pinpointing your procrastinating, paperless offices, and more

Over at the Fast Track by QuickBase today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: pinpointing the resistance at the root of your procrastinating, whether the paperless office finally coming, and more. You can read it here.

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Kai*

    I try to be mostly paperless, especially since most of my office is, but there are certainly some tasks that just work better on paper. If it’s a task where I need to check things off one by one, I’ll usually print it out; somehow I function better with a list I can hold in my hand and make notes on.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      Agreed. I’ve tried online lists, but I still prefer to write my lists on post-its. Same with jotting down quick notes during a phone call.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Right. I can do anything paperlessly (sorry, that’s probably not a word) except for the to-do lists. If they’re in my phone, then I get distracted with other phone stuff anytime I go to look at the lists. And my work has blocked Evernote, so no online lists at work. I am also a big user of post-its. Helps tremendously when your to-do item is in neon color and right in front of your face.

        Also, I found that having dual monitors has pretty much eliminated my need to use paper for anything work-related. I can keep my files up on one monitor and take notes on the other. I’m guessing that’s not going to work for those roles where one’s work entails sitting in one meeting after another. Can’t very well carry a dual monitor from one meeting room into the next. I guess that explains why I see a lot of printouts of various nature on our managers’ desks, when I don’t remember the last time I needed one.

        1. Zahra*

          There are tons of to-do apps/websites that you can use. I use Todoist, but there are more. I found it through looking for tools to organize tasks for my ADHD brain.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        Crossing out something on a paper is just more satisfying than clicking a tickybox in some software.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        At work, I use the Outlook post-it notes for my to-do lists. And I check off what I’ve done by copying them from my electronic notes to my electronic journal.

  2. all aboard the anon train*

    For #3, the paperless versus paper is definitely a generational thing in my office. A lot of our older workers still print out training or informational documents instead of viewing them in our online database. The paper copies aren’t necessarily a bad thing if that’s how you learn, but some of these documents change frequently, and because these coworkers are only using their paper copies, it means they’re using outdated processes or doing something incorrectly.

    Trying to be more digital has also caused a lot of fuss with people who were so used to viewing page proofs and manuscripts as paper copies instead of digitally. Though, personally I love paperless because reading someone’s handwritten notes in a margin used to be my biggest source of frustration since a lot of authors and editors either have illegible handwriting or use their own unique system of shorthand, so it was impossible to read anything.

    Also it means for me all files are online and no one will ever have to do what I did as an EA: tear apart a book from it’s binding and photocopy each page individually for new edition revisions. That was the worst use of paper and time.

    1. Forever!*

      At my job, I send documents to people to be edited. Most know to use track changes and make their edits, but there are some who print the document out, make handwritten notes, and then scan the document and send it back as a PDF. The mind, it boggles.

      1. Aurion*

        Editing by hard copy sometimes lets me see errors that I miss while editing on the computer. Something to do with the different medium?

        But I can’t imagine trying to get others to decipher my margin scribbles if I edit anything by hand. Ugh.

        1. fposte*

          Different medium, even different formatting. I edit copy on screen, then proof it printed out, then proof it again in the formatted PDF.

      2. all aboard the anon train*

        Yeah, I definitely have seen that. The worst case I ever had was an author who refused to get a computer and would use a typewriter to type their manuscript, send it to us, and would require handwritten notes on the papers they sent. They refused to use a computer, so they’d request physical copies of every round of reviews. At the end of the process, we had to have someone transcribe it so we could get it on the computer and into production. It was awful.

        This was a Big Name Author that no one wanted to anger. The whole situation was ridiculous, and this was only a few years ago, so there was really no reason not to use a computer.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Hahahaha good one. I’m afraid that ship has sailed, though.

            Also, I used to follow his LJ some ten years ago. So he is definitely using a computer. There must exist a second Big Name Author that no one wants to anger.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Ha! He used to be famous for writing his manuscripts on an old typewriter, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case. But yeah, I too have resigned myself to getting the ending from the show.

