3rd Act Gypsy

Never Lost. Just Exploring

Ode to a Whiteboard

I’m sitting in my home office next to my lovely electric fireplace in a big comfy chair, listening to the gentle rain that we so desperately need, and staring at my white board.

I confess I’ve missed this apparatus more than any other office accouterment since I left the Corporate World.

You’re thinking, “Really? Not the high-speed color printer or the high-tech expresso latte machine?”


It’s the white board – the 21stcentury’s answer to the chalkboard – and my office wasn’t complete without it. It’s now filling an entire wall and beckoning to me expectantly.

I wonder what will pop into my brain and demand to be written, or drawn, or erased and started again. What ideas will I noddle around with? What silliness will appear? What important motivational phrase will need to remain there, reminding me of who I am or what I intend to do? Will my clients, guests, friends and family feel compelled to add their own words and pictures for me? (hint: I hope so)

As I was putting this blog together, I waded through an embarrassing number of photos of whiteboards. Amidst the sea of images, I remembered colleagues, crazy events and creative brain-twisting sessions. So, in homage to the whiteboards of my life, I offer a few examples with the hope to inspire, amuse and show gratitude for those that helped fill these boards.

Keeping Track of Tasks: I think this is probably what the whiteboard was designed for and indeed, it is very useful in this capacity. But at one point in my career, I was part of a wacky team that decided we should keep track of more than just our tasks. We decided to be honest enough to keep track of our F*&#-ups as well.  It was motivational and, truthfully, pretty freeing; allowing space to announce my latest mistake and hash tag it on the board. Unfortunately, one of us couldn’t count and hash tagged the wrong way, which was a f*%#-up in and of itself. I still giggle when I see this and remember that team with deep fondness.


Decoding . . . Everything and Everyone: The Corporate World is full of acronyms, so a white board is a great place to keep a decoder list for easy reference. It’s also a lovely place to help decode your colleagues from other cultures. From Scotland to India to Australia and yes, even Texas, using a whiteboard to help translate the language barrier is very helpful. (Thanks to dear Carolyn for allowing me to share the decoder board of Scottish-isms!)

Turning Ideas into Action & Chaos into Order: I’m not giving away any trade secrets when I say the whiteboard has given birth to some of the greatest technology and ideas on the planet. I’ve walked into conference rooms full of diagrams, sticky notes and, to my non-techy eyes, undecipherable equations that are destined to become the next big product in the market. I am in awe of that ability to turn ideas into action.

On the personal front, I recently had the opportunity to facilitate a planning workshop for a local community group and thank God there was a whiteboard in the room! An afternoon’s worth of ideas in varying colors, looked like chaos. A few hours later, the result was a well-articulated 3-year plan and a tremendous sense of accomplishment to move forward.

Unleashing the Artist Within:  For those who are image-prone, the white board is a great outlet, and for a single mom who needed to bring her children to work on occasion, it was a great way to keep them busy!

Capturing Shared Moments through Quotes: Somewhere along the line, my whiteboard became a wonderful device to record shared moments of real-life uterrances, proving once again that life can be so much stranger than fiction. They became secret insider phrases that bound our team together during good times and bad. To this day, all I have to do is call up one of my colleagues and say . . .

“Tell me who the chi-suckers are”

“We are chaos-busters and de-clunkifiers”

“I feel like we are using a tea cup to fill a swimming pool”

“I’m having a crisis but I’m not insecure”

“I desperately need to hang something off of something”

“Keep wallowing in the weirdness”

. . . and we are right back in the moment, laughing together and reminiscing.

Leaving Messages: This message was left for me during my first week on a new job. Those workmates are now some of my dearest friends.

At the end of the day, a whiteboard is really just a communication vehicle; less restrictive than paper and more communal than a laptop. So, next time someone isn’t in their cube, leave a heartfelt, silly or inspiring message for them. I guarantee it will make their day.

I’m curious. What’s on your whiteboard?

~ ~ ~

*To my literary friends, I know this isn’t technically an “ode” but I liked the title. So I’m invoking my writer’s prerogative to use the term to “sing the praises of …”


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