I’ve operated under a personal limited paper use policy for the last couple years. I don’t use much paper and most of the paper littering my desk has been given to me from some committee or meeting. It sits in useless piles for a few months until I get up the nerve to use it as scratch paper and finally it is recycled. If it is particularly important, its fate is a trip through the scanner and then on to the scratch paper bin. After a few years practice, I can say with certainty that I don’t miss paper. In fact, paper makes me nervous. Where do I put it? How will I find it? Do I have room for it? How many times should I use it before I recycle it? I like electronic files. They are neat, don’t cause clutter, are easy to search for, easy to organize and backing them up does not require much extra physical space.
So in an effort to help you think about not using paper like I do, here are some methods I use.
1. Where will this paper end up when I’m done with it? If the answer is in the garbage or recycle bin, in the deep dark dungeon of a folder or a file cabinet never to be seen again, or on the floor of my car passenger seat, I stop and don’t print.
2. How will the paper be used? The only paper I print is paper that will be used more than once and in which the content on it is worth pinning up next to a computer or referring back to every now and then. Believe me, it is uncommon for content to be that important.
- I don’t print out handouts for meetings, they will be filed or end up in the car passenger seat. Instead, an electronic classroom or projector handles these details just fine. I post the files on MyBC or email the files out ahead of time for personal use as needed. When attending meetings, I request electronic copies of files and forgo handouts.
- For meetings, I don’t print out agendas. They will be thrown away. Why keep an agenda? If anyone has a good reason, let me know. Really, I don’t know. The agenda can be projected on screen or written on a whiteboard. Done. The agenda is archived in the program MyBC site for future reference as needed.
- In the classroom, I use the whiteboard for agendas. I teach the students to use USB drives. The projectors display most of the information students need and any handouts can be distributed on MyBC for future use.
- I use a netbook connected to campus wireless so I can take my handouts and notes with me everywhere. It is amazing how many times I’ve been able to recall documents for use from MyBC, email, google some information, or recall a website or document necessary for the meeting that wasn’t printed out ahead of time.
- A blackberry or email enable PDA is also a handy device for quickly recalling emails and not printing them out.
3. Do I want to take notes on this? A sticky situation is when I have a document that I want to take notes on. Yes, I still have to fight the urge to print it out and scribble on it. But again, these drafts only end up in the recycle bin, wasted and wasteful. With a little discipline, research and practice, I’ve found and use many methods to help me.
- Track Changes. I use track changes in Microsoft Word to edit Word documents. This handy tool will track all my edits and let me go back over and over through them until the document is perfect. It will let me see the final and drafts simultaneously. It lets me accept and reject changes to my document as I write and allows me to track changes with multiple users.
- Adobe Acrobat . Splurging a little on this software allows me to take notes on PDFs in Adobe Reader. I can use digital sticky notes, highlight, copy and paste information and screen shots and generally reorganize the information so that it makes sense to me. I can also print documents to PDF using it. This is a handy way to avoid printing websites or invoices. If the cost is prohibitive a cheaper option is Foxit Reader
- Rename Documents. If I am trying to classify or rate documents, like resumes for example in which I need to distinguish those to interview and those that I don’t, I make digital piles by renaming the files. Right click on the file and choose rename or just hit F2 on the keyboard, and I simply insert the word YES at the beginning of the file name, MAYBE or NO. A simple windows sort and I can easily find which candidates to call.
- Create Folders and Use Them. File Management is key to successful paperless lifestyle. I suggest a simple start and don’t be afraid to modify as needed. Within a Bellevue College folder, create a folder for each class, type of meeting or committee. Within each folder create subfolders for each meeting. Use descriptive file names and get familiar with Windows search in case you can’t remember where you placed that file.
- Have a back up plan and regularly back up your files.
- Tile Windows. If you have a large screen set at a high resolution it is easy to display two windows or applications side by side. This is helpful when you want to compare documents or make notes on one document while reading the other. Just right click on the task bar (the bar at the bottom of the Windows screen) and choose Show Windows Side by Side.
What methods do you use to forego printing?
by Marika Reinke
Last Updated September 25, 2014