Software developers (including ourselves) have long used large whiteboards for collaboration on projects. Whiteboards are fast and easy to sketch ideas and to modify them as the ideas flow.
Around a year ago, I made a significant investment in a small (A4-sized) whiteboard (it was around a fiver from memory!). For the past twenty years, I have been an dedicated note-taker using Black And Red notebooks and a Pentel P205 pencil. I went through dozens of them (and would often keep them for over a decade even though I never referred back to them). Whilst they did often contain lots of important notes from meetings and training sessions, they were largely full of scribbles whilst I was deploying software.
These scribbles were largely meaningless and transitional. They would be notes that had no value after the fact; simple tick lists of tasks I needed to do or quick notes on bugs to attend to.
I had a bookshelf full of scribbles that had no value at all. I could go through notebooks in weeks.
So, I thought I would try something different when on-site and use a small whiteboard.
I have found it has completely changed my way of working and it also gets a lot of people talking and asking questions.
Having notes on a whiteboard really focused me even more than previously. I know that those notes are totally temporary (I could wipe them off in a second) and that provided an urgency to them.
If I had a series of tasks to do over the next couple of hours and created a list for those, I would remain very focused and complete that list much more effectively.
If during testing, I had found an issue (yes, our code does, from time to time, have bugs - the key is we find them and address them!) and made a note; I found it made me lock onto the issue and get it resolved as I wasn't able to just make a note in a notebook and move onto the next task.
Knowing the note is temporary is the key to my focus. I need to resolve it and wipe it from the board before moving onto other tasks.
The whiteboard is also a great collaboration tool. If I need to work through an issue with the engineering team on-site, we can use the whiteboard to draw out any connectivity challenges and discuss the best way forwards.
It's not for everything; I certainly wouldn't recommend you take one into your next meeting to record important project information for example! But, for immediate tasks and focus, I have found it made a huge difference to working through deployment.
It sounds ludicrous that a £5 whiteboard makes such a difference to on-site efficiency, but I do truly believe that it has made more difference than any other process or tool I use.
If you are an on-site operative of any type (engineer, programmer etc.), then I can only urge you to try out a small whiteboard for yourself and see if you get a similar boost in productivity.