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?