Minimizing Paper

I’m a longtime Apple user, but not the kind who waits in line for the latest and greatest release. When I heard about the iPad Pro, I thought it was cool, but didn’t see a use case for it. After all, I’m not a designer. And frankly, the early ads really leaned towards an artist/fanboy demographic that I didn’t fit into.

Last month, that all changed.

The paper problem

filing-cabinets

Two big filing cabinets taking up a large chunk of my office.

Let me give you a little bit of background on how I work. I do an absurd amount of editing on paper. Everything that I work on is edited on paper in orange pen before moving to the computer.

As a result, I have two filing cabinets, eight drawers packed to the gills with handwritten notes and edits from every project that I’d worked on since 2006. I save them because I think it’s important to have a documented record of the work that I’ve done, and it gives me the chance to refer back to past work when a client sends me a new project.

Earlier this year, the local high school had a charity shredding event. I packed four banker’s boxes with most of my files greater than three years old, and it filled me with a great deal of satisfaction to watch them get reduced to tiny little paper flakes.

Oh look: more paper.

Oh look: more paper.

But of course, it didn’t stop the continued inflow of paper. I’m embarrassed to admit just how much more paper has filled the empty space in just a few short months.

The most recent of literally dozens of notebooks in my archive.

The most recent of literally dozens of notebooks in my archive.

My paper problem isn’t limited to printouts. I am also a handwritten note-taker. I have notebook upon notebook of project ideas, meeting notes, business travel pricing (oh hey, look at all of the hours I’ve spent searching for flights and hotels!) and other work-related miscellany that seemed relevant at the time. Of course, if I want to find something in those notebooks, I have to guess on the approximate date and flip through, page by page, trying to find what I want. Not the most effective system.

Something had to change.

Growing and cutting

I’ve always explained my paper-before-computer process as “seeing” the words differently on paper vs. screen, but that isn’t exactly true. It wasn’t until my husband shared the CGP Grey post about “Growing and Cutting” that it dawned on me: I paper edit because it allows me to cut. As Grey says:

Writing by hand mode-shifts the brain. A keyboard under the fingers makes it easy to add more and more — the click of the keys is the wind at your back. But the constraints of the printed page make adding indefinitely an impossibility, while subtracting is simplicity, slashing is satisfying.

The blank page needs filling, but: concision improves writing.

As obvious as this seems now, reading it was like a beam of light from the heavens. Yes! This is exactly what happens!

And that’s when I started toying with the idea of the iPad Pro.

The device

iPad Pro with bulky folio cover vs. steno pad

iPad Pro with bulky folio cover vs. steno pad

Make no mistake: the 12.9″ iPad Pro is a beast. Compared to a standard iPad, it’s massive, roughly twice the size. And yet, compared to a steno pad, it’s not that large. Having compared the smaller and larger versions at the Apple store, I found that I actually liked the larger format better because it felt more like paper.

So a few weeks ago, I bit the bullet, spent the money and invested in one. And I haven’t looked back.

Guys, I love this thing so much.

The pencil feels surprisingly natural. No, it doesn’t have the same friction as pen on paper, but it’s smooth, efficient and doesn’t lag.

Grey recommended an app called Goodnotes ($7.99 in the iTunes Store). This app is worth every penny.

Using Goodnotes, I can edit PDFs.

There are different pen colors, thicknesses and highlighters to make all of the necessary notes. (I used CNN.com content as my demo.)

There are different pen colors, thicknesses and highlighters to make all of the necessary notes. Since I didn’t want to show proprietary client documentation, I used CNN.com content, triple-spaced and dropped into a PDF for the above photo.

But the best part is that I can take handwritten notes that are searchable and indexable!

It can read my handwriting and find all references to a particular word or phrase.

It can read my handwriting and find all references to a particular word or phrase. As you can see in the photo above, there are five references to “content” in my notes from STC Summit 2016.

It is, quite honestly, the closest thing to a magic device/app combination that I’ve come across in all of my years of writing.

In the three weeks I’ve had it, I’ve dramatically reduced my use of paper, and have all of my edits and notes with me at all times. It’s like hauling around two filing cabinets full of paper, yet it’s able to fit in my backpack.

Have you tried the iPad Pro yet? Do you have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to answer based on my experience.

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