Going Paperless

I’ve decided to begin a new series on the joys of living a life devoid of dead trees. It’s an area I have intense passion about and it’s one that I happen to be somewhat on the cutting edge of, which I find surprising given the number of nerds I live around.

Paper is so straightforward for people, and that makes it incredibly difficult to want to give up. Paper is so simple. If you’re one of the (many) people who needs convincing that it’s worth going paperless, I can’t help you. Perhaps through reading my examples you’ll see how it will improve your life, but it’s nigh impossible for me to lay out in a concrete fashion the advantages of going paperless. It’s a liberating experience, but it’s not exactly something I can make a bullet list of. It’s a bit like an Apple product in that sense.

It’ll be another decade or so before I can be living a life where I’m not given things on paper whatsoever, but some time ago I did realize that I can take control of what I do with the paper I have, and I’ve decided that I’m going to get rid of it when at all possible. This can’t be done with quite everything (my original car title is probably one of those documents that’s a keeper) but it can be done with enough that I make a meaningful dent in the junk paper documents I keep around.

If you want to get a start on a paperless life, there are a few things you need:

  • A computer
  • Some portable device that you’re likely to always have with you (a laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.)
  • A scanner (not needed, but it helps) (I use Doxie myself, but it’s not mind blowing, so shop around)
    • You need some software things as well. There are two pieces of software/web services that I find indispensable to my paperless workflow, Dropbox and Evernote. I sure have had my share of complaints about Evernote, but on the whole it’s the only note and snippet management system that meets all of my needs well.

      Other things you’ll want to have are an email service with a capacity that doesn’t require you to ever worry about deleting things. Gmail’s good but most email providers do a good job of this too. One of my tenets of being paperless is to never delete anything. You’ll also want a reliable internet connection and preferably a 3G internet connection that you take with you at all times. If you’re out talking to a colleague and they ask if you have that document you promised you’d give them, it’s awkward to not be able to give it to him just because you have no connection to your documents.

      Dropbox isn’t a necessary tool in adopting a paperless life, but using it goes hand in hand with a paperless lifestyle. You want to be living in a mode where you can leave the house with just your phone or iPad or laptop or whatever and be confident that if you are stopped on the street and asked for some random document, you’ve got it. Being paperless means you always have all your documents with you at all times because you never have to make the choice of which ones to put in your bag.

      Given the above tools you can begin your new life, liberated from the tyranny of paper. These are far from being the only tools out there and you may find that a whole different set of software and hardware tools works better for you. It’s all highly personal, but I can only speak from my own experience and what works for me. Get these tools and try them out (all the software stuff can be tried for free). See how they might fit into your life. In the next post, I’ll begin discussing how to actually form the habits you need to form to make being paperless a natural part of your life.

      Peace out. Namaste.

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