    2. Anon 2*

      I think I’m a mix of the two. Most of the time, I review everything electronically. However, there are some times I prefer to have a print out. If it’s item that needs to be exceptionally polished, I find that I catch more items reviewing the paper copy. And sometimes you don’t get the full scope of a layout when reviewing it on a computer screen or tablet.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I totally get that, and I do catch more with a paper copy when I do have to edit something for grammar, but I have coworkers who want to print out three to five rounds of page proofs/manuscript proofs for 500 – 1000 page books. That’s a lot of paper! Especially since we have proofreaders who go through each round for errors before anything is sent to us.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’m a knowledge worker and a geezer, and I don’t recall the last time I printed something at work. I moved offices a few months ago, and I’ve never bothered even finding where the printer is on this floor. I have a recycle box for papers that others have given me, and in 4 years at this job, it’s about half full.

      On the other hand, my home is full of dead-tree books, because those are still the best.

  3. Pwyll*

    My boss prints all of her emails. As in, she reads them on her phone, reads them again on her computer, and then either prints them herself or forwards them to someone on staff to print them so she can read them again in paper form.

    The amount of paper in this office frightens me.

      1. EyesWideOpen*

        My boss prints all his email and then either puts them on one of the piles in his office or asks me to create a notebook for them. His office is a fire hazard – approximately 30 piles of paper (or make that files) on the floor and all 3 of his desks are likewise covered.

        We are supposed to be paperless.

    1. misspiggy*

      That seems to be a lady with either very poor information retention skills, or nowhere near enough work to do.

  4. Amber Rose*

    I can’t be paperless until the government stops insisting that everything have original signatures. 99% of my paper is their fault.

    Also I’m particularly grumpy about this topic today, having spent the last three days digging through three years of documents for a program audit.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I used to work for a Federal government contractor, and we used electronic signatures on electronic documents. We did print out things at that job, but the final documents were all signed and stored electronically.

    2. Pwyll*

      What drives me absolutely insane is that I’ll get filings back from the state rejected for lack of an original signature, but that same agency ALLOWS FAXED FILINGS. I literally can fax the same rejected filing to them and have it accepted. It’s insanity.

    3. Meg Murry*

      The only thing worse than the office that requires a ton of signatures is a place that is trying to go to “less paper” but doesn’t have an electronic way of gathering signatures and still requires a bunch of signatures from people in different offices.

      So rather than the old system where person A would sign the form, give it to person B and C to sign, and then interoffice mail it to D, then it would get passed to E, then F for the 6 signatures, with the final result being one piece of paper and a re-usable interoffice envelope. Now person A sends it by email to B, who prints it, signs it, re-scans it to pdf and emails it to C, etc. So now we’ve used 6 pieces of paper to get these 6 signatures, and since the scan/copy machines are all set to super-low quality by the time person #6 signs it you can’t actually read the original document or the first 3 signatures, so the original has to get printed as well so there is a record of what the people were actually signing for.

      Step 1 for a paperless office is not to buy electronic storage and scanners. Step 0 is to first look at your processes and determine which can either go to an electronic approval process or that could eliminate some of the signers/approvers altogether.

  5. NW Mossy*

    My org is in the midst of a paperless initiative, and boy howdy is it a long time coming. We won’t be prevented from printing if we want to, but the idea is that all of our vital records will be available digitally and you won’t need to print much of anything to do your work. I’m excited about it because it means that it’s that much easier for my folks to work from home and be fully productive, as well as reducing the labor that goes into just managing the transfer of work from Person A to B to C to D and documenting all those handoffs/reviews/approvals.

  6. Kelly L.*

    The procrastination article is a bit of synchronicity for me. I’ve been trying to figure out what makes me procrastinate, and had an a-ha moment earlier this week–I had a thing to do, and then “surfaced” half an hour later in the middle of a Reddit drama thread wondering “Why did I do that?” And then I realized that to do The Thing, I needed to get some information that involved calling someone I feel intimidated by. Light bulb!

  7. Clever Name*

    On the paperless office, I’m someone who tends to print stuff out. It’s how I review my writing, and I look at maps and plans a lot. But, I’ve moved to an office where it’s not especially convenient to print things, and I’m about to get a laptop/tablet with a touchscreen and stylus. So those things in combination with my office really getting into OneNote, I’m looking forward to transitioning to using less paper. It should be interesting. :)

  8. Cat steals keyboard*

    That email advice just doesn’t work for me because part of my job is to do shifts manning a joint inbox responding to enquiries from other teams and members of the public so there are days when every email is important.

