The Power of an Index Card

Are you stressing over a  pithy tweet of 140 characters or SMS of 160 characters? Has your job become an endless stream of snippets of conversation? What happens when you have to expand this topic online in a meatier format, or goodness forbid…take the conversation offline?

In this age of life streaming, it seems we are trying to strip everything down to the bare minimum. Minus the reflection. Minus the details. Minus the divergent perspectives. Minus…well, the meat.

I challenge you to take back your thoughts and embrace the power of the index card.

Not an online version of the index card or other quick-catching electronic note taking tool.

A paper index card.

Several years ago (it pains me to divulge how many) I was on my high school’s debate team. On Friday evenings, I would participate in LD debate and then Saturday mornings, I would compete in domestic extemporaneous speaking (or extemp for short).

According to Wikipedia, domestic extemp is:

Competition in DX involves the selection, preparation, and presentation of a four and a half to seven minute speech on a topic relating to United States domestic and foreign policy, domestic commerce, politics, the economy, and the like. The speech is to be delivered entirely from memory or with the aid of a small note card limited to fifty words…Thirty minutes before their assigned speaking time, each competitor draws three topics at random from a pool, selects one of the topics, and returns the other two.

Prior to competition, we would have to devour TIME Magazine, Newsweek, WSJ and other periodicals to copy and study articles we thought might aid us in the topic we would be given during competition. Keep in mind, this was before the power of Google and mobility of the iPad. We had to actually copy the articles and lug them around in file containers.

In the beginning, I used to fill that index card to the max and pray the judges would not ask to see my card and dock points for going over the word limit. Gradually, I became more comfortable speaking and was able to use less and less words to recall certain facts, quotes and key points. Before long, I no longer had to take the card with me into the room to give my speech, but I always took the time to develop my thoughts and list them on an index card prior to my speech.

I still use index cards when I craft a post or important slide presentation. If I can talk up to seven minutes with no more than 50 words on my card, I feel confident I know my subject. Can you say the same for your 140 character tweet?

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