For the brainstorming phase, when beginning to prepare a presentation, I do recommend to "go analogue" and get away from the computer. Thinking about your topic and how best to explain it feels a lot less like work when you're not sitting in front of a keyboard. You do need a way to jot down your thoughts, though.
A notebook is a good companion during the very early phase. Just write down what comes to mind. Don't worry about the order of things so much yet.
The next phase requires more space. This is where I usually break out the Post-its and start sticking them to the next available surface - a whiteboard, a wall, or a table. You will need the extra room to group and rearrange things but also to "park" the more outrageous and unrealistic ideas somewhere on the vicinity; not quite thrown away yet, but probably not going to be used.
And then comes the inevitable problem: You need to move. If you are working in your own office or flat, you can often just leave things as they are. But what if you were working in a cafe or another public place? And even if you did work at home, you may want to take the current state of your work with you, in case you have new insights or some time to think about it while you're on the go.
This is the tricky part that I'm still searching a solution for. So far, I found these 2 tools:
The Noteboard is a sort of foldable whiteboard. As such, you can use it to jot things down on it and even stick it to a wall and use it as a replacement for a real whiteboard. I also found that I can use it as a surface to stick and arrange my Post-its on.
Technically, it's really just a number of index cards laminated such that they are connected and the entire thing can be folded down to a stack the size of a single such card. When sticking Post-its on it, you have to keep the folds in mind or your Post-its will be bent.
I feel it could be a little bigger, though. The format is a bit odd, too; depending on which side you see as "up", it's either a bit wide or a bit tall (38 by 88.5 cm). I think an extra row or two of those index cards (bringing it to about 46 or 54 cm) would make for a nicer size.
The Post-it Plus App
There's also an app for the problem: The official Post-it Plus app (for iOS, free) lets you take a photo of your Post-its and take them with you in electronic form. It can identify and separate the individual Post-its and lets you re-arrange them further on the screen. You can then export the collection in various formats.
The app effectively just scans the individual Post-its, i.e. turns them into images. I also found that it does require some additional work with Post-its that are not recognised automatically. Good lighting and contrast seem to be important for best results. You also have to avoid Post-its that overlap or they won't be recognised (and the results of the manual correction will look odd, since you'll have the overlapping part in the image of the other Post-it). Furthermore, it expects all the Post-its to have the same square size. Mixing them with other, wider formats will result in squished and distorted display of those formats.
The scanned collection of Post-it notes can be exported as a single or separate images as well as into formats such as PDF and PowerPoint.
The good thing about the app is that it's under active development. I was about to mention that you cannot edit the scanned Post-its and that you can't add new blank ones in the app when an update delivered just those features. There's now also an in-app purchase option that adds more features such as an eraser and additional colours.
The above solutions are far from perfect yet, but they're a start. Effectively, I'm looking for something that will let me use a lot of space but is still portable. So it either has to be foldable (like the Noteboard) or it could capture my work electronically (like the Post-it app).
I'm keeping an eye out for other solutions. For example, I recently came across the Betabook, a Kickstarter project for what is another variation of the foldable whiteboard idea. We'll see how that works in practice once it ships.
Have you found any other solutions? How do you take the draft states of your work with you?
(Photos by yours truly)
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