    I used to be freelance and every email mattered then, too.

  9. Cranston*

    So far, paperless means I have to file everything twice, since I’m not allowed to get rid of any originals. It’s so nice to have everything available and searchable online, so I’m happy with the trade off, but I wouldn’t say we’re helping the environment.

  10. Papyrus*

    I used to work in a department that was paperless, and it was wonderful! But alas, I moved to a department where printing out stuff on paper is necessary (for now) and I feel like I’m slowly being suffocated by the mounds of paperwork on my desk.

    Filing is my own personal nightmare, and it’s hard to get motivated when I know the stuff that gets filed away will just end up in a warehouse somewhere, and on the off chance someone needs to see it again, they would just print out another copy of it before ever going through the rigamarole of requesting the box, having it shipped back to the office, and then sorting through the box to find what they need.

  11. Bob*

    In addition to printing, what really needs to die is faxing. My company sends over 50K faxes a month. We have expensive software to convert it back and forth from email but it’s still a pain when we could just send an email. My understanding is that many of the mom & pop shops we deal with only accept faxes. The sad thing is I know some of them also have software to convert them to email. So we convert our email to fax, send it to them and then they convert it back to email.

    1. Aurion*

      I believe certain government offices will accept faxes but will not accept emails. I think faxes are harder to hack, intercept, or spoof? No idea if there are any conversions done after fax receipt though.

    2. Kelly L.*

      And then there’s so much fax spam. At least email spam doesn’t waste my paper, unlike all that Win a Free Vacation to Bermuda!!111 crap.

      1. Pwyll*

        Scary thing is that SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE is falling for the free vacation faxes. Otherwise they wouldn’t send them so oftne.

        1. Rebecca Too*

          There are usually phone numbers in teeny, tiny print at the bottom of the fax that you can call to opt out of future spam faxes. Those companies are essentially stealing from yours; the fax paper, the phone usage and the ink. Just block them.

    3. Honeybee*

      The thing is…e-mailing is way, way cheaper than faxing (sending and receiving). So it would seem that the mom & pop shops should be the ones who are most eager to switch to e-mail.

      I’ve had to fax a couple of things and I’m always surprised, but I always just use PamFax. It’s pretty cheap.

  12. Kyrielle*

    I’m a programmer, and I’ve been known to print out particularly complicated functions so I could draw lines connecting the braces for nested if/switch and loop statements.

    Generally, if I need to print a function and do this because on-screen is insufficient, and then draw little arrows showing breaks/returns/continues and how they impact the loop, it is a sign that this *should not* be a single function and *is not* well constructed.

    My favorite one was 15 pages long. (I printed it two-up to reduce paper usage, but still. 15 pages!)

    1. Ife*

      I do this too. I have so much difficulty following the flow of a program once it gets past one screen long, even if it is well written. If I print out the same piece of code, it immediately makes sense. I attribute it to a terrible short-term memory, and my brain interpreting something scrolling off the screen as “disappearing forever – no need to recall.” Same reason I printed off all my assigned readings in college (sorry trees!).

      1. Kyrielle*

        *nodnods* I can do okay if it’s a screen or two. But when you get to over 6 pieces of paper or so, any hope I had is toast. And the worst one as I mentioned was 15 pages long…there was one for loop that I think went for 7-8 of those pages and had if/switch stuff inside it and at least one other loop inside it also (I think in a conditional). In some places it was nested at least 6 deep.

        I’m not saying I don’t have trouble way before that point, but there is nothing I’ve found for it at that point but to draw it out. Even if you want to refactor it, first you have to figure out what the hey it’s doing. :P

  13. Just a thought*

    I work for an office with a Japanese HQ. It wasn’t until fairly recently that our office (in San Francisco!) transitioned to “print conservatively.”

    We design our PowerPoint presentations with the full knowledge that EVERY PERSON IN THE MEETING will be printing off a full-color copy of it. Since the conservationist in me is horrified by the waste of resources, it’s GREAT motivation for being succinct. ;)

  14. De Minimis*

    If anything it seems like I’m going backward as far as the whole paperless thing. My current department seems to think if something’s worth printing, it’s worth printing five times. I’ve actually never worked for someone that was so crazy about printing everything….

