Paper: Why You Should Never Use It Again And Why Your Business Will Accelerate As A Result

It's 2010, do you really still write on scraps of paper?  Do you still use post-its, index cards, and notebooks?  Why?

Here is something really interesting.  Even in the early 90's, I met someone who hated paper.  I was in grade school at detention in the principal's office, and a woman who worked in that office did not use paper, and hated paper.  Keep in mind that this was before the internet was available anywhere. This was just when Windows 3.1 was coming out, and "easy" networking was almost unheard of.  To transfer files she must have been limited to a slow modem fax machine.  But even with all the limitations of the 1990's, she made sure not to use paper.

Now going paperless doesn't seem silly at all.  I am telling you right now, as soon as you stop using paper, you will instantly become more productive.  But how can you give paper up?

Network Shares

Because networking and file sharing has been built in to all modern operating systems for at least the past 10 years.  You can easily share a folder on your desktop computer and access it from your laptop.

I don't have everything on my computer shared over my network.  But I do know that anything I am currently working on such as a word document, a mind-map, or a PowerPoint presentation, I will have on my desktop.  I have my desktop shared through the whole network so that when I am downstairs on the couch, or in my front yard or backyard, I can easily get to whatever document I am currently working on.

Having shared folders over a network also makes file copying easier. When I record a webinar on my laptop, I don't have to use a USB Stick to transfer the file, I just copy it right over the network.  Think about all the steps you save

You save having to put the USB stick in, wait for the computer to recognize it, open up the folder on the USB Stick, open up the folder on your desktop, drag the file over, wait for it to copy, close out the windows, unplug the USB stick from the laptop, plug the stick back into your desktop, open up both windows and copy it over.

Instead, you open up the destination you want to copy your file to on your laptop, find the file you want to copy, drag it over, and it magically happens.


Speaking of things happening magically, my favorite iPhone app is a program called Evernote.  Evernote allows you to write notes, in other words text documents.  What makes it magical is that they have versions for the iPhone, iPad and Windows.  They actually have a web-based version, a MacIntosh version, a Droid version, and a Blackberry version, but I don't use them.

The idea is that I have this program called Evernote installed on my laptop, desktop, iPad, and iPhone. Whenever I make a change to any of the notes or documents in Evernote, it will sync them up to the cloud and any other devices I have, and will download the new versions.

This means I can type a note on my computer and get to it on my phone.  I can edit on my phone and read it instantly on my iPad.  I can change it on my iPad, and then open up my laptop and read it or write to it there.  In other words, I have many devices editing the same document at the same time.

Accountability Blog

Speaking of storing my notes in the cloud, the number one source of wasted paper I used to have was my to-do list or my task list.  Not anymore.  Now I store my full daily tasks on a private membership site that only myself and Lance have access to.

Because my laptop, desktop, iPad, and iPhone all have internet access, I can get to that task list any time I want. Because I have XML-RPC enabled on that blog I can use the blog press app on my phone to easily post new to-do list items without having to even use the browser.

The great thing about storing my daily task list on my blog is I can easily edit it.  I can store away the old version.  But if I need to get something, I can type something in the search box and figure out exactly when I was working on what tasks.
Speaking of depending on searches.

Gmail And Google Calendar

If you are still stuck on an email program like Outlook, you are missing out on the advantages of Gmail.  Gmail is a totally web-based email client. What set it apart at first from other email clients is it has almost a desktop-like interface. You use keyboard shortcuts, you can drag and drop, and most importantly it's fast.

Instead of using the folder system like Outlook, Gmail allows you to tag your messages with labels.  If someone emails me asking for a download link for a specific product, I can label that message both with the name of the product and the tag download link.  That means, if I ever want to view all the requests for download links, I can click on one button and find it.

If I get a confirmation email about a hotel or flight reservation, I tag it as "Travel" and then I can see the email in the list of all my messages, or just click on the "Travel" label and see everything I need.

Also, the search feature is extremely fast. If I am going to Austin for example, I can search the word Austin in the search box, and get a list of all the email messages that contain the word Austin.  If I want to look up all the correspondence between myself and a particular person, I will type the persons name and find all the results.

The missing part of Gmail, that I only discovered within the last year or two is the Google calendar.  Google calendar allows you to store appointments and see everything you have to do today.  But what makes it unique is that you cannot only see it from anywhere, but you can share your calendar with other users.  Just like with Outlook.

I make sure to store my appointments and my meetings on there, and I synchronize it with my iPhone and iPad. That way I get alerts when something important is coming up. When I am traveling, I also store my travel itinerary directly in the calendar, that way I can be sure which flight I am on and when my flight leaves and arrives. The final paper killer I want to share with you today is.


A mind-map is basically a network of thought nodes, you can have one node and many nodes coming out of that node, and other nodes coming out of those.  That way you can structure a thought into a tree.

Many people spend way too much time on mind-maps, and make them crazy, which is why I only use mind-maps as a temporary brain-storming tool. If I am going to be making a power point, I will plan out the structure in the mind-map.  That way I can drag notes around and arrange things, and then create the power point, then delete the mind-map.

