By February 25, 2013 Read More →

Ever thought of going paperless?

Mobile worker Alan Williams on his going paperless experiment

Work from Home Wisdom - going paperless, Alan WilliamsWhen I’m not writing, I have a day job. This involves lots of reports, emails, meetings, notes; all of which involve paper at one stage of their life. This means that often I’m carrying around a notebook, printed copies of reports, printouts of spreadsheets, copies of emails; in fact piles of paper. Add the fact that I’m often travelling on a train and this can become quite a heavy burden to carry.

I also carry around my iPad, which is a bit daft, as every one of those reports and printouts can be worked on via the iPad. So I decided that I would give ‘going paperless’ a try. Get rid of all the paper and just use my iPad or a laptop/computer when in the office or working remotely.

My plan was to try and replace the core areas of report reading, note taking, work-flow/task management and email with the iPad. Here are some of the issues and solutions that have happened along the way of going paperless:

1) Paper anxiety. This was probably one of the biggest issues that I had with this whole experiment. I love paper/pens, how they feel and work together. Now this probably sounds a bit daft, but actually it was something that I was familiar with, from having bought a Kindle a couple of Christmases ago. The problem then was moving from the weight and feel of a real book, to a lightweight, electronic facsimile.
My head was telling me that in reality this wasn’t going to be all that easy, and that ultimately I would end up with some kind of hybrid system, using both paper and iPad to make this work.
That was exactly what happened, although this was more out of necessity, and to overcome technical and practical problems of moving completely to an iPad for the majority of my work. In meetings I needed both access to reports, and the ability to take notes. By the end of my going paperless experiment I ended up with the reference material on the iPad, and taking notes in a conventional notebook.

2) Technical issues. I’m going to cover the apps and tools that I’ve used in this experiment in a second post, but there were a number of technical issues that I came across. Mostly these were to do with incompatibility between my iPad and my employer’s systems. Suffice to say a smooth interface between office systems and mobile ones is needed to really make going paperless work properly.

3) Report Reading. This is probably the most straightforward part of going paperless, and just like an ebook really. Simply transfer the document across to the iPad and away you go. I saved many pages of paper by not printing reports, instead electing to read them via the iPad.

4) Report Commenting. Very often I’m sent reports for comment or approval. I found this easier to do in front of a regular computer than on the iPad, but when I was travelling for extended periods, was able to mark up reports with a stylus and then transfer those comments across when convenient. Just a side note here though; no matter how good your stylus, it’s pretty difficult to mark up a document neatly on a train – too much movement!

5) Email. No problem here. With both my work and personal emails synced to my iPad, reading and replying without the need to print any emails was simple. Attachments on some of my work emails didn’t work properly, but again this was a system issue.

6) Note-taking. This is probably where I had the biggest issues with going paperless. Not with the note-taking itself. Either typewritten or handwritten (using a stylus) notes were no problem, but the limitation with having several reference documents for a meeting on the iPad, and then trying to take notes on the same device became tricky. The only real way around it ended up being to have the reference documents on my iPad, and take notes in a conventional notepad.

After a couple of months of my going paperless experiment, it still seems to be going well. I’m carrying less paper around with me on a day-to-day basis, and I can see this being a long term arrangement. In my next post I share share some of the apps and tools I used in going paperless.

You can take a peek into what else is in Alan’s work bag in our What’s in Your Bag? series. And find out more about Alan’s dogs, books and his crime fiction on his blog

Posted in: Technology

3 Comments on "Ever thought of going paperless?"

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  1. Dragos says:

    Hello Alan! Thank you for sharing your experiment with us- I see myself in it – I try to give up paper as well- and, just like you, at a point I ended up still using a notebook for planing my daily activities- though I work with a tablet and I find it a lot more effective, I still have such a great feeling when I cross off my list all the task I had planned for the day. I think people should insist giving up paper as much as possible- in schools, offices- in the end it is quite a waste of resources and it would not do any harm to go a little more green!

  2. Hi Alan,
    Well done for taking up the challenge. I think for most of us ‘less paper’ rather than ‘paperless’ is what we should be aiming for. With a little thought and willingness we can all make improvements.
    I look forward to your further blogs.

  3. Alan says:

    Dragos – in the days of my paper
    to-do list I used to use a red marker to tick of the jobs done. Something very satisfying about a big red tick to indicate a task successfully complete.

    Marion – totally paperless is quite hard, but with planning not impossible, and with modern technology, there’s no reason not to.