Welcome to week #3 of Evernote’s 30-Day Paperless Challenge. By now you’ve probably gotten started and maybe you’ve even begun to organize your paperless life. Moving into week 3, you should have a pretty good process for getting rid of the paper that comes into your life. But what about producing paper? Every once-in-a-while, I find that I absolutely must print something out because it can’t be handled in digital form. Just this morning I had to print out my son’s school health entrance form because his school lost it the first time. They won’t take an electronic copy. Fortunately, I’d scanned it in and it took me 2 seconds to pull it up in a search. So today, I’ve got some tips for how to stop producing your own paper, once you’ve gone paperless.
Tip #1: Collect Instruction Manuals In Digital Format
One of the best time-saver’s I’ve had is getting all of the instruction manuals for various gadgets into digital format. Sometimes, I scan these in when I open the packaging, but more often I simply search for PDF versions of these instruction manuals online and then send them to Evernote. Here is typically what I do when something new comes in the house:
- Scan the instructions or pull the PDF into Evernote
- Tag the note with “manuals” so that I can easily pull them up in a saved-search.
- As I’m putting the thing together, I’ll add any other notes I might think useful to the Note containing the instruction manual so I have everything in one place.
- In some cases, create a QR-code for the Note Link in Evernote and paste that code on the device.
I’ve written about the last item in more detail in an earlier tip post, but it is great because it means I can get the instructions I need in context doing almost nothing. For example, if I can remember how to set the timer on my thermostat, I pull out my iPhone, scan the QR code I’ve pasted on the thermostat. That code is linked to the Note Link in Evernote, which pulls up the corresponding Note containing the instruction manual for my thermostat. I do this for other things too, and it is a big time-saver.
Having the manuals in digital format has been a godsend. So many kids toys these days require some assembly that I think I’d have a shelf full of paper if I didn’t digitize these manuals.
Tip #2: Make Visual Shopping Lists
I always forget what brand of an item I like. I really have to force myself to remember something. Of course, I no longer print out shopping lists when I go shopping. I used to have a single list in Evernote and used checkboxes to check my way through the list. I’ve recently made it a little more elaborate. Sometimes, my wife will tell me to buy a specific brand. What I do is take a picture of the item in question and make a note out of it. I then when I create my list, I will add note links to the item in question so that I can see what it looks like.
At the store, my list might look like this:
When I get to that “mulch” item in the store, I can click on the link and it takes me to the linked note:
So I can easily see what it is that I need to pick up. Also, I don’t have to print the list, I can just check boxes as I go along. And I’m not producing any new paper! Of course, this can be done with any type of list. You can collect pictures of books or movies or whatever and link them together into a single list note, or use a saved-search to collect multiple notes together in a single list.
Tip #3: Ask If You Can Send Digital
Sometimes, I need to provide a document to someone. These days, I always ask if I can send it to them electronically. We are in the process of refinancing our house and I asked our refinance person a couple of the usual questions and then I asked him the deal-breaker: “Can I send you all the documents electronically?” When he said, “Yes,” I was on board. And so far, I haven’t dealt with a single sheet of paper as part of the process.
There is a huge advantage to being able to send something electronically: you can do it instantly from virtually anywhere. There’s no paper produced in the process (at least, you aren’t producing any). And you can often impress people with how prepared you are. I was at a homeowner’s meeting once where the budget was going to be discussed, but the treasurer forgot to bring a copy of the current budget. I pulled out my iPad, and pulled up a copy of the budget from the last meeting and she was able to use that. The entire board seemed impressed.
I spent five days of this last week in Chicago for the 70th World Science Fiction Convention. Despite being a science fiction writer, I used no paper. I’d obtained all of the programming materials in digital format ahead of time. My boarding pass for my trip was on my iPhone. So was my hotel check-in. I just went up to a kiosk, scanned the bar code, and out popped my keys. In meetings with editors and agents and other professionals, I never needed paper. I had all of my contracts in digital form, accessible at my fingertips. I had samples of my work available. I even have electronic versions of my business cards, so that if I’m asked, I can say, “What’s your email address, I’ll send you a digital version.” If I received a receipt from a restaurant, I snapped a photo of it. And from the hotel, I asked them to email the receipt to me, which they did.
So these day, when I’m asked for (or asking for) something offered on paper, I almost always ask if it can be done in digital format. More often than not, it can.
Has anyone else discovered any tricks for producing less paper?
As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts are also available on Pinterest.