If Sherlock Holmes lived in a paperless world, he might have said,
When you have tried to eliminate all paper, whatever remains, however improbable, must be useful.
In the years that I have been on this journey to go paperless, I’ve found that there is some paper that, no matter how much I’d like to get rid of it, I still find useful. In the last year or so, two types of paper have managed to survive, and recently, I have given up trying to get rid of them. Like a virulent strain of bacteria, these have survived my attempt to banish them, only to come back stronger.
As I have often emphasized in these posts, going paperless is an ongoing and evolving process. I will never be completely paperless until the rest of the world is completely paperless–something I very much doubt I will see in my lifetime. Going paperless means process the paper I do get, and minimizing the paper I use, but there are still a few places where I find paper useful.
1. Moleskine notebooks
In the last few months my primary method for taking notes has reverted to paper. I use an Evernote Moleskine notebook to take notes in meetings, and on phone calls1. If I watch a video on YouTube, I’ll jot the notes down in my Moleskine. I’ve found a renewed fondness for scratching out the notes with a pen on paper, but it is not this fondness that drives my use of the notebook: it’s my memory.
I have found that, as I’ve grown older, I remember things far better if I write them down as opposed to typing them out. I’d read articles that discussed how handwriting had good cognitive benefits, but until I tried it myself, I wasn’t convinced. Of course, it could entirely be a placebo effect, but I feel like I better remember my notes when I write them out in a notebook, than when I type them via a keyboard2 Actually, this makes sense. Back in college, I wrote all my notes for lectures and reading in a notebook, and on later typed them into Microsoft Word 5.5. for DOS3. I was younger, but writing the notes, followed by typing cemented them in my mind.
Getting my handwritten notes into Evernote
Just because I’m writing the notes in a notebook doesn’t mean they don’t find their way into Evernote. I use Evernote’s Scannable app on my iPhone to pull my handwritten notes into Evernote. Here is the same page of notes from above captured in Scannable:
When these notes are pulled into Evernote, they look like this:
And, it just so happens that my handwriting is clear enough (and Evernote is smart enough) that my handwritten notes are pretty much searchable the way they would be if I had typed them at the keyboard. For instance, if I search for the word “margins”, you can see that Evernote finds them in my scanned notes, despite my handwriting, and highlights them in the document.
I’ve also recently found myself reverting from type when it comes to newspapers, and occasionally magazines. While I have access to the Washington Post online, I find that after spending most of my day reading off a screen, I want to spend some time away from the screen. So in the mornings, I’ve been reading the Post in its traditional format–paper. And not just any paper, but good old-fashioned newsprint.
I find this relaxing, and less of a strain on my eyes. It gives me at least a little bit of time early in the day to read without reading off a screen. For the rest of the day, I will read email, documents, code, presentations, forms, social media, blogs, and articles off a screen. But I’ve come to find this time early in the day reading off paper to be relaxing, and enjoyable.
If I come across an article in the Post that I want to annotate, or share, then I jump online, and clip the article into Evernote using Evernote’s web clipper.
The same is true with magazines. While I get all of my magazines in electronic format (via Apple’s Newsstand), I relax before bed by reading the paper version of the magazine. By avoiding screen time just before bed, I sleep better, too.
Most of my life is paperless, and is better for it. I can do things more efficiently. I have access to all of my information at my fingertips, no matter where I am. I can share information with those who need it quickly and easily. But there are a few places where, as improbable as it may seem, I still find paper to be useful. And I suspect that I always will.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.
Last week’s post: Add link