Paper is pretty old. Like, “it hasn’t paid full price for a movie in a while” old. Since its inception, it has enabled us to do some pretty incredible things; buy stuff, record stuff, learn stuff, sneeze a lot, get phone numbers at a high school dance (remember when you had to have a pen to pick up???), etc. Times have changed though.
As much as we appreciate everything it has done for us over the years, when it comes to the day-to-day office life and operations of a business, it’s probably time for paper to hop on a horse and head for the sunset. And not one of those dazed, wobbly petting-zoo horses; we’re talking about Seabiscuit speeds towards the horizon.
While some of us still love whiteboards stuffed with sticky notes and meaty leather-backed day-planners, given the digital alternatives available now for everything from reading and writing messages, to storing, sending and signing legally binding documents, paper most often feels like more bother than benefit. When it comes to conducting business, we are proud supporters of going paperless and adopting the wonderful world of doin’ it digital. Here are just a few reasons why…
The Printers & The Scanners
In the next 10 years, we’re probably going to put people on Mars and perform the first human head transplant, but there will still be no way for someone to use a printer or a scanner five times in one week without wanting to overdose on sleeping pills. When Mick Jagger asks you to guess his name in Sympathy for the Devil, we would accept the answers, “Hewlett Packard” or simply, “Brother”. The less we have to deal with these demon devices, the better.
The Fax Machines (Seriously, Fax Machines?)
If you are caught attempting to operate a fax machine, you should be sent to an inescapable boat-prison that floats aimlessly around the Philippines. There is no excuse. We need to do everything we can to make these things extinct, starting with a paper purge.
The Horrible, Horrible Handwriting
Oh, we need to “reblunk the wezzogig”? Ya, we’ll get right on that. Your dog is supposed to eat your homework not write it for you. Nobody ever opens up an Office document and picks Wingdings from the font list, so why would we ever allow people to do the equivalent with a pen? Consistency is an important component of good communication, so let’s all make like Prince Eric and get a little more Arial in our lives.
The Back Problems
Between old age, terrible squat technique, and Netflix binging on couches that we clearly selected for their aesthetic properties, can we all agree that we don’t need yet another way to increase the odds of having a backiotomy at 50? We’re lugging enough to work already with our laptops, lunches, chargers, changes of clothes, drones, skateboards, etc. Let’s all agree to lighten the load and keep the content to bits and bytes rather than books and binders.
You know Aron Ralston, the “outdoorsman” on whom the movie, 127 Hours was based? The guy that cut off his own right arm to escape a boulder that had him trapped in a canyon for more than 5 days? Ya, we’re pretty sure he performed the amputation with an envelope. Either that or the ninth page of a printed PowerPoint (“Hey, I know we all have access to email, a laptop, a projector and a brain, but I still turned my slide show into a 1997 high school assignment anyway”). Paper cuts are like mosquito bites; they need to stop happening forever.
The Crumpling & The Bending
One wrong laptop angle; one stray item that catches your pages awkwardly and holds pressure on them in two weird spots in the middle of an important chart or paragraph; one missed work-bag insertion that was supposed to be a slide-in-behind-the-tablet but ended up being a collision-with-the-edges-of-everything; one remove-and re-apply of an unfathomably rigid paperclip and all of a sudden a contract looks like a hobo’s blanket, and you look like you can’t have nice things. Digital doesn’t bend.
Continuing from the last item, similar to a Bolognese stain on a white blouse, it is hard not to be embarrassed when you’re pursuing a paper document in professional company and it looks like you tried to make edits on it with Nutella and a nose bleed. Let’s just avoid this all together and appreciate the clean screens of our laptops, and the inevitably smashed screens of our smartphones.
Between our coffee mugs, computers, obligatory landline / IP office phones, empty bottles of Soylent, autographed Thunder From Down Under photos, and the hundred or so other pieces of debris we all end up collecting, “open concept” or not, our desks are already usually a disaster. We don’t need a billion sheets of paper added to the mix to make it look like we robbed the day-trip concierge at a resort in the Dominican. #HelpKillTheClutter.
The Searching / Paper Trail
It still takes half a day to find something in Gmail by searching the sender’s name, and those are the people that are search. Continuing to print endless reams of paper only to fumble through file cabinets and shelves for their retrieval is an exercise in masochism. And not the fun kind you read about in books at the airport. Smart digital archives are our best hope at maintaining a reasonable level of search sanity. That and a Lycos comeback.
115 billion sheets of paper are used annually for personal computers, and offices print about 10,000 sheets of paper every year, half of which end up as waste and not recycled matter. Don’t you love your planet? Don’t you love trees, oxygen, birds, owls, squirrels, maple baseball bats and extravagant furniture? Ok, maybe ignore those last two, but you get the idea. Let’s not use up more stuff than we have to; Mother Nature is cranky enough these days as it is.
Recent data has shown that the average American citizen spends 41 hours a day looking at electronic devices. Which is so insane that it’s mathematically impossible, but you’re still kind of wondering if it’s true. At this point, there’s no sense in fighting it; it’s what we want and it’s what we’re doing. As far as the business world is concerned, the time for paper has passed. Whether you’re filling out a form or slapping on signatures, even nostalgia has a shelf-live, and those shelves are starting to look a lot like server racks.
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