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Make a Poor Man’s Desktop Writeboard for Under a Buck!

A few weeks ago I started seeing reviews for a product called the Jot-It from Cocoa, LLC. Apparently the company sent review samples to several professional organizers . Here are some of the reviews:

Poor Man’s Desktop WriteboardMost of the reviewers gave it an overwhelmingly positive review. This made me want to try on out, but it wasn’t yet for sale. 🙁 So I decided to make my own. I bought a 4″x6″ clear acrylic picture frame from my local Wal-Mart–they didn’t have a 8-1/2″x11″ frame, but I like the idea of having something that doesn’t take up a lot of desktop real estate. The piece of acrylic that usually serves as the bottom when it is in picture frame mode makes a good stand to keep it at the perfect angle for writing while it is in writeboard mode.

The Jot-It comes  with a fine point dry-erase marker that has n eraser on one end. I already had a fine-point dry erase marker (without a built-in eraser), so I decided to use that instead.

The Jot-It comes with several cool templates to help you write down your task list, organize projects, and to assist with other notes. I decided to design and print my own template for it.

I’m well pleased with the way it turned out, and you can’t beat it for the price. I’ll admit that it’s not as sexy as the Cocoa Writeboard, but it’s a nice way to see if the Cocoa Writeboard is a good fit for how you work. If this simple and cheap one works well for you, then you can always buy one of the sleek looking ones from Cocoa later.

If you’re a practitioner of Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done system, this is a great tool on which to write your 3 Most Important Tasks each day. It is also a great way to collect thoughts that come into your mind while at your desk for later processing–of course, it does limit how much you can collect before you have to process it all and erase it. Most of all, writing on a small-size board like this is fun–which means that it’s a productivity tool that you’ll probably actually use.

Perhaps the best use for a tool like this is for frequently used checklists. Create templates for your morning pre-flight checklist, evening post-flight checklist, weekly review checklist, travel checklist, or other checklists that you use. Just put them in the frame, work your way down the checklist, then erase your check marks when you’re done. I used to laminate some of my checklists so that I could use a dry-erase marker to check things off each time. The Writeboard method makes it much easier to update the list if things change; just make changes to the electronic master of your list and print it out–no need to laminate.

I just visited the Cocoa web site and I see that their Desktop Writeboard is now avalable at Target.com for $24.99 (plus shipping and state sales tax, where applicable). It isn’t yet available in the Target retail stores. According to their web site, they are planning to produce a smaller version. I like my 4″x6″ so well that I’ll probably wait for that until I buy one. Until then, my Poor Man’s Desktop Writeboard is working just fine.If you decide to make one of these, let me know how it works for you in the comments.

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  • Reply
    11/11/2007 at 10:39 am

    I absolutely loved your idea for the improv desk whiteboard! The great part about your version is you can actually move it a heck of a lot easier than the actual Jot-It! Everytime I go to pick mine up, it comes apart and is quite frustrating! Also, if you want a bigger one, try going to Staples. They have them in the acrylic display aisle. They are suppose to be used for flyers, trade show displays, etc. But I LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!

  • Reply
    11/11/2007 at 2:02 pm

    Suzanne – I’m glad that you like this idea! The first time I read a review of the Jot-It I thought, “That looks like an acrylic picture frame that fell on its back.” 🙂 I’m certainly enjoying my own Mini Desktop Writeboard.

  • Reply
    11/12/2007 at 3:21 am

    That is so funny! Thanks for the link and I really like your poor man’s jot it. I like the real one too. The only major issue I had was the mobile part as Suzanne noted. Very amusing post.

  • Reply
    11/12/2007 at 7:58 am

    Jennifer – I’m glad you enjoyed this post! Thanks for stopping by. Sorry to hear the Jot-It falls apart so easily when moved. Since the Poor Man’s Write Board is one piece, it certainly doesn’t have that problem. 🙂

  • Reply
    Brad Isaac
    12/14/2007 at 2:41 am


    Your writeboard looks great!

    I am not sure I need one, but it looks like a fun project. Did you use a blow torch to melt the plastic into shape?

  • Reply
    12/17/2007 at 2:50 pm

    Brad – You’re joking about the blow torch, right? It’s just a standard el cheapo acrylic picture frame that is laying on it’s back.

  • Reply
    Brad Isaac
    12/17/2007 at 7:36 pm

    Nope, not joking at all! I’ll post some pictures of my homemade laptop cooler if you DARE challenge me. It’s made of plexiglass I had to blowtorch to melt into shape. 🙂

  • Reply
    12/17/2007 at 9:01 pm

    Brad – You’re on! I’m posting the dare now…

  • Reply
    Ricky Spears’ Blog » Blog Archive » A Blog Dare for Brad Isaac
    12/17/2007 at 9:11 pm

    […] the brief exchange between us from my post on Make a Poor Man’s Desktop Writeboard for Under a Buck! # Brad Isaac Says: […]

  • Reply
    John Volk
    1/10/2008 at 11:02 am

    That writeboard really IS sexy!

  • Reply
    8/5/2008 at 11:12 am

    Ricky – I just came across your discussion of the Writeboard. I’m the designer of the Cocoa WB and am glad to see the meaningful banter between you and your bloggers… Keep telling the world what you think… it helps designers immensely! BTW, the Writeboard is designed to leave its Base so as to be a semi-portable device. The Base stays on the desk while the lighter, sleeker writing surface (along with the Template) comes with the user to meetings, errands, etc. It’s not “falling apart,” it’s doing its intended job… we might need to be a bit more clear about that on the packaging.

  • Reply
    8/22/2008 at 11:37 pm

    Outstanding alternative to the $25 product available commercially. This will certainly be the route that I will take – all the functionality, 1/25 the cost, and with a DIY sense of pride! Thanks for the great article.

  • Reply
    8/23/2008 at 4:33 am

    Brandon – I’m glad you liked this. I just purchased a WriteBoard Slate and I’m trying to discover the best way to use it in my life. I’ll do a future post on it after I figure it out. I think my Poor Man’s WriteBoard will remain on my desk for a long time though.

  • Reply
    8/15/2009 at 8:47 am

    You can also download a package of templates from the Cocoa website for free if the size of your picture frame is comparable – they have hundreds there for all kinds of uses.

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