Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Paper is Useless in 2008's Office

By Jon:

10 AM, Tuesday morning. Your weekly staff meeting has just begun. Everyone's gathered around a conference table with their own little camps set up; you've got cups of coffee, bottles of water, huge notebooks, pens and pencils, pads of paper, and document after document, strewn all over the table.

As your team lumbers through the agenda, the table becomes more chaotic and cluttered; a sales report is passed around, a new marketing campaign is presented and suddenly the table's drowning in 8 1/2" by 11"s.

After the meeting, you return to your note-filled desk and write down a couple sticky notes and slap them on your phone. You file the documents from the meeting in a hanging file rack on your desk which bulges from the weight of a month's worth of documents.

After following up on your phone notes, you spend thirty minutes updating the documents in your three-ring binder, just in case you need any updated data or decks. In your next meeting you spread all this info around the conference table, confusing those around you but allowing yourself easy access to anything you need at one glance.

...this is TOTALLY ridiculous behavior. I'd only accept this if a company held a "topless" meeting policy, forbidding laptops and Blackberry's from being used during meetings.

Come to think of it, I don't accept that. That's a horrible policy.

Laptops and Blackberry are not the problem; behavior is the problem. If people could effectively multi-task and use their laptop to bring insightful information to the meeting, then so be it. If they can't, stop holding meetings.

But, I digress. Paper is the issue here at the moment. Every action I outlined above could be replaced more efficiently and more effectively by removing paper from the equation. Your task list and notes can be incredibly streamlined by using a digital source on a laptop.

I've been using digital notes or a Moleskine and not printing anything for about the last six months. I have three little paper holders attached to my wall that let me store anything I may need in the near future (invoices, expense reports, etc) and then they're scanned and shredded as soon as I'm done with them. That's it. Nothing else, not even files or storage.

Just take your laptop with you throughout the day and insist upon being emailed all meeting documents and agendas before the meeting. Your life will become more simple, believe me.

If you don't have a laptop, beg your boss and IT for one. Trust me, it's worth it.


Anonymous said...

dude got a laptop at work 5 days ago, and suddenly he's the expert.

welcome to 2001.

Anonymous said...

what if my boss wont buy me a laptop and IT wont support me using it because its not "secure"?

Jon @ The Corporate Hack said...

Hey Anonymouses... Anonymice? Anonymi:

I've actually got two laptops that I use at work, one I own and the other the company does. Matt and I both recently got company-sanctioned laptops, so yes, forgive our giddiness.

As for security issues and your boss' hesitance, I found some great data online from Dell that compared desktops and laptops on measure of productivity. Here's the link:

Desktop vs Laptop (by Dell)

This report and my consistent nagging led to me getting a laptop as soon as one was available in the budget.

Hope that helps,


Rachel said...

Jon, I totally agree with you. My boss is very paper-oriented (with no change in sight) and it drives me insane!! Things are much more organized when they can be handled electronically.

Jon @ The Corporate Hack said...


It's frustrating, isn't it? I'll come out of a meeting with a big stack of paperwork... and it promptly goes into the recycling. I don't keep paper from meetings unless there's some action associated with it. Once it's done, it's gone.


Blake said...

Paper, in this modern world, is a thing of the past. Nowadays, you would hear people saying "No to [paper], save the trees" or something like that. A lot of people now have laptops and Blackberry's to their advantage. In my office space in Dulles, VA, whenever we hold meetings, I always tell my employees to keep paper usage at a minimum, or use little notepads instead of 8" x 11" papers. I wouldn't want the space to be eaten up by paper. I strictly enforce this and in my other office space in Reston, VA, too.