The Real Reasons You Should Stop Using Paper

They say the secret to becoming a super productive person is to cultivate a desire to get the most done with the least amount of effort.

If I could have just one super power, it would be the ability to make things happen by wiggling my nose.
If I could have just one super power, it would be the ability to make things happen by wiggling my nose.

As it turns out, necessity isn’t the mother of invention; laziness is. I’ll vouch for that. If I could figure out how to acquire Samantha Steven’s ability to get work done by wiggling my nose, I’d be all over it. So as you’re reading this post – wherein I extol the virtuous reasons for reducing paper, such as saving trees, and sending less waste to landfills – know that what’s driving me away from paper is actually sloth in the pursuit of efficiency.

Having gone digital, I love not wasting time sifting through stacks of paper to gather all the pieces of a project I’m working on. I love not having to push aside piles of documents to make room for a colleague who’s come into my office to collaborate. And I especially love it when I can locate the info I want – instantly – by accessing my favourite digital note keeper and keying in a few words.

Right there, that’s enough saved effort to keep me on the digital path. But just to be thorough, here are some additional advantages to leaving paper behind:

  • Less visual clutter feels great.
  • If you tend to be a messy worker, reducing paper will make it look like you saw the light and mended your piggy ways.
  • You’ll save a tree. Or two.
  • You’ll never forget to do something because a sticky note fell behind your desk when you weren’t looking.
  • You’ll spend less money on paper, ink, and toner.
  • Your office and home will be neater.
  • Stuff – the things you write on all those bits of paper – will actually be findable when you switch to a digital tool.
  • You’ll make fewer trips to the recycling bin.
  • Your office could save thousands each year on rent if you didn’t need all that square footage to house filing cabinets filled with paper that no one ever looks at.

Making The Paperless Transition
So how does one make the transition away from paper? I started small. Each day I scanned my meeting notes into my laptop and I discarded the originals. With the latest version of Adobe reader, you can even annotate your notes later if you think of additional bits to add. If you absolutely must bring your paper notes to a follow up meeting, print the scanned document, hand write your new notes during the meeting right on the same pages, and send them through the scanner once again.

Digital Tools To The Rescue
Evernote is a wonderful digital filing cabinet. It’s much better than using the Microsoft office suite of programs. You can find anything in a matter of seconds just by typing in one or two key words. If you use the desktop version, you don’t even need a live internet connection to access or add to your files. Evernote will sync across all your devices seamlessly. And it’s free. If Evernote doesn’t appeal to you, you can try Springpad, Google Keep, or Intellinote (still in beta). All are free.

Virtual Sticky Notes
StickyNotesCan’t give up sticky notes? No problem. Switch to digital stickies. You may not know this, but Microsoft ships this program with Windows. The picture next to this text is a screen shot of several stickies that are living on my desktop right now. Here’s a link to help you start working with digital sticky notes today.

A Special Nod To Recruiters
Recruiters are notorious for loving to bring hard copy resumes into the interview room to receive notes during the meeting. If that works for you, then don’t stop doing it. However, do try to scan the scribbled-on resume into your applicant tracking system immediately following the interview. This will ensure your notes don’t live in a pile on your desk, inaccessible to you and anyone else. Just for kicks, you might consider bringing your laptop into the meeting room instead of that paper resume. If you can touch type, you’ll be able to maintain better eye contact than you can while writing on paper.

People who know me think I use my digital tools only because I love technology. But now you know — I just like getting things done the easy way.

Let me know if you try any of these techniques or tools. What worked for you — and what didn’t work?

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21 Replies to “The Real Reasons You Should Stop Using Paper”

  1. Great article Susan, I am sort of in transition at the moment. I would like to go fully paperless but for me (being an artist) I love my paper to doodle and take notes. I am also a slow typer so one helpful skill I would love to have is be able to type fast and take great notes. Great remeinder…thank you for sharing!
    Nathalie

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    1. Hi Nathalie – Glad you liked the article. Paper might be the best tool for you. Whatever serves us, right? Re your art: I love it when you post your art to Facebook. It’s fresh and has movement. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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  2. I am always battling paper and want to get rid of it so took note of some of your suggestions. Going to look into Evernote for sure. Thank you Susan for some great suggestions.

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  3. I really like the reasons you listed for going digital. It is often annoying to look for those lost post-it notes. Some software tools are worth purchasing. They save money over expensive post-it-notes.

    I find the Windows sticky notes app pretty limited. I have found a free alternative called Stickies which has reminders & more options etc – http://www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/stickies/. Another sticky notes app which like it is Notezilla – http://www.conceptworld.com/Notezilla . However, it is not free.

    Thanks Susan.

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    1. Hi there – I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for telling us about those other sticky note programs. I hadn’t heard about them. I LOVE the idea of sticky notes that send me reminders. Please come by again soon.

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  4. I commented earlier and I guess it did not work since I don’t see my comment.
    I am probably 75% online and 25% paper with both my businesses, not my choice but that is the way it is done right now. I’ve come a long way since it was the opposite you a few months ago. I do use sticky notes for messages and I have two order books one for each business for a back up. I only have one PC so just in case I can’t get on I have my note back up. Enjoyed your blog very much.

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    1. Hi Brigitte — I’m lucky you came back to check and took the time to repost. Thanks for doing that. 75% is awesome. Most of the folks I talk to are almost entirely on paper. Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment.

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  5. guilty, I still like paper, I have a paper journal i write in daily, a daily log and I still take notes on paper- woth heart shaped post its. ! 😦 i do use Evernote and am going to check out google keep

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  6. Well, Sue if you lived in the USA right now you’d be wondering what the president had in mind when he announced the Brain Project. If everyone just cleared their mind by using the cloud, or Evernote,, how would scientist ever accomplish studying the brain. Sounds very good to me except would I remember where I put it? I like the sticky note idea. I use that all the time. Then I lose them and they pile up, drift to the floor then the basket. Circular file, as it is called and what a treasure trove that would be for anyone considering studying my brain. Having a file that is named sticky note appeals to the inner organized self but the other usually is distracted just when it is imperative to remember to file it there. Brain project, please, not me. I,ll keep you posted on my new “place to file my notes.”

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    1. Hi 16maurice — Welcome back! I can just imagine how many sticky notes you have right now. You’re one busy lady. Does your computer have that sticky note program? I love mine. I didn’t even know it was in there until a month ago.

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  7. Terrific message! I stopped using paper (for the most part) about 3 years ago. In fact I think that’s how long it’s been since I bought a ream of copy paper. I rarely ever print anything anymore and all of my important documents are burned onto DVDs and stored in a fireproof box – all of which takes up a tiny fraction of the space of paper files. Great message!

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    1. Hi Marty – Great to meet someone else who made the plunge. I went over to your blog and really enjoyed your material. I shared the link to your last post on Twitter with my network. Looking forward to reading more of your work.
      Susan

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  8. Brilliant! Evernote sounds like something I have been looking for and need badly. You know me so you know what my desk looks like. I have wanted to change this for years but did not know where to start. Thank you for sharing this as I now have a starting point. Evernote, digital post it’s and the scanner may just change my life. I will let you know how it goes.

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    1. Hi Karen, I’m so happy this is helpful. I was probably in the same boat that you are. I had to change because it was getting harder and harder to find things. Best wishes and let me know if I can help in any other way. Susan

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