Go paperless – bring focus to your workplace

To start with : Don’t get me wrong. I love books and I sure do appreciate the quality and feel of a great print in my hands. This is for my private side. But this blog is about our professional lives, and if you’re someone who travels a lot or just appreciates the cleanliness of a tidy office place there are some huge benefits of going paperless. In this blog post I’m explaining my view on a paperless office space and how I’m organizing without (a lot of) paper.

1. Less stuff to carry and worry about

Let’s start with an easy to digest fact. No paper weighs less than some paper and some paper weighs less than lots of paper. In an office environment you might be moving around a lot and in an optimal paperless scenario that involves your laptop, smartphone and… yourself.

Imagine you have a day stuffed with meetings and obviously you need to prepare and have your notes ready before each of them. Doing this with written notes can be a mess if you’re proceeding through your day. Additionally, did you remember to bring all of your notes ? Did you bring a notebook to jot down additional stuff ?

Using tools like Evernote, OneNote, etc… is a huge benefit to your office life. Your notes will never get lost, there is endless space to add new ones, you can implement pictures, videos, voice memos, you name it. And they weigh nothing at all!

I personally use Evernote as my go-to place for my notes. Evernote has one huge benefit for me : i can shoot pictures of documents and Evernote will be able to search for any given word on that document, even if it is a handwritten one ! Try looking up keyword XYZ in your written notes from 2014!

2. FOCUS

If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know I’m all about focus. If you’re new to this, here’s your short TOP 5 to 200% more efficiency.

  1. Don’t multitask – ever.
  2. Shut down e-mail notifications on any device
  3. Disable any tones or noises you can influence during times you really need to concentrate
  4. Start your day with clear targets and end your day with a review of your accomplishments
  5. Utilize the 80/20 principle !

Go through my posts on Multitasking , „The productivity project““Deep Work” to read more on this and get some interesting inputs.

Now, where does a paperless office fit into this ?

Imagine sitting at your desk, working on that one important task you need to get done right now. You’re thinking about next steps, maybe you’re putting some deep thoughts into future strategies. Your eyes are wandering around the room looking at nothing specific and then they cross your recently jotted down notes – BOOM. Need to send your boss that one important piece of information he’s been asking about just 10 minutes ago.

This little interruption will put you seriously off track of efficiency. Science says it will take around 15-30 minutes to return to your original state of focus. This New York Times Article perfectly describes what happens . Small cause, big effect. Your brain will be seriously screwed by distractions like this, that directly start a chain of thinking processes.

3. Electronic Notes merge with our modern world

Chances are you’re using Microsoft Outlook in your office. Let’s go to a situation where you’re contributing to a specific project. Wouldn’t it be useful to have all important notes for this project at one place ? How would you do in case you don’t use electronic notes ?

Seriously, I have seen enough examples of people printing every single e-mail to a specific project and putting them into one specific folder with all the other notes they’ve been accumulating for this. And make no mistake : if you’re used to doing this, it will be quite efficient !

To me however it looks something like this

But it can be so much easier. Send an E-Mail to your Evernote, OneNote, Todoist, whatever account, tag it with the project name, add a couple of comments to it, maybe attach some to-do to it – done. You will be perfectly organized. And the best thing : it is everywhere! On your PC, on your Tablet, on your Smartphone.

A big portion of the route to effectiveness and efficiency is about having the resources to focus. Being able to store away every piece of information where it belongs and later being able to find it back is one huge leap forward in your journey to being more productive !

There’s an excellent book on this you can refer to :

It describes both the method to productivity, but also discusses the specific means to utilize this method in your daily work – it has changed my game !

Verdict

Personally, I go with a mix of paper and paperless. I like the calming effect of physically writing down my notes. It allows me to focus better on the matter and it is as though the words get a deeper meaning if i put them on paper. This would be notes on my goals for the day, notes on meetings upfront, etc..

However, after I finished noting the next step is to open up Evernote on my Smartphone and take a snapshot of the notes, aligning them to the specific project / task / topic and effectively throwing the paper away moments later.

There are people that do even this on a Tablet. They use tools like GoodNotes, OneNote or as well Evernote. It may be a hybrid between paper and paperless. I tried and decided I like the feel of a real pen better.

Again, productivity in the first place is what allows you to focus. It is focus that is missing for most people in today’s environment. It is the non-ability of getting into a flow state of mind and to really get into a task. Observe kids if you have some – they do every single thing they do with this flow state of mind. Try calling a kid playing with lego for dinner – no chance ! It is something we professionals have to learn again. If it’s your beloved filofax that does the trick for you – go ahead. But if you’re looking for truly integrated notes – go paperless !