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Dog Food, Kids Stuff and Other Items

Dog Food, Kids Stuff and Other Items

One of our big stress points at home at the moment is a private school assessment which our little two and half year old monster responsible citizen, will be sent for early next year. There is nothing in particular he's being assessed for. He just needs to demonstrate he has a shot at understanding and coping with the education we want him to have, and that he's an OK kid. 

This does mean being away from his parents for a few minutes and getting on with other children and other adults. These are, of course, skills and skills can be practiced. We want to make sure he has every opportunity to practice over the Christmas break... while remembering a few other things too! This is what required dog-fooding our stationery.

We decided we'd consume our own task pads and ended up naturally blending together his weekly schedule and some reminders and putting them on the cabinet above the fridge. We can't draw on the cabinet - dry-wipe markers definitely mark the vinyl (we tested this in an obscure corner) and we did not have any board tape to spare. With only ten cards on there and two adult stakeholders we can cope with just a little grouping and sorting.

Most of the items are classes or activities for our son, which are generally available as a one off or on a particular day each week. I mixed the one-offs and the recurring items and spread them Monday to Sunday left to right across the middle of the space. Items that could not be actioned this week went on top of items that could. Since the cabinet is well above our heads, we were placing more distant priorities further up and away from us - this made intuitive sense. I realised later that this is effectively a swim-lane-per-day arrangement. Swim lanes run up and down, with tasks falling into a swimlane for the day they must be actioned.

We had two things that were not really activities of any kind - "Not Sick" and "Enough Rest" - reminders to ensure we do not over-train him for the assessment. These were something akin to design constraints or part of our (woolly) definition of done. I put them in front (i.e. below) our weekly spread, since not messing it up for him is an overriding priority!

The stationery is performing well. We knew before the print-run that they looked great but it was not until after the print run we realised that one of the main benefits - they lay flat. The absence of a broad adhesive strip means they do not peel away progressively and therefore do not curl. With our "board" well above eye level curly post-its would not have been acceptable. 

Also, this exercise reinforces the benefits of using paper in two ways. First, the swimlane per day arrangement just happened, almost as if my arms were doing the arranging without much involvement from my brain. It took more effort to explain it afterwards than it did to do. Any digital layout of this kind would probably have become over-complicated very quickly. I did miss magnetic dots, which would have made the process even more immediate, but the surface was not ferrous.

Second, the choice of space us up to us. This particular texture of vinyl feels a little greasy even when cleaned, but blu-tak holds on regardless. Nothing has fallen on the floor. A digital solution would have been hidden inside a laptop or phone or required drilling holes in walls to mount a monitor, further limiting the viable options and raising the cost & effort well beyond the point at which we would not have even done it.

And justifying this effort is kids-stuff. It took seconds to put up. It will take seconds to update and to take down. Already we are naturally glancing up while in the kitchen and reading off today's special priorities. It is visualizing dearest-son's workload and radiating his schedule into our tea-breaks. We are much more focused and productive on our month-long project to prep our boy. Anxiety has given way to action.

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