The greatest invention ever…

…index cards. I swear. When I was in high school, a teacher taught us how to use note cards to construct a paper: you make an outline, transfer it to note cards and then add extra cards throughout to supplement with content. You re-order, create transitions and write your paper. That process saved my bacon several times in high school and college. I have so much trouble sitting down to a blank piece of paper (or word document, as the case may be). For me, blogging is different, though. It’s a conversation. It’s what is streaming through my mind. No real paragraphs, no literary integrity. You get what you pay for, I guess.

Anyway (my favorite paragraph transition….did you notice?), there have been times in my life when I have gone back to the note card process. Sometimes, when my plate is full and some big projects are looming, I procrastinate. Or maybe “freeze” is more like it. I’d rather work quickly through the little stuff because it’s so hard to start the big stuff. I mentioned before that I am speaking at this conference. I’m doing a one-hour presentation; I do these frequently enough, I know the content, it’s no problem.

I’m also doing a 3 hour workshop. Yeah, you read that right….three freaking hours. That’s like a baseball game. It’s the average amount of sleep I’ve been getting per night. I could paint a room in three hours. And with everything else that’s been going on (being sick for as long as I was, traveling, etcetera), the slides for this three hour workshop have been on my mind. I’m sitting at home, getting other stuff done and it’s hanging over me….or sitting on my chest. I want it off!

Well, last week, I wrote about some of the challenges of working from home. Change of venue can be a good thing. Now, I know that I should not be working on the weekend. But sometimes, getting stuff done on a quiet Saturday does something wonderful for my state of mind. It allows me just to work on that thing. Nobody expects me to be “in”. I feel like I make progress on getting caught up. Plus, I’ve got lots of social plans this weekend and I always have more fun when there’s not the specter of an unfinished slide deck sitting on my chest (hanging around my neck? clinging to my leg?). I’m off to San Diego next week and I don’t want to be worried about slides there either.

I had finished my one-hour slide deck and packed up my notes and index cards and headed out to Victors in downtown Redmond. I got my grande skinny vanilla latter for here, plopped down with my stuff and got to work. I put each slide from my one-hour deck on an index card, wrote up index cards for everything else I thought I needed to cover, based on materials I had gathered and the requests of the conference organizers. And by the time the last few sips of my coffee were cold in my cup, I had the framework, and about half of the content, for my three hour presentation. All in order on my nice little index cards.

Now maybe part of the reason why I am excited about this is that I kicked my major caffeine habit over the last few weeks (I still drink it, but I don’t need it to stave off headaches…no withdrawal…whee!) and that big dose of java is doing something to my disposition. But mostly, it’s because I am a couple weeks behind in submitting my slides (I am so sorry, Kate) and now I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m not sure if it would help anyone to know about my process. And I can’t even remember which teacher in high school taught me the little index card tricks (there was actually a more formal process that I forget). But I’m sending good juju their way. I’m 52% more relieved (and 100% more caffeinated) than I was a few hours ago and that’s saying something.

Comments (5)

  1. Graham says:

    If you like index cards, check out

  2. wine-oh says:

    I remember learning writing a paper by index cards too. Each section got a different color dot in the corner, to make it easier to know what went where. Its been years since I’ve used this technique, but I like the idea for a large PPT presentation. I should use them to do my project plans, but dont.

    Im a huge procrastinator too. I have project estimates due tomorrow and I havent touched them. I perform well under pressure and time lines and they will get done somehow.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I do well under pressure but I don’t like the pressure. I need to find ways to break things off into smallier pieces to get them done ahead of time. I don’t enjoy the stress of having to drop everything else (on a Saturday, no less).

  4. crawdad13 says:

    I doubt this ever happens to you but, as you have probably surmised from the responses to some of my postings here, I have no tact.  I have no filter that allows me to temper my enthusiasm for great ideas or things that I desperately need to share with the rest of the world.

    The problem comes when I am trying to suggest changes to the way others do things.

    For instance, I am running for the Part chair position for my senate district.  I have held this position in a different district and know how to do the job well.  Also, the person who holds the job currently is terrible at it.

    So I laid out my two year plan for this committee and they were all super impressed by the plan and not at all by the guy who came up with it.  They think I will step on too many toes trying to implement it. (I probably will…that tact thing again)

    So my question is:  How does one go about offering ideas that you know are good, productive, effective and efficient without making it seem that you think they are the only good ideas out there on the subject?

    I know I don’t have all the answers, but I am not very good at communicating that message while also trying to get across that "we can’t keep doing things the way we are doing them?"

    IF I had three hours, like you do, to talk to these people it would be no problem, but I have 15 minutes.

    how do you organize your thoughts, communicate them and inspire without offending?

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    To me, it sounds mostly like a style issue versus a content issue. Have you ever solicited feedback on your presentation style? You have to find someone you trust to tell you the truth and then you have to accept the feedback in the most un-defensive way possible. And maybe ask for feedback on just your style in general (outside of presenting). If people think you will step on toes, it sounds like you are doing something to make them think that you ar aggressive and discount the input of others. Seriously, ask for feedback; ask pepole to tell you when you are doing it and desribe it to you.

    In this case, the answer is almost certainly not index cards.