The Focus Course

Why We Use Giant Post-it Notes as our Publishing Calendar

This is Isaac Smith’s first contribution on the Focus Course blog.


“What are those?” ??

The most frequently asked question we get when showing people our office.

What started as an experiment morphed into one of our favorite tools in the office.

Our sticky note publishing calendar.

* * *

My first week at Blanc Media, we sat down to map out what we would affectionately call Margin Month.

We were taking the month of January to focus on the topic of margin, what it is, and how we could get some back.

“Could you make me a calendar?” Shawn asked pointing to the giant sticky note pad. “Make each day big enough to fit an individual sticky note.”

original

Little did I know, this would become one of our favorite tools. And one of my favorites to manage.

It Solved a Problem

Sure there are other ways, probably a lot more intelligent ways, to solve the problem we were facing. In a nutshell, we wanted a calendar that would give us a feel for the upcoming publishing month at a glance and the ability to move things around.

Like literally, peel a sticky note off one date and assign it to another day. Interact the topics, write out the blog posts, engage with the content.

Solving our problem with an analog tool seemed like the right decision.

At any time, I can look over and see the next three months of blog content. When and what blog posts are going live. When certain emails are being sent. And any other significant events surrounding The Focus Course community.

We use Basecamp for pretty much everything. And truly, it’s changing the way we work for the better. If we have one gripe, the calendar feature feels a bit clunky and disjointed.

So while everything on our sticky note calendar also lives in Basecamp with a due-date and an owner, we still love how easy it is to adjust our calendar and see a bird’s eye view of everything coming up.

We Love Analog

With 90% of our working hours spent staring at a screen, we’re always looking for ways to incorporate more analog tools.

For us, this publishing calendar has one purpose, and it does it really well.

It has its disadvantages to be sure, but they are trade-offs we can live with.

Pros:

  • Never pings us or temporarily fragments our attention with a notification. And yet from our office wall it’s always staring at us. ?
  • A non-digital tool, less time staring at a screen (double points for this one).
  • Serves as an internal accountability mechanism. We said we were going to publish/ship these things on these days, did we? If not, why?
  • Helps us to better map out our ongoing storyline with our readership
  • Gives us a sense of what’s coming down the pipe. Which, in turn, informs decisions we’re making about current and future work projects.
  • I get to use a lot of Post-it notes.
  • Each month I recycle the previous sticky note by folding it into a giant paper airplane for Shawn’s boys. And every month they love me a little more.

paper-airplane

blanc-boys

Cons:

  • You actually have to be standing in our office to use this calendar.
  • It becomes one more place things live and have to be updated.
  • I use a lot of Post-it notes.

It’s Easy to Use

If you want to talk about intuitive, nothing like good ol’ marker and sticky notes.

But seriously, I don’t have to learn how to use another software tool that can be solved with 3 different colored sticky notes and black sharpie.

Evolution of Our Sticky Note Calendar

We have been using these giant sticky notes since January 2016.

At first, we only had one calendar up at a time and it only showed that month’s publishing calendar.

Because we didn’t set out with a hard and fast system of what would go on the calendar and what wouldn’t. As we added additional “content types” to our calendar, it eventually became slightly confusing…

All those yellow sticky notes start to look the same. It became increasingly difficult to differentiate content mediums.

And so, at the beginning of 2017, I rolled out sticky note calendar version 2.0.

First, we needed a color coding system. Colors that represented different categories. Blog content in pink, email newsletters in blue, and significant events/happenings in green.

colors

Second, I switched to a smaller sticky note size. This would allow for multiple Post-it notes to exist on a single day and it not be too cluttered.

size-colors

With the color coding and the smaller Post-its, version 2.0 restored clarity to the calendar. Now when you take a quick glance at the next three months it’s easy to see what content is going out on what days. And what type of content, just from the colors.

2.0

If you want to know specifics of the storyline being told, you can look closer at blog post titles and email subject lines.

I have to say, I’m quite pleased with myself.

We’ll use it Until it stops being Useful

Just because it’s a tool that’s working for us now, doesn’t mean it will always be the right solution. We’re a small team and that comes with certain advantages. If our sticky note calendar becomes a bottleneck for doing our best work, we’ll find a better solution.

But for now, it’s one of our favorite tools.

Work Focused

This is part of a bigger conversation we’ve been having around the topic of doing our best work. You can find the rest of the articles here.

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