The office I currently work in is paperless, in theory. There are still printers, and occasionally you see people taking notes the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. But digital is encouraged over analogue. From an environmental perspective, this is really good. Less trees required. Not to mention less of all the side effects usually associated with the paper production, delivery and recycling process. As someone who is actively trying to live with less things, and to create less waste, I have embraced a paperless existence wholeheartedly. Oh wait, that was not me!
I am actually writing this by hand, on a notepad. Well, the first version anyway. Obviously at some point I typed it up on my computer, so I could share it here. I have taken up a habit of writing a couple of pages by hand every couple of days. I write whatever comes to mind. I would not necessarily want to read it, but I enjoy the creative and analogue process of letting my thoughts flow freely onto the page. For some reason, it would not be the same to do this on the computer.
So why do I like to jot things down by hand? It seems silly, it wastes resources and I usually do not even re-visit any of my scribbles. Is it simply habit? When I started school there was one computer between two classes, and it was used only occasionally for research projects (and games, of course). Is it that words or numbers or doodles in a notepad are clearly in draft form, whereas the same on a screen feels very “final version”? Brainstorming in a notepad or on a whiteboard is “meant to” reflect out of the box thinking, whereas typed words are not. Or is it that logic in a word document or in a spreadsheet can be more easily sense-checked written down (or printed out) on a piece of paper?
For me, I expect it is a combination of all these reasons. I am definitely partial to creating and problem solving by hand, at least in part. As a child, I had my parents re-purpose an old six person dining table as my desk, so that it would fit all my stationary and various half-finished “projects”. I would write stories, draw or paint, and re-organise my bedroom furniture to scale on graph paper. At that time, digital was not something I was very aware of. I would type up some of my homework and chat to my friends on the computer, and obviously text them once I got my hands on a mobile phone.
These days, I embrace the benefits of going digital: It allows us to edit and automate information, and also to organise and store information in a completely different way. We can use tools which are simply not available in the same way in an analogue world, like editing or even creating photos, videos and music. We can do complicated calculations and calibrations which would take forever and a day by hand. We can re-visit information at the click of a button. I love a good app, I store (almost) all my filing digitally, and I often formalise my more complex problem solving (for work, and in my personal life) in excel. Handmade scrapbooks are a thing of the (or my, anyway) past: I now use online based programs to make photo books which can be edited and printed in several copies. In many aspects of my life I am actually pretty close to paperless.
What about reading? Going paperless is not just about what we create, but also about what we consume. Can we read a 100 page report on the screen, or a book for that matter? Some people swear by their digital reading device. I prefer the real deal, especially after working in front of a screen all day. To avoid waste in this department I mostly borrow books from the library. When it comes to work, I also prefer to print, to give my eyes a rest and because it seems to be easier to pick up spelling mistakes on paper. But I try to be mindful about how much I print, and if it needs to be in color. It should obviously always be double-sided.
Finally, digital versus analogue when it comes to friends and family? Is a hand-written birthday card delivered in person or in the mail different from a text message with the same content? The effort (and money) involved in buying a card and getting it to its recipient is greater, but chances are the card ends up in the recycling bin a few days later (with a twinge of guilt). I lean towards analogue in this context, but not necessarily in the sense of sending Hallmark cards. Rather, tell the birthday boy or girl your message in person, or over the phone. Not everything needs to be written down.
Have you embraced a paperless existence? Why? And do you find it aids or stifles (or both!) your creativity, productivity and relationships?