How to stop Post-it Notes curling and falling off

How do you stop Post-it Notes from curling up and falling off the wall you’ve just stuck them to?

Post-it Notes are a common tool in the enablers of change toolkit. Yet it appears many of us do not know how to use them correctly. In today’s episode we’re going to share with you a really simple way to overcome this problem. 

While Post-it Notes have been around for 40 years, they did not come with an instruction manual. Probably not a surprise, as they seem so simple to use. Yet most of us just grab the pad of Post-it Notes, write something quickly on the page and then grip the bottom corner and pull it up diagonally towards the opposite corner. We then place it on a wall or a whiteboard and then often feel frustrated when the note is curled up so much that others can’t read the brilliance we’ve just tried to share with the group! Or worse still, as the group gathers around the display of Post-it notes and starts to discuss the ideas shared, the Post-it notes, one by one, start to fall off and flutter to the ground. 

Most of us just accept this as a limitation of using Post-it Notes, but it doesn’t have to be! Pulling them upwards or sideways causes the notes to bend, and they then don’t adhere well to flat surfaces. Instead, remove them by slightly lifting the middle of the bottom edge and pulling it towards you, away from the sticky edge in a straight movement. That way they remain flat and you can easily share your brilliance with others! 

For those that like to dig a bit deeper, it seems this technique was first promoted by William Turner on the 17th of April 2015 in a 40 second video on Youtube. He works for PlanetSafe Calendars in the US and has only uploaded two videos to YouTube – this one and then one the very next day promoting PlanetSafe’s wall tray accessory. It seems many others then picked up on this Post-it Note technique and promoted it more widely. 

One of those is a user experience designer from Denmark who published a short blog post in 2017. In it he included an image representing the correct way to remove a Post-it Note. The diagram shows how not to do it and then the way you should do it. 

What we love is that he also included a picture clearly demonstrating what happens when you don’t use the improved technique, where the notes have all curled up so you can’t read them; and then the result you achieve doing it properly where all the notes are easily visible. 

For the really curious ones amongst us, let’s briefly touch on the creation of the Post-it Note. It’s one of those accidental innovation stories. It was back in 1968 when Dr Spencer Silver in the United States was trying to create a super-strong adhesive at 3M to help hold airplanes together. One of his experiments produced almost the opposite of what he was looking for. He’d created a unique, low-tack adhesive that while it would stick to things, it was easily removed and could be repositioned multiple times. Instead of throwing it out, he promoted his discovery for five years to his colleagues at 3M, but no one was able to think of a suitable use for it. Then, as the story goes, his colleague Art Fry was singing in his local church choir and became frustrated when his bookmarks kept falling out of his hymnal. He recalled Spencer’s invention and put some of the adhesive on the back of his bookmarks, which then happily stayed in place. 

Art then further developed the idea at 3M and later released the yellow coloured notes in 1977. “But why were they yellow?” you may ask. Simple. When developing the idea, he could access yellow scrap paper for free from the lab next to his. You can read a lovely transcript provided by 3M about this. It describes how the three characters of the story, Spencer Silver, Art Fry and Geoff Nicholson, all collaborated to develop what we now know as the Post-it note. 

The transcript of the interview finishes with these salient comments by Geoff. “When you get down to it with innovation – a lot of people are required to make it successful. Marketing, sales, even the accountants. But you sometimes have to fight for it – and that’s inevitable in something that changes the basis of competition. People resist change.” This is such a good take home message for us as enablers of change. 

You might think that we’ve covered everything relevant to enablers of change about Post-it Notes. Well, not quite! As you’d no doubt appreciate, there are now many different producers of Post-it Note-like-products. The original 3M patent expired in 1997 and there are now many makers of repositional notes, since the term Post-it Note is still registered to 3M. 

If only someone would take the time and effort to compare the different brands and see which ones stick to a wall best, or how likely the ink will leak through one note onto the next!

Well, a guy called Matti Schneider has done just that for us and compared 23 different types of sticky notes. Admittedly it was undertaken in 2017 and in France, but the results are still interesting. This is the link to his post, but the take home message is that the 3M Recycled Post-it Note not only beat the newcomers to the market, but also the original 3M Post-it Note. The recycled one was not only stickier and more resistant to ink leakage but was more sustainably produced than its competitors. Win win!

So there you have it: grab the bottom edge of the Post-it note and pull it down and away from the sticky edge in a straight movement. You now know how to use Post-it notes properly and some of their interesting background!

Well, you’ve read our thoughts, now we’d like to hear yours! Add a comment below the blog post and tell us about your experiences with Post-it Notes, including any tips and further ideas about them. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversation – join in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Thanks folks for reading this Enablers of change episode. Remember to subscribe if you’d like to know when new episodes are available. And if you liked what you heard, please tell your friends so they can join the conversation!

Resources

How to peel a sticky note: https://youtu.be/Gq4SFnirMGM 

Blog post on keeping your Post-It Notes from curling and falling down: https://blog.prototypr.io/ux-micro-tip-how-to-use-a-post-it-8576afccb6c2 

The story of Post-It Notes as told by the developers: http://www.thejanuarist.com/why-are-post-it-notes-yellow/ 

Comparison of sticky notes: https://medium.com/@MattiSG/stupid-science-i-compared-23-sticky-notes-to-help-you-spare-wallet-and-planet-fc9b97d88503

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Michelle McKinlay
Michelle McKinlay
2 months ago

Revolutionary!

David Jago
2 months ago
Reply to  John James

Viva la revolution!

David Jago
2 months ago

Thanks for this. Wish I’d read it many years ago…

I accidentally discovered the way you describe sometime last year. Emphasis on the accidental!

For the most part though, I’m a sticky wall user.

Denise Bewsell
Denise Bewsell
2 months ago
Reply to  David Jago

Agree – sticky walls are brilliant!

Alex
Alex
2 months ago

“people resist change”…. this definitely would be a good podcast to get your views on tools/examples of successful change stories.

Denise Bewsell
Denise Bewsell
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex

We’ll add that to the list Alex!

Adrian Englefield
Adrian Englefield
2 months ago

Hello John
Instead of post-it notes – what are the best Apps to use e.g. Slido? I always wanted to move away from post-it notes. However, often workshops were in poor internet/phone areas and not everyone has a smart phone!!! So always came back to the post-it note.

I always refed to them as ‘posted notes’, you learn something new every day!!!