    After a year, I’ve finally created a simple filing system that helps me organize it a little better, but it was a major problem that affected my productivity during most of this past year.

    Crazy part is a lot of the other departments love to just scan everything and don’t keep hard copies. I so wish I could work for one of those people instead! There’s actually conflict between them and my boss because he hates keeping electronic copies [claims it’s too easy for them to get lost or somehow be edited] so sometimes there are key documents that are sitting in his file cabinet that really should be made available on a shared drive.

  15. KittenLittle*

    My cubicle is going paperless–and I love it! My desk is so tidy. =) Many of my coworkers are fighting the switch and give me multiple copies of the same document. All those sheets land in a large box in which no one shall ever peek and in three years time will be shredded.

  16. MsChanandlerBong*

    Honestly, I’ve given up on trying not to procrastinate. I’ve been a procrastinator for 35 years and, despite trying everything I’ve ever read on how to stop, I’m still a procrastinator.

    1. misspiggy*

      Love it! Why waste even more time learning anti-procrastination strategies that never work, when you could just work through the inevitable procrastination and frantic deadline-busting cycle?

  17. ES*

    I cannot doodle* properly** without paper.*** It’s just not the same.****

    *Where doodling is the semi-thoughtful inscription of marks, meaningful or otherwise, while one’s attention is partially engaged elsewhere—on hold being the classic circumstance.
    **Proper doodling is done in margins and around the text blocks in a non-critical document, in my practice of it.
    ***Paper allows for spontaneity and instant gratification in a way that a screen and tablet cannot match.
    ****In many ways, cruising the internet has replaced doodling, to our detriment I believe, as doodling is a creative activity that allows us to make associations freely and explore images without a high-stakes outcome being necessary.

  18. MoinMoin*

    I went to go read that piece on procrastination but decided it might have some hard, uncomfortable, truths in there for me and I just couldn’t handle it right now so I decided to just go back to work instead. So that’s kind of a win anyway, but I wonder how long this open tab will now be staring at me before I read it or delete in a moment of overwhelmed anxiety.

  19. Friday Brain All Week Long*

    I’m a few weeks into a new role at a new company and it’s very paper-heavy. I didn’t even realize how well I’d been living the paperless life until now. I’m carefully navigating the waters to find what I can get away with not printing (or if it’s given to me, with scanning and throwing out the print copy) and what has to be printed out for other people. I’m very organized electronically but I’m a downright mess when it comes to paper. And I hate filing!

  20. Newish Reader*

    I try to be as paperless as possible and constantly make it known that I hate to have paper. Yet yesterday I had a coworker email me information I needed to complete a mail merge, including the list of names and addresses for labels. She then proceeded to immediately print all of the documents and walk them to my desk. Why in the world would I need paper copies of information that’s being used in a mail merge that you just sent me electronically?!?! And I’m sure she also printed copies to put in her file about this project so she has a history of who was sent the mailing. Aargh!

  21. Chaordic One*

    At my former job we were attempting to move to a paperless office. Instead of mailing a lot of paperwork to our clients, they were now expected to download forms from our website, print them out, fill them out, sign them and then scan and upload the document into their digital file through our secure website. In reality, only a handful of them ever did and I suspect that many of them did have digital document scanners.

    Most clients continued to mail or fax the forms, so we ended up having to scan them into their online files ourselves. A not insignificant number of clients scanned them and then emailed them to us. (A disturbing number of them scanned the documents one page at a time.) Sometimes we could simply upload the attachment into the digital client file, but often they were sent in bizarre formats and had to be converted into PDFs. Sometimes they were sent one page at a time, and we then had to open the attachments, merge them into a single document and then upload them into the digital client fall.

    The whole process created an awful lot of additional work and stress. Our supervisors chastized us regularly for being unproductive and when we pointed out that the paperless office concept wasn’t working in actuality, we were told that we were being “resistant to change.”

    In my experience, it was a fiasco and a failure.

  22. cycle that*

    I am better about not procrastinating than I was in the past, but I still sometimes get caught up in it. I started consciously stopping myself and telling myself that I am putting off something out of fear. From there, I explore why I may be afraid or anxious about whatever it is I am putting off until I realize how ridiculous it is that I just don’t take care of whatever it is now. Too much work for some, I know, but I find it helps me escape the time suck.

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