Posted by: Joe Hoffman | July 15, 2008

White Board

In my ever-humble opinion, every manager needs to have a white board in their office. This is the single most productivity enhancing device ever conceived.

A white board lets you stand back and look at the big picture, you can erase things, use different colors to highlight ideas and most importantly, you can draw pictures of your thoughts and ideas. I use mine for planning a project at a high level, process analysis, writing a talk, and just explaining something to someone. In fact, you probably should have more than one. I like to keep my to-do’s or project related dates up there. Are you tracking sales or performance numbers? Put them on a board where it is visible to everyone. Whatever your own hot issue is, get it up on a board in big letters and numbers.

I have been using a board for so long now that I can get tongue tied occasionally when I do not have access and I want to explain some things to some one. You can use a computer for this but I find that having lots of room to write stuff down, as it occurs, and in some kind of visual framework that relates it to another thought or idea. In my mind, the small screen keep ideas small. Let your imagination run wild, get expressive, draw lines and arrows to connect ideas, circle key points or use whatever visual cues work for you. A whiteboard is the original mind map tool. (Well, maybe not the original, which was probably a drawing on the ground made by a stick)

If you haven’t ever tried this approach, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. Use it for four months and you will be hooked. Don’t get anything smaller than 3 foot high by 4 foot wide, wider is better. Keep a digital camera nearby and you can get those thoughts preserved in your computer very easily.

There are electronic copy boards but they get expensive.

Basic Whiteboard $90 – Ideas Generated Priceless



  1. I am often amazed (and frustrated) when I walk into a client’s office and find no white boards. When I first became a manager I used the computer, my daytimer and a note pad to keep track of things – and I was fairly effective. As my staff and responsibilities grew the effort and paper work became overwhelming. Someone had a 3 x 4 whiteboard that was being discarded. It got mounted to my office wall where it was always in my view.

    First, it became “Today’s To Dos”. This was a great way of keeping the urgent and Critical tasks right in front of me (this was before I learned of Covey’s Quadrant). Eventually the TO DO list was relegated to the upper right corner or right side.

    Next, if I had a revelation, or wishful thought (work related) it got written in the center and if one of my staff came in with a problem, we would diagram it on the left side of the board.

    During the following days, as I up dated the TO DO list, the wishful thoughts would meander in and out of the process – some of them would suddenly find a solution or come to the point they were no longer desired and would get erased.

    The problem diagramming with staff members became a group funtion during monthly staff meetings. The staff found commonality in their issues and found solutions that helped the them get to know and learn about each other. They became a “self-managing team” in a true sense.

    Now I work as a consultant – at home, alone. The white board doesn’t “fit in”. But it is missed.

    I agree with Joe; Whiteboards are one of the most valuable tools you can have as a manager ( or independent worker). I’m looking for a space to hang one as I finish this comment.

  2. I have seen and worked with Joe using the white board for many different work projects. When preparing a talk or a client meeting or working on something related to Hudson Valley Business Edge, I have to agree that it is a wonderful tool to figure out what one is trying to accomplish as well as the best order in which to do things.

    I also love the visibility of having a white board for one’s TO DO list.

    My little office doesn’t have a lot of available wall space, but I still may need to find a small white board to give some of the things in the works more visibility. I am sure it would help to prioritize and I have to admit I love being able to cross things off that list and watch it shrink…..well it does do that once in a while….

    Excellent comments from Paul also.

    Susan Quade

  3. I disagree with Paul. I have a HOME office with THREE white boards. A small one is always at my side just to the right of my computer monitor — about 1.5 feet by 2.5 feet — that’s to keep track of my priorities. One LARGE one is a shared whiteboard me and my partner (both domestic and occasionally business) use, whether solo brainstorming or partnering on something, explaining concepts to each other, writing a pro/con list, etc. The third is only pulled out when I have a burst of inspiration and propped up ANYWHERE so I can scribble frantically.

    The 2nd most important tool on this topic is a digital camera — I use it to take a snapshot of my whiteboard before erasing it to dig deeper into details on any facet of the project-at-hand OR to erase the board before brainstorming on something new.

    I find the most valuable room at the chamber of commerce is the one with the whiteboard. I also have a plastic pad of wipe-off “paper” that clings to walls with static….in case I have to turn ANY room into a whiteboard (see Rich at for one!).

    Don’t sacrifice whiteboards in the name of a home office! 🙂

  4. Joe, great idea! This reminds me of the artist’s “Mood Board” where we pin up sources of inspiration. Constantly changing, evolving… but it’s typically a cork board. I don’t have a white board but now I’m going to try it.

    I know I’ve gotten so hooked on the digital, that sometimes I forget the benefits of the traditional. It’s interesting to see how the digital can interact with the traditional… your perfect example being documenting with a digital camera.

    Thanks for the suggestion!
    =) Heather Illingworth

  5. Hi Heather,

    I think that you will find it very helpful, especially for someone who has that creative turn of mind. For me it is about the bigger boundaries that offer freedom to think.

    Thanks for the comment. Let me know how it works for you.


  6. I concur Joe. Whiteboards are great for all the reasons you state. One challenge for me as a solo consultant is I am often out of the office when I need to do my planning. A great substitute for the whiteboard is a program called MindManager which I am going to blog about this week in my blog at Check it out. I am going to reference your post and your blog as the starting point of why one should use such a program.
    Regards, Ed

    PS: I probably would never have seen this unless LinkedIn gave us the ability to integrate our blog into our profiles:)

  7. […] How did it prompt me? I make it a point to check my network update page at least once a day. I find great information there from all my 1st degree connections. Joe Hoffman was there today and it showed me that he had a new blog post via the newly integrated Word Press application. I clicked through and read his post on Whiteboard – Changing Your World. […]

  8. It’s been a while since I visited Joe’s blog.

    Criss can disagree – my office is real small and I have no partner. While it is my office space it is visible to all who visit, and would not fit with the decor. Keeping a spouse happy is worth a little inconvenience.

    A camera is faily good for capturing white board images, but there is a device specifically for that purpose. A company called Mimeo manufacturers a device that will capture your white board images as you write (in four colors) and wipe out mistakes as you erase. The images are captured on a laptop or pc. Great for distributing notes following a meeting, the device is fairly portable and they even have one that mounts to a flip chart easel. Originally everything was wired – now they use RF so your laptop can remain movable.

    Technology! I love it when it works!!


    The product name is “mimio”; here is a web-link.

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