Paperless wins and near disaster

Stepping into the Anywhere Workplace, Part 1
January 22, 2016
Stepping into the Anywhere Workplace, Part 2
January 29, 2016

Paperless wins and near disaster

So the third full week of becoming paperless was a test of my patience and resolve.

It wasn’t a complete and unmitigated disaster, but pretty close.

The Wins

First, the wins. As mentioned in my post last week, my first task was to successfully set up a number of mechanisms to capture information electronically. My first cut at it:

  1. Moved my fancy Moleskin notebook into note software. It was a tough choice of platform. I have Evernote hanging around on my PC and iPhone and actually had some notes in it, but I eventually settled on Microsoft OneNote. More on that choice in a future article.
  2. Went through my two linear feet of binders and pulled out those sections for which I didn’t have an electronic copy file somewhere. This turned out to be 1.3 mm of paper. A reduction of paper from 609.6 mm down to 1.3 mm. Scanned the 1.3 mm of paper into electronic form and filed it away on our server. Recycled the rest of the paper, filling two shredding bins in about ten minutes. Made the empty binders available to the paper-hoarding barbarians in the office. Awesome. Purely awesome.
  3. Ignored the receipts and forms littering my office. I will deal with that later. Not really a win, but I am picking my battles.
  4. Decided to capture my meeting agendas, minutes, and reports on the server – and make them available to me at my offsite meetings using cloud sync software. This is definitely a work in progress and I will write on this, once I have it all figured out, in a future article.
  5. Subscribed to four magazines electronically. There are two front-runners in digital magazines: Texture by Next Issue, and Zinio. I love subscription stuff, but Texture didn’t have all of the speciality magazines that I enjoy. Went with Zinio. Testing underway.
  6. Books were a no-brainer. I have been on an e-book platform for four years. I chose the Amazon Kindle platform as they had the best distribution of titles and the best devices at the time. Kobo is an alternative. Bought a book from my bedside just to celebrate a tried-and-tested paperless solution to a large paper-consumption problem. Took further abuse from my wife and kids who contend that e-books aren’t really books. They say you need to feel the pages and smell the ink. Sheesh. At least I can buy a book in my pajamas.
  7. E-tickets were easy to get from Ticketmaster online, but hard to show at the gate. Will need to figure this one out. Have rejected using electronics for greeting cards and thank-you notes, either incoming or outgoing. Something needs to be sacred. Right?

The Disaster (or very close to)

I trusted none of it. I printed more paper this week than I have in months.

OK, maybe that is a bit harsh. I trusted some of it. I trusted that I could take notes, read magazines, and catch up on my books – all electronically. That was about it.

Monday, in preparation for an important off-site board meeting, I printed 38 pages of agendas, minutes, reports, presentations, and supporting documents. Just to be safe.

I feared that I was going to struggle getting access to my files at the off-site location. What if there was limited or spotty Wi-Fi? What if our server connection was down? What if the system had failed to synchronize? How can I rely on electronic versions when our gadgets and networks are so unreliable?

Those are the questions. What was the answer?

Paper was the answer. And it really hurt. Failure right out of the gate.

And then to add insult to injury, on Tuesday I printed my tickets to the game. Just to consume another four pages of tree and be sure that I would successfully get through the turnstile at the gate.

By Wednesday I was about to throw in the towel, convinced that I could not go paperless. It seemed impossible.

So I committed to getting a small win. I committed to getting through my two end-of-week meetings paperless. No paper. None. Just for two small meetings.

So on Thursday I spent a few hours learning about how to file documents into my note software, and how to make that information truly available on all of my devices. Using OneNote, I did the following tasks to prepare for the meetings:

  1. I created a meeting page under the client’s tab in my Clients notebook.
  2. I dragged the “agenda” PDF file onto the page, and had it paste as a printout so that I could see the contents without having to open it.
  3. I dragged the supporting material onto the page as well, but pasted it as a document, not a printout. This saved real estate on the note, but it meant that I needed to click the document open if I wanted to see the content.
  4. I made some notes of points that I wanted to cover during the meeting.
  5. I left some space for my own summary notes and to-do’s coming out of the meeting.

On Friday, a win! I attended two client meetings fully loaded with all of the documents, notes, and supporting material that I needed – all electronically. Not a scrap of paper. No interim printouts that would be recycled once the meeting was over. No paper on which to scribble notes. Everything digital.

And it worked!

The upside was that I had everything organized in front of me on the screen. I could flip open a document on a moment’s notice. The downside was that I had my laptop open on the table throughout the whole meeting. Some people consider this bad form.

It also took some real preparation and thinking time beforehand to get everything ready.

So, for next week, a couple of things to wrestle to the ground:

  1. What makes a better meeting device than a laptop – can a tablet do the job?
  2. How do I get access to the full suite of historical documents back at the office – terabytes worth of information that I cannot “sync” to my computer, but might need on the fly?
  3. What to do when there is no Wi-Fi or cell coverage?

The journey continues.