Sticky Notes – Friend or Foe?

I believe that life is full of happy accidents – times when our best plans go awry but we end up in a good, or even excellent, place anyway.  For me, meeting my husband is probably the happiest and most unintended event in my life.  For Minnesota-based 3M, the accidental discovery of a low-tack, reusable adhesive in 1968 that turned into a phenomenon called Post-It Notes® in 1980 could most definitely be classified as happy.  Since the ‘80s, sticky notes have become as common as paperclips in offices.


Paper Sticky Notes Are a Friend When:

  • Used sparingly – If you only have 3 or 4 notes to make and you have a designated place for them, they can be good reminders
  • Treated as temporary – Their lifespan should be very limited.  3M will thank you for this.  If the information or reminder needs to live for more than a day, it most likely needs to be transferred to a different format.
  • Living on horizontal surfaces – Unless you buy a special brand of “Super Sticky” notes, they will fall off of walls and computer monitors.  The exception to this is if you use a wall planner such as PlanetSafe.


Paper Sticky Notes Are a Foe When:

  • Stacked – Layered on top of each other or lost in stacks of paper.  There is a high likelihood of them self-transferring to the wrong piece of paper and causing context issues that have landed some people in court.
  • Used as password reminders – Everyone knows what lives under your keyboard.
  • There is no rhyme or reason to them – Are some of them to-do’s?  Are some of them phone messages?  Are some of them random scribbled thoughts?  If all of these diverse bits of information are kept together, you will find yourself spending valuable time sorting through sticky notes rather than doing work.


Electronic Sticky Notes



Electronic Sticky Notes Are a Friend When:

  • Used sparingly – Sound familiar?  Space for electronic sticky notes is even more limited than paper.  All you have is your desktop, and it is used for other things, like icons, clocks, and pictures of lighthouses or mountain vistas.
  • Serving a defined and unique role – There are so many great tools for electronic data collection and storage.  Don’t use sticky notes when there is a better alternative.  For example, I use my electronic sticky notes for small, but needed pieces of information such as my kids’ current shoe and clothing sizes, restaurant recommendations for different cities, and other short, quick reference items.


Electronic Sticky Notes Are a Foe When:

  • Forgotten – Have they become as invisible to you as your unused desktop icons?  Time to delete them!
  • Used for recording information that needs to be printed, searched, or documented – Although Mac Stickies have much more functionality than their Windows counterparts, there are still limitations on their storage, organization, and retrieval capabilities that make electronic sticky notes a bad choice for business recordkeeping.
  • Storing large volumes of information – The nice part about electronic sticky notes is that the size is customizable.  The worst part about electronic sticky notes is that the size is customizable. When they start to resemble the U.S. Constitution, it’s time to move to Word, OneNote, or the like.


Just as a stapler can be a paper-joining friend or a finger-stabbing foe, the utility of sticky notes depends on the use to which they are put.  Like, on your face for instance…

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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Janet Barclay

    This post reminds me of visiting someone in their home office one time – they had two sticky notes with the exact same information on them, proving that after a while, we don’t even see them.

  2. Julie Bestry

    I’ve had clients stick important notes on their shirts so that there’s no way they’ll be allowed to forget something they might ignore — someone will always say, “Hey, don’t go in front of the CEO/the judge/the president with that note that says, ‘Pay electric bill’!”

    I’ve never thought to put posts on someone’s face, though. You, however, really pull it off in this video.

  3. Olive Wagar

    I recently discovered a new use for the narrow page marker sticky notes. I plan out my day on my print calendar. Each one fits in the hour time block. When I finish the task, I write in what I did and remove the sticky note. It keeps me on task & I get a sense of accomplishment too! One quick glance at my calendar reminds me of my progress for the day.


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