Making an attempt to go paperless
I used to use a lot of paper. Working at a newspaper, I guess that’s not much of a surprise. But over the past few months, I’ve made a concerted — and mostly successful — effort to reduce how much paper I use.
I used to use at least a notepad a week taking notes for the various stories that I write. It was annoying too, because I often had several notepads going at one time, and would forget which notepad I had which notes in, causing me to spend extra time trying to find the information I was looking for.
I also ran into a frequent problem where I would have four or five sheets left at the end of the notebook. I knew that these weren’t enough pages for any significant notes, but I didn’t want to throw the notepad away and waste the paper. So one of two things would happen: I would either have seven or eight notepads lying around with only a couple pages left in them, taking up all kinds of space, or I would finally give in and throw them away, wasting paper in the process.
But several months ago, as part of our initiative to make our reporters mobile, we got laptop computers, and I discovered a program called Evernote. After using it for a few months, I don’t know how I managed to do this job without it. And I’ve probably saved a forest by now.
The best part about Evernote is it’s free. There is a paid version, but you only need that if you’re looking for special features. I’m planning on paying for it anyway, just to support the developer and encourage them to continue updating the program.
Evernote is cloud-based, which means that every time I connect to the internet, it will sync with an online version. I have the program installed on both my work computer and my computer at home, and it syncs between those as well. So any note that I have on my work computer is also on my home computer.
I can also access all of my notes on my iPad and iPhone through the free iOS application, which I believe is also available on Android. And if I need my notes and I don’t happen to have any of those devices with me, I can access them from any internet-connected computer just by logging into my account.
My laptop has basically replaced my pen and paper. I take almost all my notes on my computer now. It turns out I can type a lot faster than I can write, so my notes are better than they used to be and I spend less time asking people to repeat something so I can get it right.
I take my laptop to meetings that I cover, and interviews as well, and I use it any time I do an interview over the phone. I can create different notebooks in Evernote, so I have one for meetings, one for interviews, one for inner-office notes, and one for each special project I am working on.
It was a little strange at first, lugging a computer out during interviews, but for the most part people don’t seem too surprised by it.
Evernote also allows me to insert PDFs into my notes, so whenever I am sent an agenda or some other document, I scan it, put it in Evernote, and shred it, getting rid of clutter. Anything important that I need is on my computer and accessible to me wherever I go.
Not only that, with the mobile hotspot feature on my iPhone, I can also connect to the internet when I am using my computer remotely, giving me access to our website, email, etc., again making my life easier.
This isn’t a perfect system, however. I still find that I sometimes have to print out email interviews and some documents to flip through them when I’m writing my story. And it seems I’ve forgotten how to write quickly because I’m out of practice, so my handwritten notes have gotten pretty terrible. So when I don’t get to use the computer, it takes me a little bit longer to get what I need. But there have been very few instances where I can’t use the computer.
I haven’t managed to go completely paperless, but I use significantly less than I used to. It’s made my job a lot easier, and I can feel like I’m doing my part to help the environment.