Top tips for working paper free

In the office environment, you may think paper use is unavoidable. It is universally identified in green offices as a waste stream and a KPI to manage, either in number of sheets, kilograms or tonnes use. However, with today’s technologies it is possible to go paper free. Here, a green office champion from a CitySwitch signatory organisation shares her top eight tips for going paper free.

1. Teach yourself to read online

This is really important. I think most people try to read something online once, decide it’s too hard and give it up as a bad idea. My ten-year-old daughter can read online because it’s something she’s grown up doing. For us more mature folks, it’s going to take training. I’m proof that an old dog can learn new tricks; it’s just a matter of practice.

I think it probably took me about three months before I was really comfortable reading online but now I do everything on the screen. Remember all those “think before you print” messages you see on other people’s emails? Well change that to “don’t print, don’t print, don’t print” and you’re halfway there

2. Get an ergonomic assessment

How will that help you go paper free? Well, it won’t but it will make sure you don’t hurt yourself using your computer more than you might have otherwise. Safety first, applies to sitting as well much as to activity. As we learn more about ergonomics some office workers are shifting to standing desks and other techniques to avoid long periods in one position.

3. Get an electronic device

I may seem obvious, but it really is essential. If you’re going to create a paperless office, you really do need something else instead and that means coming to terms with the main features of smart devices.

I don’t think it matters much what kind of device you use, but I use an iPhone and an iPad for my daily documentation. Whether you choose a tablet, Apple or Android platforms is not so important so long as you can make lists, write documents and keep things in the one place. These tips are mostly going to refer to iPhone/iPad though, because that’s what I have first-hand experience with.

4. Think about a keyboard

Depending on how much typing you’re going to do and what sort of device you’re using, consider investing in the right gear to make your life easier. For example, I use an iPhone with a case (made from recycled bottles) that has a built in stand and an Apple Mac wireless bluetooth keyboard. Definitely makes things easy and is a talking point, reminiscent of something from Star Trek.

5. Get some apps

Ok, we’ve got a device, we can read online and we’re safe. Now the fun part - the next few tips are about what I think are the essential apps for being able to work paper free. Of course, you’ve still got all your desktop/laptop software (Outlook, Word, Excel) as well, so don’t forget to use them.

5.1 To-do lists

One type is Todoist, which can be used on the desktop as well as syncing it to your device. It’s easy to use, free, and just really clean and simple. 

5.2 Notes

Another essential tool. Even if you have nothing else on your device you really need a good list app and a good note taking app. There are hundreds out there to choose from but my favourite is definitely MentalNote. Mental NoteLite is a free version so you can try it out before you decide if you want to upgrade to the full version. In MentalNote you can make notes using typing, “writing” on the screen with a choice of colours and pen thicknesses, you can add photos or voice recordings. That makes it a really powerful, useful tool. You can also tag your notes to help organise them.

5.3 Word processing

You may not need to do word processing, but I promise you’ll be popular if you go to a meeting, take notes and then email them to everyone before you even leave the room. You have a choice of Mac or PC and whichever you go with you can send the documents to yourself to open in Word on your PC. Pages is the Mac version of Word and it’s clean and easy to use. DocumentsToGo will give you the option to create Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents but it costs a lot more.

6. More fun and lifestyle apps

There’s another large range of productivity apps out there that make life easier and fun and will leave you wondering what on earth you did before you had a smart phone. My must haves are (in no particular order):

Endomundo – this free app is great for cyclists and runners. You can map and follow routes, get data on your times, share routes, see what friends are up to and more.

ScanBizCardsLite – an excellent tool for getting rid of all those pesky business cards that clutter up your desk and giving you a clean, beautiful virtual rolodex instead. It’s also free.

CardsWithMe – a similar tool as for business cards but this one is for your rewards or loyalty cards with stores.

Yammer – so you can keep up with your work Yammer feed, of course!

TripView – for Sydney residents, this is simply one of the most amazing apps ever. It’s definitely worth paying for the full version but it does come in a Lite version as well. Helps you plan your travel on public transport in Sydney and it’s much more user-friendly than the official website trip planner.

iBooks – Not only can your device be a DVD player, torch, alarm clock, spirit level, ipod, lightsaber (yes, I have it), game centre, still camera, video camera, rolodex, newspaper, magazine, calculator, work tool, weather forecaster, gateway to social networks, bank and much more, it’s also a book with a built in night light! Not to mention a phone. I’ve been working my way through the entire Sherlock Holmes adventures for the last year on and off – and it was free!

7. Throw out all your paper

You can read online, you have a PC/laptop and a mobile device with everything on it to keep you organised, including all your contacts and business cards. Now it’s time to throw away all that paper that’s holding you back! You don’t need it, I promise and you will feel so liberated once your desk is clean and you are free to work anywhere you like. I hope this means I don’t get a rash of complaints from managers whose staff are all working from their local pool or beach. If it’s important, scan it, save it, save it on your workplace’s secured shared drives it and then chuck. And DON’T PRINT it in the first place.

8. Enjoy your life paper free and bask in the glow of the trees and their stored you’re saving.


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