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4 Post-it Note Life Hacks You'll Love

By Motley Fool Staff – Updated Apr 13, 2019 at 5:54PM

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Not that there’s a wrong way to use them, but David Gardner has a few better ones to share.

Considering Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner named his podcast Rule Breaker Investing, you might expect that its sole focus would be on helping folks grow their money. But as it happens, the motto he and his brother Tom Gardner chose for their company is "Making the world smarter, happier, and richer" -- which covers far more ground than just the financial. In that context, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that he frequently detours away from the world of stocks and into areas more connected with the "smarter" and "happier" part of the equation. Hence this week's theme: It's his fourth podcast of "mental tips, tricks, and life hacks."

In this segment of the podcast, his tricks and hacks focus on one of his favorite inexpensive products: the humble Post-it Note. (His love for them is not the only reason the 3M is a Stock Advisor portfolio recommendation -- but it's one reason.) From the best way to open a pack to making it easier to throw the right ones away, enjoy this brief paean to this icon of efficient idea capture.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Mach 6, 2019.

David Gardner: All right, No. 3. This one's a trick. Well, it's going to start as a trick, anyway. Anybody who's been around Fool HQ and been in a meeting with me, or maybe dozens of them over the years, knows that I absolutely love Post-it Notes. I love them! In fact, I decided to make 3M one of my stock recommendations because 3M is, of course, the company behind Post-it Notes. And I only did it a couple of years ago. I should have recommended that stock 10 or 15 years ago. As it turns out, now doing quick math, I see that since September of 2017 when I recommended it, 3M stock -- the ticker symbol, appropriately enough, MMM -- is up 2%. It's up. The S&P 500, the market overall, is up 15%. I haven't even necessarily timed myself well into 3M's stock. But it's been a great company and a great stock for years and years and years. When I finally picked it in September 2017, I thought, "Why have I waited so long? This is one of the most innovative companies traditionally in the United States of America, and I really love Post-it Notes."

So, here's my trick. If you also love Post-it Notes, you may know this. But if you don't, and somebody hands you a new Post-it Note pad, just a single little block, look at the plastic that surrounds it. A lot of us, when you are handed such a pad and it's wrapped up in this plastic packaging, we start to pick it up with our fingernails or whatever we have that looks like fingernails. We try to figure out, "How am I going to open this annoying plastic packaging around this 3M Post-it Note pad?" Here's the trick. For a lot of them -- not all of them, but many of them and the ones I buy -- you'll notice that you don't have to pick up the plastic packaging. You can actually just snap it. You can bend the Post-it Note pad, and the packaging snaps off of it like magic. If you're a Post-it Note addict like me and you didn't know that, you're welcome! I just made your life a little bit more fun.

Beyond my love of Post-it Notes and that trick about packaging, I want to add a little bit more. This probably falls more in the life hack category as I think about Post-it Notes. Post-it Notes, Post-it Notes, why do I love thee? Well, one of the reasons I love Post-it Notes is, because in David Allen's wonderful book, Getting Things Done, which I read about 15 years ago, he was lionizing, championing the idea of using Post-it Notes. He said something profound to me at the time. He said, "When you use a Post-it Note, one thought per note." Don't necessarily use it to make a list. Don't put three thoughts down. Just one thought per note. Using that as a simple tool -- or in this case, I'll say a life hack -- ever since, I've put one thought per note.

Why is that helpful? Well, it makes it really easy to manipulate your thoughts and make the best use of them. For example, at the end of a meeting, I might have had 10 good thoughts. I have 10 Post-it Notes in front of me. Some of them I no longer think are that relevant. It's easy for me to toss them away. I don't have to rip a bad idea off of another good one because I put three on one note. Nope, I just take the bad thoughts, or the ones that are ephemeral or I'm not going to use again, and I just toss them. In the meantime, I take the other ones and I can now arrange them in a different order to make sense of the thinking that came out of that session. The ability to mix and match and sculpt something new from the thoughts that you have greatly enabled, of course, first of all, by Post-it Notes, but second by that concept of one thought per note.

All right, we're getting near half-time here. I want to add one or two more quick life hacks surrounding Post-it Notes. If you're like me, you have a problem. You have too many Post-it Notes in your life. You've written a lot of them, they might be shoved into file folders or piling up on your desk or dropping over the transom in your corporate environment. It's incumbent on us, I think, if we're going to use Post-it Notes to really process those thoughts -- one of my best ideas is, always end a 30-minute meeting after 25 minutes and try to end your 60-minute meetings after 50 minutes, i.e., allow yourself five or 10 minutes at the end of the meeting to process your Post-its. What I do is, I toss out the bad ones, I rearrange the good ones, and then critically, it's a two-step process, I take a photo of those. That way, you can say goodbye to them altogether. If you have a smartphone -- I think most of us do these days -- you can just snap a quick picture of those Post-it Notes and then throw them all away. And now, you've got a saved image that will help guide your thinking and is easy to slot in -- I use Evernote, but there are lots of different ways to organize notes and photos these days.

To go one step further, a lot of us have too much stuff in our houses. Part of the popularity of Marie Kondo and her Netflix special and her books is that a lot of us realize we just have too much stuff. What gives you joy? One of the best ways I've found to separate myself from things that I would have otherwise saved -- let's just say you have a trophy from a great moment in your athletic youth, but admittedly, it's not really that relevant or meaningful to you anymore, but you'd like to retain a memory of it, take a photo of it and then toss it or give it away. The act of taking photos of things, whether we're talking about Post-it Notes from a meeting or something that you finally want to get rid of out of your attic, but you do want a memory of it, just take a photo. For me, anyway, that enables me to feel like I've captured it forever and I can now separate myself from that physical thing and move on.

So, there you go. It started with a trick of how to snap open a Post-it Note pad from its packaging, but a little bit more thinking life hacks around how to organize your thinking and how to get rid of stuff.

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David Gardner owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends 3M. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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