Arm-Mounted Index Card Scabbard

From the 2006 Archives Productivity #MAKING STUFF 22 Comments

Index Card Scabbard
I was running around the house this morning, getting ready to start a two-week GET IN SHAPE campaign. As often happens, I got sidetracked by unrelated ideas, and wasn’t getting a whole lot done. I made a rule for myself: do not set anything down until you are done with it. This helped keep me on-task. For example, when I was changing a roll of toilet paper in the upstair bathroom, I had to go into the basement to get some more. Ordinarily I would get distracted by the email, cats, and other chores on the way down. By concentrating on just holding on to the empty roll of paper, the object itself provided the context for my actions, applying the power of arbitrary inconvenience to keep me on-track.

Anyway, As I finished with the toilet paper, I couldn’t help but think sarcastically, wouldn’t it be great if I could remember things without using my hands to focus my thoughts? And then I got this idea:

Index Card Scabbard

Crazy Talk

By strapping on this GAUNTLET OF PRODUCTIVITY, I gain a +1 on focus and maybe a +1 on intelligence. I call it the “Nag-a-tronic”, but I think Index Card Scabbard is a little more general-purpose. As you can see from the photo, I was also tempted to include it in The Printable CEO™ series, but I think this is a different line of exploration. I’ll come back to it sometime in the future.

What is the ICS? Compositionally, it’s the combination of an archery arm guard, a clear vinyl pocket protector, Super Sticky Post-It® notes and index cards. Functionally, it’s a sort of mini-desktop for those immediate to-do items, a place to keep bits of physical data handy for your reference. Strapped to the inside or outside of your forearm, it’s easy to look at while on-the-move, without getting in the way of your work.

Making Your Own Scabbard

Nagatronic parts
I got my arm guard from the bowhunting section of Wal-Mart, so it has a camoflage pattern (making it that much cooler). Cost: $4.50. The arm guard itself is made of a lightweight breathable material that is fuzzy on the skin-side while the top side is lightly padded. It is also fuzzy cloth, which isn’t an ideal surface to stick things on.

To address the fuzz problem, I dug out some vinyl pocket protectors (pack of 3, about $2.00). They are a little larger than a standard 3×5″ index card, so I had them around as part of another index card project. Serendipity!

To attach the pocket protector to the arm guard, I used some double-sided foam tape, but the better way would be to use a hot-glue gun. Mine has gone missing, unfortunately.

How the Index Card Scabbard works

Here’s the features of the Index Card Scabbard (ICS):

  • The smooth plastic pocket protector is an excellent surface for holding a single sticky note.
  • The flap of plastic that ordinarily would drape over your shirt pocket helps hold the note in place.
  • The sticky note lists things that you need to focus on.
  • Add some stiff, pre-bent index cards, and the surface becomes hard enough to write on.
  • The index cards can be used for additional notes or reference.
  • The index cards can be removed and reordered pretty easily with one hand.

The information contained by the ICS is easy to reference while doing other activities, so it’s a handy (no pun intended) use of previously-unused real estate. Of course some people are going to think you look like a huge dork if you wear the ICS in public, but if you got the +1 references earlier on, you ARE a dork and probably won’t mind.

Since I’m using transparent pocket protectors, you could dispense with the sticky notes and just read the 3×5″ cards through the material.

You can use the top-most index card for information you need to call up quickly, such as telephone numbers, programming language syntax guides, and so-on. You can even create custom task cards and not even bother with the sticky note. Recipes, for example, would also work well. Driving directions might be another application. I think I’ve heard of similar things being used in aircraft maintenance programs for complex technical systems, though I haven’t found any direct references yet.

Unexpectedly Cool

I wrote down a few things that I wanted to get done today, figuring that if I even got 3 tasks done that would be pretty impressive. On the right side I blocked out some time to get a feel for what was doable in the hours I had available.

I am pretty pleased with this roll-up wrist thing, which cost about 7 bucks in parts. When I put the Nag-a-Tronic on, it’s like a reminder that I’m supposed to be doing work, ever-present but not uncomfortable. I’ll be testing it this week and see how the use of this evolves. It’s only missing a pen scabbard. I also would like to find a really great arm guard, with hard plastic on the outside and breathable padding on the inside, with two wide straps instead of the three small ones that mine have.

My Arm
Incidentally, I “install” the ICS on my left arm. If you wear a wristwatch, the position may be a little awkward. I twist the ICS around so it’s on the inside of my arm, not the outside; that makes it a little more compatble with watch wearers. Plus, it’s the way that an archery arm guard is worn. You can always use your other arm, though if you’re right-handed it’s easier to manipulate the cards and write on the sticky note. If that’s not an issue, wear it on whatever arm works for you.