Arm-Mounted Index Card Scabbard

Arm-Mounted Index Card Scabbard

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.


  1. Senia 18 years ago

    THIS IS FUN!!!
    How do you come up with such fun ideas!!!  Very coooool!  Archery arm guard?  Wonderful.

    And because it’s large on your arm, and you’re not used to having it on all the time, when you do have it on, you end up paying attention to it!  :)  Yay.

  2. Reader 18 years ago

    I’m sorry but this has to be some kind of joke, right?  Who would actually make this and walk around with it?

  3. Fred 18 years ago
  4. NK13 18 years ago

    Great idea
    It kind of reminds me of what the quarterback and other football players would use during a game, in case they need to remember certain plays. I think they call it a WRIST COACH.

  5. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Anonymous Reader: I would. At least at home. :-) Though this did remind me of “gargoyles” as mentioned in Neal Stephenson’s book SnowCrash, who were said to be extremely lame and uncool. Specialized gear is always a little funny like this.

    Fred: Kneeboards!!! Awesome! Thanks for the link!

    NK13: I was trying to find those, but I didn’t know what they were called. Thanks for the info! That might be a better solution!

  6. Brandon Erik Bertelsen 18 years ago

    hahaha, this is fantastic. I think you’re taking task management to an entirely new level.

  7. y0mbo 18 years ago

    This is so funny, Dave.  I do appreciate it though… the other day I forgot my hipster PDA and needed to write something down.  So I found a crappy Papermate pen that I so badly wanted to throw away (life is too short for crappy pens). I held that pen from the time I left my son’s daycare, through a 20 minute commute and 5 minute walk to my desk.  I wrote down what I needed to remember and the pen went right in the trash.  The ICS would have been so much easier.

  8. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    I think I need to take the ICS into the “productivity toy” direction. Pen scabbard PLUS LED FLASHLIGHT? Integrated laser pointer? :-)

  9. Fred 18 years ago

    I sent this first yesterday and it didn’t go through. It’s the wrist coach that NK13 is referring to, lots of colors and there are options for 1,2, or 3 flaps as well.

  10. bonder 18 years ago

    It’s awesome!  I love it!

    Only thing is, it’s not really a scabbard.  It’s more of a gauntlet or bracer.



  11. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    You can always call it by the alternative name, the gauntlet of productivity, +1 initiative, +1 on all saves against procrastination :-)

    I called it a scabbard because it does hold index cards.

  12. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Fred: Thanks for the link on the wrist coach thing! I’m going to have to get one.

  13. randy 18 years ago

    Why not just make a head band out of it then everyone else can tell you what to do.  the world will remain in balance that way.

  14. Jennifer 18 years ago

    I love the ICS, but have a small wrist.
    Perhaps the ICS can be customized by using a wristband and adding velco to the plastic protector. Colorful wrist bands would provide a snugger fit and the velco would allow the protector to be removed and attached on the fly to coordinate with one’s wardrobe.

  15. Derek 18 years ago

    I know I’m late to the game on this, but finally catching up after unplugging for a number of week.  The “+1 to focus” comment made me spit diet soda on the laptop.  Freakin’ hilarious.
    On the more serious side, you see NFL quarterbacks with something similar to look at their playbooks.  There’s got to be a source for those somewhere.

  16. Lu 18 years ago

    Actually, I envisioned something just like this for my high schooler, who insists on writing assignments on her hand/arm so she can’t forget – will have to show her this post.

  17. doug 17 years ago

    great thought – i have sharpie writing on my
    arm as i type…  i will try this!  great work, keep hackin’

  18. Amanda Himelein 17 years ago

    That is pretty darn cool.  I need +1 productivity…

    I’m not sure I can top it, but I do think it’s totally awesome.

  19. Rosilin 17 years ago

    WOW THIS IS SO PERFECT FOR MOMS WITH A.D.D/ A.D.H.H!!!! I just usually use my palm (redneck palm piolet thingy. but this is Really Neat!

  20. Carla 16 years ago

    This thing looks funny, haha funny, but looks very useful for someone like me who gets sidetracked too easily.  Although very useful, I can imagine myself forgetting to take it off, or getting too comfortable wearing it, and going out of the house with it looking like a mentally disabled nerd.  As if anyone would need so much help to remember a list of tasks, right?  But I do, as it seems many of us do. 
    I usually keep a list in my pocket, and, hopefully remember to look at it.  OR I put a 3×5 card in the side pocket of my purse and look at it at every turn to know what I’m supposed to do next.

    Very cool ideas you have, David!  Thanks!

  21. Liz 14 years ago

    I know this is way after the fact, but I just found your site. I LOVE this idea! Also, the nerdy references literally caused much LOLing. I have ADHD, and desperately need all those +1’s. I’m also a fan of the wrist band and velcro version offered by Jennifer. I am so making one of these, and yes I would leave the house with it on. I would, however, remove it if I was going anywhere I cared about looking fashionable. If you figure out a way to easily add a pen scabbard please let us know. Maybe I could snag one of the loops from a journal and attach it. Hmm…

    • Jake 13 years ago

      I saw a handheld device with a stylus scabbard made from small loop of a broad elastic band (black in color) which should be easy to craft for your pen.

  22. Shannon Garcia 9 years ago

    Looking back, I love how you were way out in front of the Pebble with this. And, you know, smartphones.