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Cutting Paper Cold Turkey

Hello, my name is Marko and I used to have a pack a month habit.  Sorry I meant to say ream a month habit.  But this summer two events merged and I found myself quitting paper cold turkey.  First my home office shrank and then I joined Hyland.  Hyland was my tipping point.  You see hyland is a paper-free office.  Well not exactly, as in my building we do have a printer shared by over 300 people.  I found the one on the first floor, prominently positioned in the middle of the office so everyone can see your walk of shame to collect your print job.  Honest it was just a boarding pass.  My airline is not ticketless.   (I’m glad I’ve never needed to copy something, as rumors are the one copier in the building is in front of the CEO’s office.)  So began my journey to paperless.

 Creating Paper

I knew I had a problem when I noticed all the paper I was creating.  Need to jot something down, grab a piece of paper.  Need to copy some information into a report, print the screen.  I even used paper to tape paper receipts to organize them.  I had stacks of notebooks, partially filled, with research notes of one topic or another.  Sometimes the paper lives would be short-lived for me, like in the case of customer procedures manuals or copies of sample documents.  But I would always find a few on those occasions when I would reorganize.

Being one of the Big Men on Content, I should know that paper is a bad habit.  But now as no one at work uses paper, I really did not have much of a choice but to cut paper.  Fortunately peer pressure made cutting paper easier.  Finding a pad of paper for notes was not easy.  But I did have OneNote on my desktop.  So now my notepads are gone.  I often wondered why if electronic copies of my receipts were good enough for my employer, why should I keep them.  Seeing a coworker take a picture of his receipts with a mobile device and then throw the paper away was refreshing.  I had been offered a 3-in-1 device for my home.  With customer paper, I scan them in and share them with my team.  Then destroy my copy.  Dual screens keep me from having to copy down notes to use in my work.  I keep the source or reference on one screen and work on the other.  Creating paper has become a thing of the past.  I even found a mobile app that allows me to use my iPad as a second monitor. 

Hoarding Paper

The extent of my addiction to paper became evident when I moved my home office.  It was then that I realized that I was a paper hoarder.  I had boxes of old bank statements, expense reports, credit card and utility bills.  I also had boxes of magazines, articles, and brochures on my hobbies, home improvement projects and, of course, content management.  A newspaper columnist once wrote, but Baz Luhrmann in the song “Everybody ‘s Free (to wear Sunscreen)” recited it better, “Keep your old love letters.  Throw away old bank statements.”  The extremes of my addiction showed its ugly face when I found a a box of bills from six years ago, before I had moved across country.

To me accumulating paper was psychological.   I was worried about “what if I need this again, someday.”  But now I’ve changed that and I asked myself “do I need to keep this on paper?”  First I switched to all electronic billing and statements.  I some cases I take the time to reformat the data into something I can use.  For instance, I created my own Excel database to track frequent flyer points.  If I find an article in a magazine that I want to keep, I look to see if I can find it on-line and bookmark it.  I don’t worry about it being removed on-line as I can usually find the page again with the WaybackMachine.  If I can’t find the article,  I scan it and shred it.  I stopped getting paper magazines and signed up for Zinio, an “any device” magazine solution.   I’ve also played with iOS Newsstand.  I’m still on the border with eReaders. I buy few new books unless it for a collection, like my Finnish emigration research.

The amount of paper I keep and how long I keep it has radically changed.  That has evolved back into my daily worklife.  How do I better take notes electronically?  Can I get digital copies of documents rather than paper from clients?

The Paperless Office Works

I’ve seen mentions in the past few months about startups that are paperless.  It’s really not hard to have a paperless office when you only have a couple dozen employees.  At almost 2,000 employee Hyland is not a startup and paperless is working here.

Paperless is a cultural thing.  I think that corporate culture evolves, rather than changes.  Going paperless is not an overnight solution.  There are no hypnosis tapes, gums, or patches to quell the need for paper.  I’ve discovered the first step is it takes motivation to adopt to new technologies and barriers to the old.  As I learn the other steps I plan to share them here.

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