Alternatives to Paper

It looks like, with improving technology, it’s approaching the end of the road for paper. And so what a relief this article was to me – after my rant about snail mail it’s plain my stance on old-hat methods of getting things done is not favourable.

While I haven’t quite decided to go entirely paperless as yet, I regard paper as a hindrance to getting things done effectively and efficiently. Among other inefficiencies: it’s not searchable, it takes up huge amounts of space (I have one year’s work filling about 10 lever arch files which span half the width of my wall), it gets lost, it’s not easy to back up, it requires one to write which is slower than typing, it’s not interactive, it wastes resources, and it’s a pain to edit.

So it seems to me that as close as possible to paperless, using technology as a helping hand, is the way to go for the sake of sanity. Therefore, for anyone who happens to be striving for sanity, I have summarised here some ideas which are easily (and relatively painlessly) incorporated into everyday life:

Notes

Whenever possible, take notes on a laptop or some electronic device (preferably one which is easy to type on). If that fails and written notes are an absolute necessity, type it up as soon as possible afterwards, or scan it in and use something like Evernote to make it text-searchable – that way you don’t get a huge backlog of stuff that needs scanned.

Also, instead of using random scraps of paper to write reminders, use a file called todo.txt on the desktop to replace post-its stuck to the monitor with a text file. Again, Evernote can be utilised to a similar effect.

Bank statements

I had piles of these and felt obliged to keep them, just in case some hugely unlikely catastrophe occurs at the bank and they lose details of my account balance, and for some bizarre reason accept a statement as proof that I had £xyz in my account (however un-photoshopped it might look). So don’t be like me – switch to online banking and be sure to opt for electronic statements!

Letters and receipts

I’m talking here about receipts for online shopping rather than till receipts (which I normally throw away unless it’s a warranty). Like notes, scan them as soon as they arrive, file them electronically using some sensible organisation (of course using OCR for text-searchability), then shred them immediately afterwards (Unless of course they’re important legal stuff or something), thus forcing the exclusive use of the electronic copy, thus relieving any stress as to where to file the paper copy. After all you could always print them again if necessary.

Of course, paper can be useful for certain occasions – writing letters for instance – which is why I explicitly haven’t given up on it; after all, things like drawing diagrams are much easier. However with the rise of handheld devices equipped with styluses, I hope to see the use of paper decline and more useful technological alternatives being used.

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3 Responses to Alternatives to Paper

  1. Alex Muller says:

    Your comment about paperless statements just gave me the push necessary to sign in to online banking and switch over. Thanks :)

    I’m looking at getting a scanner with a sheet feeder so that I can get as much stuff into my computer as quickly as possible, but they’re all fairly expensive.

  2. Vivan Jayant says:

    I already do all my banking online, I’ve stopped the monthly bank statements service. I take all but my maths notes online simply because maths requires stuff that is faster by hand than on a computer (if you want it to be easily readable). I don’t use paper. I do however have all my paper from the 4th-6th form strewn around my room.

  3. […] school paper documents Following on from my ideas about going paperless, here is how I organise all the many sheets of paper I receive daily at school in preparation for […]

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