why the paperless office doesn’t work for everyone

For years, we’ve been hearing about how the paperless office is the future. Now that we have tablets, the future has clearly arrived. Quick. Throw out the paper. Actually, hold on for a second.

Different people have different work styles. For some, a paperless office is great. For others, not so much. Let’s look at a few valueable uses of paper.

Notes while coding
Personally, I like to make notes while coding. Ideas of things I still need to do. Stray thoughts. Anything. This is very transient information.

Some I could put into //TODO s in Eclipse. Some are better free form. Some are just stray thoughts that I can’t put into Eclipse because I don’t want to break flow.

We only have so much screen space. Some things, like the Java Docs, are great to have on screen.

Others, like learning a new technology from a book, can be nice to have on the table next to you. That also allows me to take notes (in the book) while writing.

I’ve seen teammates do the same with “how to” wiki pages they were unfamiliar with.

When I proofread, I do a mix of on my iPad and printed. I try to do a final read on printed paper. I find more errors that way.

I read a study that indicated there is actually some science to this.

Spatial memory
I use where information lies on the page as spatial memory. That way I can train my brain to location and not just data.

For example, when I’m giving a presentation I always print the slides and run through them in my hand. That extra tactial/spatial info helps me retain it better.

To do lists
My “master” to do list has been electronic for years. I do keep micro “to do” lists on paper though.

They are half baked thoughts of things that I am doing today. Or maybe a tiny piece of a task. Or what I am up to when getting up to take a break.

What do you do when your laptop freees/crashes? (Thank you Windows. It is 2015 and I still need to have a plan for what to do when you freeze.)

I go to my paper at that point while I wait for the computer to get back to me. I can organize my thoughts on paper. Or read something I have printed.

The same holds from when I call the help desk and they are using my computer. I don’t have dead time with some paper around.

I’m not saying everyone needs paper. Just that I think we are a far way from getting of paper completely.

I do try to recycle. I use the backs of paper that served another purpose for my notes. And I print 2 pages to a side in Word or PowerPoint when reviewing. Trying to balance saving trees and productivity.

The e-office of the future is great. Maybe we will get there one day.

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