Things I Don’t Use: Paper

There have been a lot of efforts to become paperless over the past few decades. If a company has piles of people, that is hard to make it a paperless company you mandate being paperless unless you make it a chore to print anything.

If we can clearly display what might be printed on a large enough screen that is the first step. Users, readers, and reviewers of said content still need the ability to:

  • annotate
  • approve
  • assign
  • collaborate
  • edit
  • iterate
  • read
  • share
  • sign
  • view
  • write

on the content that could be printed but rather not today. And all of these actions can be achieved without printing anything by any number of productivity software suites we are all familiar with by Google, Microsoft, and others. Printing on paper makes little sense nowadays since it, by definition, limits the uses and viewability of the printed content. Again, if you want to limit its viewability, do not print it in the first place assuming the content is born-digital.

Unless the point of printing something is to reduce distribution today and/or limit royalties without the means to actually track its readership, printing on paper has no further purpose.

Print for work

I have worked with organizations that have at least 1.2 printers per person which only encourages printing. Most of the printing was done uselessly unless the print out was a project deliverable…instead of soft (digital) copy. Having printers next to you without getting up from your workspace promotes endless printing for senseless reasons. Remove the printers and remove the urge to print pretty quickly.

I have worked within very few companies that have no printers available anywhere unless you hunt for them, then get permission to output paper for some other (often useless) reason. The harder you make it to print anything that can just be seen or worked on a screen, the less likely anyone will print something.

Print to read

Some people think it is required to print something in order to read something once or maybe twice. We realize after that, the paper gets lost or trashed. Some print something to hand the paper to someone rather than sharing the content to that same person electronically. I have spoken to quite a few university professors that are guilty of this phenomenon.

Awareness

It has nothing to do with retention nor archiving because that grossly assumes organization and that this paper can be found quickly again for reference.

It is not a luxury to print on paper, but rather a selfish mindset to print uselessly. It is a point of awareness to not print at all. You don’t actually have to hold it in your hand in order to read, sign it or pass it on.

Signatures

No one (aside from maybe ourselves) pays any attention to our own signatures. Yes, that’s right. Physical signatures are useless.  Complete wastes of time. Authentication via e-signatures with the date, timestamp, IP address, and GPS location from where it was authenticated is much more specific than anyone’s handwriting will ever be. Courts of law accept e-signature far more than handwritten signatures. Why? Ever heard of forged signatures? You can literally draw anything instead of your own handwritten signature and no one will pay any attention to it today. Including your bank and your credit card company today. Same reason why many merchants don’t require any signatures for payment anymore. Signatures are a total waste of time and resources to supply the means to sign. Even printing receipts which are rarely kept and can not be archived since they are often printed on thermal paper where the writing fades after one year.

Some people print something in order to sign it, then scan the signed paper, only to email the scanned PDF to someone else. E-signatures resolve all this. All useless by today’s digital-first and remote-first work standard now for those who actually care about their workforce since their own work does require them to move anything physically.

Nostalgia

Already a distant memory. Forgotten for the same reasons as writing checks. If you remember writing checks as a means of payment, you likely remember what fun it is to stand in line as each person drafts a check from scratch as you wait and watch. Slow, cumbersome, and useless today.

Payment

Fraud not only led Europe to ban all checks years ago, while the US was getting chips on credit cards.  Contactless apps transfer funds faster anywhere in the world or locally down the street.

Handwriting

Remember all those handwriting lessons from elementary school? Well, they don’t even go to school anymore let alone learn to draw their own name with characters. Typing on a screen is the norm. My handwriting is illegible, just like a medical doctor’s handwriting. I will let you guess which one is more important to be clearly understood. Just another reason to get rid of handwriting altogether.

Why USe Paper?

So why use paper? Paper does not help to organize anything we do. We are clearly terrible at using it properly, storing it, archiving it or finding it again in an efficient and effective manner. We don’t need to use paper to read, write, collaborate, iterate, sign nor transfer its contents to anyone. I loath paper and avoid using it at any cost.

There is one use for paper products that may have a future unless we go back to older ways before toilet paper existed.