The Slip Method - Hardware
Page created: 28 April 2006
The minimum requirement for a paper based organizing system is the paper, a writing/marking instrument and a temporary and/or permanent home for the paper. The more complex a system, the greater the variety of materials and need for separate paper containments to allow a smoother throughput. Even if your work or life is not office centred, in all likelihood you will use paper to design, record, remind yourself and others, or to jot down thoughts to help solve a problem.
Action based material prompts you to do something, whereas the other category is reference material in some form or other which may be in support of actions or could potentially be so. An entry in a to-do list 'pay bill' (action), would be prompted by the receipt of the bill, which would then be referred to for qualifying (why? who? when?) and quantifying (how much?) information.
The slip method follows that same division. Action based material is written on standardised slips, all other information enters the system 'as is' from external sources (e.g. bills, statements, magazine articles, letters etc.) and is processed and stored (if appropriate) in its original form, or some of it may be extracted to standardised reference sheets, or if generated internally (e.g. notes, sketches) is either captured on standardised slips if circumstances or presence of mind permit, alternatively, it is captured in any way possible to hold on to the information/thought, and subsequently transferred to a standard sheet if appropriate.
What does standardised mean in this context?
It is standard within the system, as concerns paper size. Action slips are custom sized, but the choice of exact dimensions is not as critical as uniformity, as part of the system is built around the action slip. The reference sheets are based on the standard letter size of your country (in the US 8 1/2" x 11", in Europe the similarly sized A4), and are fractions thereof; 1/2 (A5), 1/4 (A6), and even 1/8 (A7). It also uses the widely and cheaply available standard two-hole punch, allowing flexible binding options. No need to be a slave to expensive, and sometimes difficult to obtain special supplies of organizer paper or odd sized index cards making printing a nightmare and adding unnecessary bulk to your system. Just plain and simple paper. My dictionary which is written on so-called bible paper (almost like tissue paper) has been in frequent use for about 26 years without showing any wear. If notes have to withstand potential wear and tear in a bag or pocket, a protective cover will more than suffice to keep the paper from disintegrating.
A marking instrument would typically be a pen or pencil, and for some applications a printer (a limited amount of templates and handy reference material, as well as quantities of pictograms for the magnet markers).
All paper needs to go somewhere, it needs a home. Blank, ready to use slips might be held in a dispenser or a little pad in your pocket. With an action added it could reside in a tickler, on a to-do board or in a diary. It may be displayed on a project map, and its final resting home may be a journal or some other archive. The action slip may 'move house' many time. It could be clamped, clipped, slipped into a pocket, held with a pin or a magnet, or be glued into place. Wallets, boards, files, folders, slip cases, dispensers, boxes and racks can all be host to the little and large slip. Which ones or how many depends on your choice of system and individual circumstances.
In the context of the slip method there is also another marking instrument - the magnet. It overlays additional information in the form of symbols, colour codes and pictograms, and some written information. This information could be added directly to the slip with colour pencils or paper cutouts, though the magnets allow greater flexibility and speed through a one-off or infrequent investment of time, effort and cost, and can be re-used and changed in almost unlimited ways. The magnets also have the function of holding the slips to their temporary home like the to-do board or a diagram spread. The magnet can add 'layer upon layer' of additional, and possibly changeable information. The magnets form a vocabulary, and the symbolism is highly visual and enables you to scan a complex display and filter out some material and pay more attention to other. Most of the magnets are made of magnetic rubber material which you may be familiar with from fridge magnets. They allow infinite customiszation, and many uses.
Later you will find more information on how to make or obtain some of the material and points to consider when choosing it. There are also a number of tools you may consider, some are needed. Information will be found in the DIY section. Lets look at some of the hardware in more detail.