April 08, 2012

The Power of Sticky Notes

Agile@Home :

These small squares that we stick on a board or on a wall, have power.

When we are trying to manage our time, and deal with the fact that we need to get things done.

Or when a group is talking about a subject they have more than three things to say about.

You can find these sticky notes all over your house, your office, even your computer, but do we acknowledge their real power?

Long before I was introduced to Agile and Kanban, I used to write everything down on notes, especially small square ones. One day, when I was still in my quality management role, I was introduced to the sticky ones.

Small, colorful, stick-to-anything notes.

I was hooked.

For someone with “ADHD” like me, these sticky notes were incredibly useful for figuring out where I put what and how to remember everything I need to do.

Pen and paper have always been the fastest way for me to express ideas, much faster
than any computer software, and of course, "The opposite of forgetting is writing down”. Combining this with a pack of sticky notes brought order to my day to day schedule.

Of course, it wasn’t that before my day was chaos. I managed my day and my tasks without sticky notes, but there’s no question that they helped make it much easier for me, and freed up valuable time for other tasks.

So what makes the sticky notes so powerful?

The first thing comes to my mind when thinking about the power of sticky notes is visibility.

Visibly is not just about writing it down. Visual thinking is already well known to be a powerful tool. So with sticky notes, I can write things down, put them where I can see them, and see my entire wish list, or the list of things I need to do or realize.

This is the first step in organizing my day to day activities.

With sticky notes, it's easy.

Now, when I have everything visual in front of me, I can start making choices.

I can start decide what I want to do and when. I can start moving those sticky notes around and checking myself before deciding on the 'path' I wish to take. I can even free some space to add more few things into my wish list.

My ideas are right in front of my eyes, so why not play with them? Add some colors, change their order around, add notes, group or sort them. This helps get some sense of them, and it is a pretty easy way of making choices.

It’s also a simple way of sharing my ideas with other people. When you put your ideas on sticky notes as a group, it’s an excellent brainstorm visibility tool, as well!

This is an amazingly simple way to help get things done.

So we visualize the things we want to do , and play around with them a bit. Now, we just need to do them, right?

So the last step you can do now is place those stick notes on a simple three column board, and visualize your way through having those ideas become a reality.

Sound familiar?

Since you can now see your ideas and how the tasks are moving forwards with your sticky notes, you can add, change and get early feedback over your own progress, maybe even change your ideas to adapt to your needs.

With kids at home, there is a lot of fun using sticky notes to get things done, and it’s pretty much the same way. It's just that the content of the sticky notes is different.

You can manage almost any chore with sticky notes. Simple day to day activities, chores around the house, your children’s schedule, your family trip, personal tasks, and huge software projects.

The funny thing I have noticed, over the last few years, that even task management software looks more and more like a board with lots of sticky notes.

See?! It sticks!

Ho… and don’t forget to have fun on the way…


  1. As a private college counselor, I need to keep lots of sticky notes for my students as they go through the college admission process. I think the sticky notes would also be helpful to remember what we do each time we meet, especially since I like to send a email to parents so they can be informed. I also use them in my SAT and ACT test prep classes so students know what the homework is for the following week.

    College Direction
    Denver, Colorado

  2. Hi Susie
    I find your comment Very interesting:) is there any board or process visualization you’re using to control all of those notes?

  3. www.trello.com is a great way to do such. And it is completely collaborative. And (for now) free!

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  5. Please take a look at Teamput (http:/www.teamput.com). It's a new app that enables team brainstorming with sticky notes. You can drag your private ideas from a private canvas to a group canvas. Nothing else like it.

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