The Paperless Office – a reflection

When I started my current job I decided to make a leap. A leap enabled by the Apple Pencil and an iPad that I could use it on. The leap was to a paperless office – no notepad, no printing, no dead trees laying around. Just me, the computer and the iPad. Could it be done? Well yes – that’s a no brainer. Am I happy that’s its been done… maybe not as much as I thought I would be.

Y’see I type pretty fast – 60 odd words a minute. It generally takes about 15 to 30 minutes to type each blog post, proof it and then post it. Pretty quick and nasty but that’s the time I’ve got spare to allocate. I say this not to brag, but to put in perspective that I can’t write this fast. Using pen and paper is also not a terribly mobile proposition. I can’t sync a handwritten snippet on a notepad across other notepads. But I can sync Apple’s Notes across iPad, iPhone and MacBook. Mobility is an important thing for me – often I will not have my notepad when I’m out and about and there have been recorded cases of lost passwords etc because I couldn’t find them in my notebook. The Apple pencil means I can write notes on the iPad, have them sync and it’s all great.

But you lose the visceral feel of pen to paper. The need to plan a sentence or word so it fits on a line or a page. The pen in hand and the resistance as one writes. I have found that my hand is more sore after writing on the iPad than the equivalent amount on paper. Plus I really love good stationary and good pens. For years I’ve used the same pen – the Uni Jetstream. These pens (for me) are the ultimate in writability and comfort. I’ve been through many of them and my wife buys me refills for Christmas. I wrote all my Master’s degree exams with the Jetstreams and they are wonderful. You can explore them in all their glory here: http://uniball.com.au/rollerball/jetstream-ink/uni-jetstream-retractable-0.7-mm-rollerball-pen-clone/

Choosing the right pen is a very personal activity and many of you out there won’t love these like I do. That’s fine and dandy. The Apple Pencil is very much the same for everyone. There’s no different width barrel, or smoother/rougher feel to the nib as you write and definitely no difference depending on the writing surface. For example, I still love the Moleskin pages even though the quality has degraded a bit. I love the 0.7mm Jetstream – my handwriting suffers terribly with a thicker nib and a benefit of the Apple Pencil is the ability to change this thickness. But it still lacks the feels of a pen on paper.

In all other ways I’ve found the paperless office to be great. There are no documents lying around, when I pack up my electronics my desk is cleared. And I can keep everything synced to everywhere so even if I forget my iPad or MacBook I can still read my notes on the phone. That’s a huge advantage especially when travelling about. I wonder though what the effect on my thinking is of this change. Writing with a pen is very different to typing and the output is necessarily going to be altered. I recently listened to Neil Gaiman being interviewed by Tim Ferriss (see here: https://tim.blog/2019/03/28/neil-gaiman/ ) and he talks about handwriting his first drafts with fountain pens! I’m not advocating this approach – it clearly works for this master wordsmith, but his discussion on why he does it is very interesting. It’s a great podcast and worth a listen. Have a look at the fountain pens mentioned in the podcast. They are lovely – especially the Visconti. For $300 though it’s a lot of pen. I’ll stick with my $5 Jetstreams and be happy for the moment.

I have been thinking of trying Gaiman’s approach – handwriting my blog posts, then typing them up. Let’s see if it makes a difference. I’ll note it going forward.

For my money the paperless office offers a much clearer space for work. No paper everywhere and less chance for clutter. Working in the Apple ecosphere has made it easier, but using OneDrive etc in the Microsoft world is pretty good too. I do miss writing though…

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

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