Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thoughts on Paperless Workflows

So, a friend of mine read a previous post where I talked about what was in my bag on any given day, and he commented on my stack of index cards. He pointed out that I have a smart phone, and that presumably any sort of note I would need to take could be taken on my phone, which is true, and that just about everyone I know could be left a message using my phone, either through facebook or SMS or email, which is also (generally) true.

Thing is though, as fantastic as my phone is, it can't do everything I need it to do. Data entry is slow, and inaccurate. Sometimes, like when I need to sketch something out (like a flow chart), it's downright clumsy. And a lot of the index cards therefore wind up being for me. As a matter of fact, my pockets, including the pockets of my backpack, my blazer, or any other garment I'm carrying wind up full of index cards by the end of the day. And postits. Numbers scrawled onto thermal printer slips. You're starting to get the idea.

There's a really good reason for that. Like I said, some data doesn't lend itself to rapid-fire digital entry when you have a brain that works best with a keyboard and stylus, when all you've got are your thumbs. What's more, some social situations simply don't allow you to pull out your cellphone and jot down a quick note. Me updating statistics in a performance tracker at work looks an awful lot like texting to my clients, and my co-workers do more than enough of that for the whole store.

Even above that, I don't trust digital. Granted, 90% of the time, something I choose to write down on index cards is a triviality - a name I needed to remember for a few hours or a handful of stats that are going to be digitized later. The other 10%, though, winds up being at least tangentially important, and often what is tangentally important doesn't get digitized at all... enter the stack of books, top left.

I have a weakness for stationary, and my love of fine pens has already been discussed. Accordingly I tend to collect quite a few notebooks, and while some are very good and others are mediocre, I've come to learn just what I want and where to find them. There are a few constants, partly due to the forcings of what people give for gifts and partly due to habitual purchase. MOST of the books in that stack are either moleskines, or hardcover PaperBlanks that have the right level of tooth.

They have their uses. As a general rule I try to keep the numbers down, if only because I never seem to totally fill a book before I destroy it (yes, even the skines).

Paperless is good. A reduction in waste is good, which is why I'd like to find an alternative to index cards (there's an electronic scratch-pad for $30 at Coles which shows some promise), but notebooks don't go to waste. I reference older stuff all the time, even just for lulz.

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