Way back in the prehistoric time of 1993, a zoo in Mexico had to replace their recently-deceased gorilla. In an effort to avoid anyone finding out about this gorilla's passing, they decided to illegally buy a similar ape from a zoo in Miami to be smuggled into Mexico later.
When the smugglers arrived at the airport to pick up their ape-prize, they found a cage that clearly stated "Live Animal" and that it contained one gorilla. Upon claiming the crate, however, it was clear that this gorilla wasn't a gorilla at all, but a US Fish and Wildlife agent in a gorilla suit, who exited the cage and promptly got the smugglers arrested. That's one incredibly dedicated employee.
Pictured: A secret agent, probably
While the dedication to hide in a (probably very hot) gorilla suit, in a cage full of gorilla poop (yes they actually did that), in the Miami heat, and wait for smugglers to arrive is pretty intense, that level of dedication is something that we need in our day-to-day lives, too. If we can stay on task and get things done, we'll be heads and shoulders above everybody else. And The Tinyboard Method can help us stay as dedicated as we need to be.
The Tinyboard Method was introduced to me by Chris DeLeon
Who many of you may know as the founder of HomeTeam (formerly Gamkedo), an online community that helps game developers learn how to make games in a friendly, community-based environment.
The wonderful Chris DeLeon
In his audiobook "Self-Command: How to Get Yourself to Do Things" Chris outlines this method, how to use it, and why it works so well. But, of course, we'll do a breakdown here as well.
As a side note, that link above will get you a discount to the book, as well as a bonus book, just for readers of this article. I don't get any kickback or anything - I just really like this method, his books, and hope you read/listen to them and apply them.
At its core, however
The Tinyboard Method is incredibly, deceptively simple. And that's why it works so well.
Here's how it goes:
First get a small whiteboard
Ideally one that you can carry around with one hand and drop in a backpack extremely easily. It being small and portable is key.
I personally really like this one. It has a magnet, so I can stick it to things while I work and keep it visible. It also fits in the palm of my hand!
Then, you write down just a few words on what you're just about to start working on
For example, it could be "worked on demo reel", "created sounds for X client", "edited video", "worked out", or anything else like that.
Note how all of those are in the past tense
That's an important piece of this puzzle. When we write it in past tense, we tend to be more likely to hop-to and do what we just wrote down to keep us from lying to ourselves.
Here's what my whiteboard looks like at this very moment while I'm writing this article for you:
My tiny whiteboard right now
And while you're working, keep it visible
It's easy to get distracted in our day-to-day tasks, which is part of why this Tinyboard Method is so freaking effective. Keeping the whiteboard within our line of sight at all times acts as a reminder to get back to our task. It prevents distractions from taking hold for nearly as long as they normally would.
Then, when you're done working on that task for that sitting
You erase the board, maybe take a break, write down your next single specific task just before you start it, and repeat the process.
Just keep in mind that you're focusing on one-sitting's worth of work
So for example, writing down something like "made a game" may be too large for one sitting but "exported video" could be a one-sitting task.
But can something so simple be that effective for keeping us on task?
Not only can it keep us on task, but it can also reduce our cognitive load.
If you have any to-do list system, whether it be a bullet journal, a to-do list app, Trello, Asana, or anything else, you know how easy it is to get overwhelmed when looking at it.
Heck, you may even have a large whiteboard right in front of you, chock full of tasks that are constantly staring at you, but never get done.
The Tinyboard Method forces you to distill what you're working on down to one specific thing that you're currently doing. That's all you need to think about, which means your focus skyrockets and you get way more done in less time.
Now this system is pretty flexible
And I'll let Chris' excellent book explain them in more detail. There's plenty more nuance to this system, and he explains it perfectly (and he's a great audio book narrator too!)
And you can use it pretty much anywhere
Of course, most of us are trapped at home right now, but once things start opening back up, you can take this portable little whiteboard with you anywhere and use it to keep you focused all day.
"But Akash, you volcanic-ash-infused cacao pod sourced from the darkest forests of Trinidad," you ask "Do I need to do this for EVERY task I do?"
No! Definitely not. I personally only put work tasks on there. You don't necessarily have to put "walked the dog" and "took a shower" on your whiteboard, but if it helps you stay focused, then go ahead and use it that way.
Now, we've talked a lot about whiteboards, but do you HAVE to use a whiteboard?
No! You can definitely use a notebook or something else that you can write on (by hand, ideally) that you can carry around with you.
It makes sense why the small whiteboard is the way to go, though: it's easy to carry, cheap, easily erasable, easy to make visible, and can't be filled up with extra tasks.
Whatever you do, keep it analog. Digital tools have a way of getting very overwhelming very quickly.