documents arranged on floor

Sometimes you need more than just a second monitor. You need a floor.

I used to work with a single monitor. Then I discovered my productivity made a big leap by adding a second monitor.

And now I have discovered the essential benefits of a large floor.

documents arranged on floor

I am currently working on two big projects, one of which requires putting together a large body of existing content and formatting it into a cohesive whole.

I tried doing this on my two monitors. But I made slow and miserable progress.

Then I decided to print everything out, almost 300 pages of it, and lay it out on the floor under a number of different chapter or section headings.

From the moment I did that, everything changed.

How come? Because I could SEE the whole picture. I could see everything at once – the sections, how much content was under each, and so on.

Also, something changes when you are walking around, looking at each pile of paper. The physical act of walking, of bending down to move a page from one pile to another, makes a difference.

Hard to explain. Perhaps the closest I have come to this kind of revelation is when I first started using mind maps. With a mind map, you can see the entire structure of the full project. And as anyone who uses mind maps can tell you, mind mapping actually changes how you brain works. You perceive things differently. You see and understand connections and structures in a whole new way.

My use of the floor had the same effect on me.

For this project, it was absolutely the right move to make. I was able to work faster and smarter. A barrier had been taken down. A struggle was overcome.

Floors aren’t exactly high-tech. But I think next time I am working on a multi-section project I’ll do the same.

In fact, I think I’ll use the floor for much smaller projects too.

If you want to see something in its entirety, even when relatively unformed, I suspect it’s hard to beat using a printer and some bare floor space.

If you have had the same or similar experiences, let me know.

Note: If you are working on large writing projects, be sure to check out my writing productivity guide, Writing Rituals.

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5 thoughts on “Sometimes you need more than just a second monitor. You need a floor.

  1. Hi Nick

    I worked in publishing for 15 years before joining Wordtracker and this is the first time an author has given me a progress report by sending me a photo!

    It’s good to see that the book is progressing well. But, it looks like we’ll have to clear some floor space for when we start the editing and layout!

    I’m looking forward to seeing the finished manuscript.

    All the best,

    Justin
    CEO, Wordtracker.com

    • Justin, hi. Now you have let the cat out of the bag, so everyone now knows this is for Wordtracker! : ) OK, back to organizing and editing…

  2. Grammar Girl made a similar suggestion; she organized one of her books by putting the topics on Post-its and putting them on a wall. I did this with a book I was editing recently, and it really helped me see the book as a whole and give my author ideas for how to better organize her book.

  3. I do something similar, but I don’t have that much floor space! I make notes on 3″x5″ cards and lay them out on the table. I usually do this before I writing the outline.

    If I’m writing an online tutorial that will take multiple screens, I like to print up the copy then cut it up into chunks. Then I tape a huge piece of wrapping paper to the wall, tape up the chunks and use a marker to map out the flow and hyperlink structure. I just don’t get the same results using mind map software…getting my hands on something tangible seems to help the old neurons fire!

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