In this year’s DocumentSnap survey, there was a great suggestion from an awesome reader:
I’m interested in how you and other people manage their lives, their tasks, priorities, documents, to-do lists, and everything that goes with it. I first came to DocumentSnap for help on making my world paperless. With your guidance I’ve made good progress but still have more to do and I’m fascinated with hearing how other people do this.
Interesting question. Going paperless goes beyond just scanning documents and downloading statements. In this post I will share how I try to eliminate the use of paper in my life. Before I get into it, two points:
1. I use both Mac and Windows, but my primary machine is a Mac. I also use an iPad and an iPhone. Therefore, many of these solutions will be Apple-leaning. I understand that some of you don’t go that way, and that’s totally cool. There should be Windows and Android equivalents to all of these. If you know of a great one, please share it in the comments.
2. Just because this is what I do, it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily what you should/need to do. If you want to write in your paper notebook and use post-its, go for it! We all have to do what works for each of us.
I’m sure there are post-it notes somewhere in my office, but I don’t know where they are. I try to do all my quick capture/jotting stuff down electronically. There is almost never a time that I am without an electronic device of some sort (sad, I know).
I used to use Field Notes notebooks, and I always have one in my bag, but since the Drafts app was released, I never use a notebook anymore. I tend to jot stuff down in Drafts, either by typing or via Siri. I can then process/send it to its eventual destination later.
I wrote more about this in an issue of the DocumentSnap newsletter.
I don’t use any special software for this, I just have a variety of shopping lists in Apple’s Reminders app. I find it quick to add items to the appropriate list, and I can use Siri. I like how it syncs between all my devices, and I can easily check items off as I go through the store.
I don’t do any fancy geofencing for this. Since I’m a hermit and mostly stay in my ’hood in East Vancouver, it works for me.
I wrote more about paperless grocery lists here.
For my to-dos, I need something a little more powerful than Reminders.
I am a big fan of OmniFocus, which is available on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. I tend to (more or less) follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, and OmniFocus is great for that.
I’ve used OmniFocus for a number of years, but I had a big epiphany after reading the OmniFocus Premium Posts guide from my friends at Asian Efficiency. The workflow they outline has made a huge difference for me in the past few months. Smart dudes.
I am a big mind mapper. For me, there is nothing better for brainstorming and planning.
I find the iPad perfect for this, and I use iThoughtsHD. It is a great app, and I like how it can keep everything in sync via Dropbox. It makes building out elaborate mind maps extremely fast.
You can imagine my shock and dismay when I came home and my wife had a paper calendar taped onto the fridge. I still have nightmares.
Over time, we have made a surprisingly successful transition to an electronic calendar. We use Google Calendar and have a shared family calendar between us.
I love, love, love Fantastical on the Mac and Fantastical 2 on iPhone. These apps make it extremely easy to enter new appointments and view my day.
On the iPad, I just use the built-in Calendar app.
Voicemail is a necessary evil. All my voicemails on my DocumentSnap line and my mobile come in as MP3s so that I can listen to them, and on my mobile phone they are (sort of) transcribed by a service called Phonetag.
Historically, when I was at an event I would take notes by writing in a notebook or typing into the Evernote app or the aforementioned Drafts.
It got to the point where people would take pictures of me (gasp) writing on paper, as my good friend Rebecca Mullen did here.
I recently went to a conference, and as an experiment I tried handwriting on my iPad using the Notability app and an Adonit Jot Pro stylus.
It went pretty well, and I can see myself doing it going forward. I like how Notability lets you seamlessly switch between typing, writing, and drawing.
The only thing I didn’t like about the Adonit was that it made a loud tapping noise as I was writing. If you have a stylus that you love, please let us know in the comments.
Either way, all these notes end up in Evernote.
I am a big fan of the You Need A Budget software/methodology, aka YNAB. They describe it as “four simple rules that help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money faster”.
I download all my transactions into YNAB, and categorize and track from there.
Using the same password everywhere is a recipe for disaster. You want to use a password manager so that you can have unique secure passwords for each site without going crazy.
I use 1Password on my Mac and Windows machines, iPhone, and iPad. It makes password management so easy and automated.
It’s very rare that I need to fax something, but when I do, I use either HelloFax on my computer or Genius Fax on my iPhone. They make it easy to send faxes without having to touch a fax machine.
I like paper books as much as anyone, but I am shifting more and more of my reading to digital books. Most of my purchased books are read on the Kindle that my wife and I fight over, or on the Kindle app on the iPad or iPhone when I inevitably lose that fight.
For books that I download in ePub format, I use the iBooks app on the iPad.
I have shifted all my magazine reading to the tablet. I use the Wired app in Newsstand to read Wired, but I am starting to enjoy the Zinio app for some other publications.
I am sliding more and more down the slippery slope of digital comics lately, so ComiXology has become my guilty pleasure.
Filling Out And Signing Documents
I use PDFpen or good old Preview.app to fill out PDFs, even ones that are not “fillable”.
I recently wrote a newsletter issue on this very topic describing how to do it on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android.
I can’t send paper cards for obvious reasons, so when I want to send a card I use Paperless Post.
The other day my wife and I were in a store and she pointed at a scale and said “why the heck do you need a scale with Wi-Fi?”
I had to bite my tongue because that very day I was planning to use a gift card I had received to buy that scale. Oops.
I use a Fitbit One to capture my activity and a Fitbit Aria scale to capture my weight etc. These automatically get uploaded to Fitbit’s site where they are tracked over time.
For years I used Lose It, but lately I am playing with MyFitnessPal. I can’t decide which I like better.
As for why I track all these things, I’m a nerd. Why wouldn’t I?
How About You?
These are some ways that I manage my life without paper. How about you? Are there any areas that I have missed? Do you have any alternate tools that you recommend? Let us know in the comments.
(Photo by Brad Greenlee)