The Paper Whiteboard
I remember the first time I saw Russell Brunson drawing on one of those big whiteboards. It was an ad in my Facebook newsfeed, and even though his handwriting was terrible, I watched the ad all the way to the end. There was something about watching him bring his idea to life on paper that mesmerized me.
Whiteboards are popular in the entrepreneur space. Whether you use a full wall as a whiteboard, a flip chart, or an online app, I want to explain why you need a PAPER whiteboard in your life if you want to maximize creativity. It’s also a great alternative to whiteboards if you don’t have a lot of space in your office (like me, who can’t fit a whiteboard!).
The Brain Doesn’t Like All Your Lines
Our brains are a complex mess of neurons and cells and hormones that create thoughts and feelings. Just sit with yourself for five minutes and observe all the thoughts that go in and out.
Are they numbered? Bulleted? Do they come in order of what has to happen today or based on calendar date?
No. The brain is a messy and beautiful place that often appears very nonsensical at first glance. It’s only when you can observe yourself, that you start to see patterns emerge.
A perfect example of this is the book I wanted to write.
I knew I wanted to write a book on productivity. I had a bunch of half-realized thoughts, but it was difficult to figure out how they all worked together. It wasn’t until I created a system of observation and flow, that I could see the patterns and ideas gelling together.
Observing your thoughts and feelings is a key to creativity.
So how do we do this? How do we create a system whereby we can observe what happens in our head, and then study it to find the patterns, themes, ideas, and connections?
We need to get the mess of our brain onto a canvas that doesn’t put ANY restriction on us.
The Paper Whiteboard is a GREAT place to do this. A Paper Whiteboard is simply a VERY large heavy duty mixed media sketchbook.
It has all the features of a whiteboard in that:
- It’s white.
- It’s big.
- It’s empty.
- You can doodle or draw or write.
- You can use color.
- You can observe it from a distance.
There are a few reasons why I prefer the sketchbook over a traditional whiteboard.
- Each day I flip over a new sheet of paper, and the previous day’s ideas and thoughts don’t have to be erased.
- I can carry it with me in nature, when I travel, or to meetings.
- The pages are sturdy enough that I can color on them.
- The pages are sturdy enough that I know they won’t rip or get lost as it fills up (losing my creative thoughts).
- The bigness and whiteness of it allows me to do or imagine ANYTHING I would draw on a whiteboard.
Some days, my sketchbook is just a brain dump of all the things I’m procrastinating on. Other times, it’s filled with random doodles and hardly legible thoughts. Some days I draw lines and shapes around the pieces I need to pay attention to.
That’s the point. It’s a brain reflection of the day that I can study and look back on to find connections and patterns. Or I can use it to get stuff done.
There are no lines or dates or checklists to be bothered with. It’s the beauty of the bullet journaling craze with the whiteboard craze. When I started writing the outline for this book, I started by listing out my ideas on my paper. But then I got stuck (as I often do).
So I drew a rectangle and tried again, this time letting my brain try to fill in the shape.
The next day, I turned the page, and started again. Just literally let me brain go where it went. Was there some overlap? Sure. But there were new things that started appearing as well.
Because each day is simply a new piece of paper, nothing is lost. The book holds a ton of random nothings, and a lot of beautiful somethings. Both of which I can go back and observe at any time.
One of the greatest benefits of my mixed media sketchbook is a release of anxiety that I’m going to “forget” something.
Some days, my sketchbook is a disaster. Take this day for example. You can see I was doodling like crazy (I think I was on a phone call that day). Then there are some lists, some random phone numbers, and that’s about it.
Some of you might think, “Well Julie, I have a bullet journal.” And that’s fine…but there is something about a big ass mixed media sketchbook that will release your inner six year old.
For those of you who have whiteboards lining the walls, try getting a sketchbook and putting it on your desk. If you work at a computer all day, you will regularly doodle on it if it’s there. You can always whiteboard out your best ideas off the notebook anyway!
What to do at the end of each day…
It’s very simple…
- Cross off anything you got done.
- Ignore anything that isn’t really important.
- Transfer anything not yet done to one of two places:
-On the next day’s sheet (rewriting will reinforce it)
-On Trello, Asana, etc.
- On the next day’s page (sometimes I make a little box and say “yesterday’s stuff”)
- Onto a Trello board, Asana, Basecamp, Google calendar, etc.
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I’ve got notebooks like crazy, but no white book… next on my list!
So good!! I’m a notebook girl too. But no lines? Love it. That opens even more SPACE and CREATIVITY!! Mind blown. Thank you Julie!!
LOVE this! Something so soothing about spilling your ideas out.
I love the idea of no dates, no lines, no holding back… set your mind free…
I use the standard 5 subject spiral notebook for ideas and things that need to get done – so mundane.
Wow, the mobile white board. I just might order one today.
I’ve started to implement this since seeing it last week Julie. Thanks for sharing!
I was doing this with a paper notebook, but there really is something about “no lines”.
I use an 8.5×11 sketch book like that but I never considered a big one. I do feel cramped sometimes so maybe this is the answer. Other times I find my mind likes lines or dots or small pages like sticky notes. I love sticky notes for mind mapping. And I love planner stickers for my desk-sized calendar. All of these inspire me. Thank you for more inspiration. Wonder what I’ll come up with?
Love this! As an entrepreneur AND a singer/songwriter I love the idea of the vast potential an empty white page holds!
Got mine in today, can’t wait to create!
Wow, simple yet so effective! Thank you. I’m so used to typing I think I’ve forgotten how to write with a pen. But I know my brain works better creatively when I see things drawn out visually. Just checked on Amazon (UK), and it says “Not for sale to persons under the age of 18.” Obvs, the pen is mightier than the sword, right?!!!!
Love the idea. Never once thought about this simple idea! Thanks for sharing, wow, game changer!
This is fantastic. Thank you!
This fits my inner chaotic mind that finds order in the corners of swirling thoughts…
Julie, have you read “The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mark Rohde? The images of your sketchbook reminded me of it. It’s a little different than what you’re demonstrating here, but it may help your readers with ideas on using a sketchbook as a whiteboard.
I’m surprised… not by the idea, but by the realization that everyone isn’t already doing this!! I have a mess of them filled with all sorts of insane sketches and business brain dumps and just assumed everyone does this. Haha! It’s really helpful and just gives a satisfaction that an app or digital note can’t.