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Is Paperless Possible?

Jemini Dalal
about 5 years ago by Leah Miller

Is Paperless Possible?

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“One man’s attempt to park the post-its, bin the biros and save the polar bears…

As a millennial, I am supposed to be digitally native.  I am meant to run a mile from real diaries and wired mice.  Having recently ordered a luxury Rolodex off eBay as a treat, I fall horribly short of the millennial ideal.

Much of my day-to-day work is done on post-it notes and on the backs of receipts (if you go for a long lunch, it is possible to get a good 30cm of writing material).  These bits of paper – for some unfathomable reason – often get mistaken for rubbish by the office cleaner and destroyed.  In my defence, the guaranteed destruction makes for an approach that is extremely compliant with data protection regulation, although HR currently refuse to accept this.

So as an unreconstructed millennial, I have set myself the challenge of going paper free for a week.  This is the story of one man’s attempt to park the post-its, bin the biros and avail himself of A4

Day One

Today was a Sunday, so the only real challenge has been the crossword.  I could erase embarrassing errors with ease, and was able to send a screenshot of tough clues to my Dad.  Most importantly, the nifty side-by-side multitasking on iPad allowed me to solve and cheat in seamless synchrony.

Paperless 1:0 Old School

Day Two
When people talk about the Cloud, I generally respond as I do to mechanics when they refer to car parts, by nodding and vacantly ‘mmm’ing agreement.  Managing files in the Cloud is a Black Art.  I spent most of today confused about what would land in my iCloud Drive and missing a ‘Save As’ button.

The major win for paperless today was in releasing me from the daily battle with a printer.  Loathsome things, I can never persuade a printer that it has ink (even when I’ve just replaced the cartridge) or to take paper from the tray with paper in it.

No more paper means no more printers.

Paperless 2:0 Old School

Day Three

Day three began with a session at Apple on how to ‘power my workday’ with iPad.  Totally free, bring-your-own-iPad tuition.  Apple run courses like this country-wide on all of their tech, including a regular session on programming Sphero to navigate a maze, sadly for children.

The man at Apple gently explained that some of yesterday’s difficulties were due to my own ineptitude rather than technical incapability.  He recommended a range of good apps and tailored his talk around my workflow.

That afternoon, I was pulling up handwritten notes on my computer, managing files in the Cloud with ease, and using software that could decipher even my scrawl.  In fact, today’s entry has been handwritten while stood up on the train.  A hands-down win for Paperless on workflow today.

Paperless 3:0 Old School

Day Four

Although in polite society it is considered rude to be on one’s phone in a meeting, I have discovered that no such taboo applies to being on a tablet – others just assume you’re being productive.

As I’ve never used a paper notebook that allows me to play Super Mario and come out of soporific meetings capable of coherent speech, today is a clear score for Paperless. However, it is important to always remember to put it on mute…

Paperless 4:0 Old School



Day Five

So far, Paperless has performed very well.  Meetings have been easier to prepare for, all of my notes have been in the same place, I can pick up work on my computer – the list goes on.

However, as smooth as the Apple Pencil is, it is no comparison against a Mont Blanc pen scratching across Smythson writing paper.  Video messages, personalised emojis, and other modern communicative innovations will always come second to the rich rustle of a tissue-lined envelope.  Sending letters also saves Postmen from complete obliteration, and a world without Postman Pat is too sad to bear.

Paperless 4:1 Old School

Day Six

Earlier in the paper-free week, I was sent the CV of an interviewee, which I duly reviewed and annotated.  Normally, I would have printed it off, made some scribbles and lost it.  Today, though, I was able to summon up my annotations through the wonderfully functional Word for iPad app and walk in prepared. 

This illustrates one of the key benefits of paperless life; it’s made me much better at staying on top of spinning plates.  I too often have ideas that I normally can’t record in the right place and as a paperless man, it has been easy to add those thoughts to previously-made notes.  The drawback of this is that many of my ideas would be better off forgotten. 

 Paperless 5:1 Old School


Day Seven

Headed off to the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race today, I thought it would be a nice idea to pop into my Club for a quick lunch.  It had quite slipped my mind, though, that Members are required to write their own bills in the Dining Room, which meant that for only the second time this week, I was forced to put pen to paper.

Today has to be a victory for Old School because although paperless is increasingly viable, a lot of the world is yet to catch up.

Paperless: 5:2 Old School

So is paperless possible?

I honestly didn’t expect that adjusting to paperless life would have come so easily to me, but it’s been perfectly possible with good hardware and increasingly functional apps.  After a week of rigorous assessment, Paperless beat Old School on 5 days, with Old School only clawing back 2 points. 

I am undeniably still enjoying the novelty, but there has been next to no faff to get files syncing nicely, multitasking on the iPad is a breeze and having all of my notes wherever I go has been hugely beneficial.  On the other hand, paper doesn’t run out of battery, and the wider world playing catch up can be a frustration. 

Essentially, though, if something eliminates both printing and filing, isn’t it worth a shot?  

Hardware: 10.5” iPad Pro, Apple Pencil & Logi ‘Slim Combo’ Case

Apps: Office Suite for iOS, iCloud Drive, Google Docs, MyScript Nebo, MyScript Stylus, Apple Notes

Credit – Jack Drury