, it works for SEOmoz’s Whiteboard Fridays.

You don’t have to limit these kinds of presentations to vlogs. You might also need to make a quick presentation or video proposal for an overseas client, or to demonstrate a point during a video conference.

If your whiteboard is big enough, you can use it to fulfill all the functions listed above. As web workers, we often laugh and mock old school tools like the fax machine, the Rolodex, and the whiteboard. But if we look hard enough, we can often find that there are more ways to use them than we originally thought.

Do you have a whiteboard in your home office? What purpose does it serve?

21 Responses to “8 Ways to Use a Whiteboard in Your Home Office”

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  4. I think it is a pity to have to wipe out all that knowledge all the time, especially when things come back, in different settings, and are really forming a network of lists, notes, logic, experience etc. So I started working on my own set of whiteboards and now it is

  5. Shela Todd

    I use my whiteboard for starting new projects – especially when I don’t know where to start or how to begin. If the idea looks good on the board I photo copy it. (I guess I could scan it – but most white board ideas on too rough to go on my computer.) I deliberately bought a white board the size of a sheet of paper so I don’t get too carried away with ideas and so I could photo copy what a wanted to keep or work on further.

  6. Basically we set the whiteboard up for incoming reminders. Graphics, diagrams or other explaination stuff we’re used to note on our personal notepads or laptops. Anyway i think whiteboards whould be the first thing to see as we enter our office room, so important notes should be there. Then comes the rest…:)

  7. I totally have a whiteboard in my home office! :D It’s small though, and I want a bigger one.

    Currently I list my clients on it and put big symbols near the URGENT ones.

  8. My whiteboard has been hanging on my SOHO wall for more than a decade. More than projects, deadlines, deliverables and the like, it’s a barometer of the state of my writing business. When full, I know I’m both busy, and will see some nice coin in 3-5 months (or whatever my particular client’s pay cycle). When blank or near-empty, I know it’s time to make some rain.

    It’s also home to little notes and messages from my kids (eye heart U). Gotta dig home officing…

  9. I think it is a pity to have to wipe out all that knowledge all the time, especially when things come back, in different settings, and are really forming a network of lists, notes, logic, experience etc. So I started working on my own set of whiteboards and now it is an application.

  10. Leroy

    I use white boards and post-it notes for tracking order and production status. Works in a very similar fashion as they use on aircraft carriers.

  11. Andrew

    Whiteboards are great – as Ian says above; there’s something about standing in front of that space and being able to draw what you want to explain, design, remember.
    What I miss is the electronic whiteboards I had at a previous job – they weren’t sophisticated but you could at least print out what you drew. The (cheap) model I have at home means you have to either copy what you drew or take a photo.
    Sadly my wife just looks bemused at my drawings….and wants to know when they’ll be turning into actual money.

  12. Since I reviewed Evernote at Lifehack the other day I’ve noticed that a huge amount of people are taking a snapshot of whiteboards in meetings, offices and at home and adding the images to Evernote, which enables you to search the text in the photograph!

    Not an official endorser, just thought I’d point this out for those who want to use a whiteboard but are worried about being able to retain the information over time.

  13. I just last week got myself a white board. I have some projects that no matter where I put them on my computer I’d just lose them. So I went back to the old way and got a whiteboard and wrote down my current and upcoming projects, and a to-do list as well so I can cross them off as I go.

    Some things just have to be done the old fashioned way.

  14. I use my whiteboard for project management. I separate my projects based on importance; projects that have to be done for my livelihood;
    projects whose information I’m waiting on; projects on hold; and projects I would like to work on… one day.

  15. There’s something about standing in front of a blank whiteboard, I’ll tell ya. The possibilities!

    In addition to hastily capturing phone numbers, URL’s, etc. I also use my whiteboard to brainstorm lists of things to do. I invariably have 3-5 projects going on at any time, so there’s never a shortage of tasks to be ticked off. (I always write my tasks with a __ in front for checkmarks when comepleted.)

    A handy trick that I’ve taken to using quite a bit is to transfer lists to smaller sized, more manageable post-it notes (as categories) and stick those on my board. So I can categorize lists of tasks, phone numbers, etc.

    Whiteboard + sticknotes = organized bliss.

  16. I would be lost w/out my whiteboard. Right now it’s got: article ideas (including experts to hit up for the pitch); future blog posts for a client; a list of markets I want to pitch. Oh and a phone number I ought to erase ‘cuz I finally transferred it to my address book. I also use it to keep my daughter busy when I need to do a quick bit of work but don’t have childcare.