I will also use mind-maps to plan out a series of articles I'm writing for the same reason.  Because I can drag ideas around before settling on the final structure, and once those articles are done, I will again delete the mind-map.

Those five elements of technology should completely remove any reason you have left of having paper.

Did I leave any out?  Do you still have an excuse for using paper? Please let me know in the comments below and I will tell you why I think you are wrong.

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  1. I don’t use any note taking, but I do admit I have a small text file on my desktop written directly in Notepad. I constantly keep tasks done, so I don’t need any 3M yellow notes or other stuff cluttering my desktop.

    But thanks for a thought-provoking article. EverNote sound interesting. πŸ™‚

  2. Britt Malka says:

    I use paper, and I will not give it up, and I have reasons for being so stubborn πŸ˜‰

    Yes, I use all the electronic means, and I just love Evernote, but for some things I prefer paper.

    For my over all “to do” dailies (the three things).

    For brainstorming – I do that better on paper than with mind maps. Maybe I should learn more about mind maps… But there’s something about white paper that inspires me πŸ™‚

    For reading ebooks faster and more effective and to be able to write notes on them, highlight things, etc.

    That’s about it. You’ll only see one yellow post-it on my desk, and it contains the materials I need to make my chopper in World of Warcraft.

  3. Two things I notice about your posts, Robert – they are chock full of great content (this could easily have been 5 different articles!) and they are very attractive (do you look for each graphic individually?)

    As for paper – I’m with Britt – I’m not giving it up. I am a heavy techie – but I do my best thing away from the computer. So I need that pad of white lined paper (not college rule) – paper lovers will recognize we all have our preferred type and brand of paper. It could from years of knowing that when I sit down with that type of pad in front of me it means think, create.

    I also don’t read and comprehend well from the screen. Could be that my glasses don’t focus well at that range, the light coming back at you, all sorts of “reasons” but in spite of using computers for 30 years, I still can get technical information much better by reading it from paper.

    Finally, there is an entire learning style called kinesthetic. If you are this type of learner, you have to touch and interact with the information. And that learning style means that electrons won’t do it for you. You have to touch the information, manipulate it. I think there’s a bit of that in all of us who stick with our paper.

    Yes, I transfer files, use electronic organizers and calendars (although I’m sticking with Outlook, NOT a fan of gmail), but I will continue to use my paper.

  4. Robert Plank says:


    I was thinking about splitting up those posts and making the next 7 days “the week of eliminating paper” but my blog is enough of a mess already when it comes to finding stuff… might as well lump it all together.

    Do you at least throw away the paper after you’ve figured out what you want and put it into a product?

  5. Robert Plank says:

    Oh yeah, and with the graphics, I go on istockphoto and search for the keyword so I can find the picture I want. I only look at ones with lots of whitespace. Then buy it (they’re usually about $1.50 each but totally worth it), but instead of downloading it — I’ll probably never use it anyway — I open it directly into photoshop, save (photoshop lets you resize WHILE you’re saving), then insert it into the post.

    I know WP has an image resize feature, but it’s too cumbersome and photoshop is way faster.

    The thing to notice is that I don’t save the graphics (I even delete the saved version after uploading) even though I’ve paid for them. I’m not going to use them ever again.

  6. Sarah says:

    I agree with Jeanette on the kinesthetic aspect of learning. Using the computer is more visual. It is tactile when we type.

    Well, I don’t switch on the computer all the time, even though it’s probably long enough. I agree that you can search for the things quite quickly if they are saved on the computer.

    And I don’t have a smartphone like iphone to jot down these. I don’t use most of the functions on my phone.

    However, my eyes do need a rest, and when that happens, I jot whatever that comes to my mind on paper. My optometrist says my eyes are weak and I need to look away every half an hour from the screen, which I usually forget.

    Don’t want to go blind so early.

    Yes, and I find reading notes, writing notes at the side, and highlighting them, help me retain the information faster.

    I need to figure out how to integrate my hundred and one email accounts on outlook into gmail.

  7. vicki says:

    I’m still a full time office worker, and sit in front of a computer monitor all day. I have some carpal tunnel pain in my shoulders, but that is not as bad as my eyes. At home in the evenings, I can barely stand to watch tv or check my email, my eyes are so “tired” and my eye muscles literally ache. I have weak eyes anyway (I won’t tell you my prescription, but even the featherweight lenses I buy look like coke bottle lenses). So, at night, I write down my ideas, outline products and strategies, in a steno note pad. I do most initial product planning and so forth on paper, and then move to the computer when I’m ready to write a more finished piece. I guess also,since I’m Generation X, I’m technology-bilingual and I still enjoy using paper and pen as well as the keyboard. I have always loved the feel, and smell, of paper and ink.

  8. Remi says:


    Give it up mate! lol πŸ™‚

    You can’t persuade people NOT to use paper. I mean don’t get me wrong, I do acknowledge everything you wrote that would help tremendously with time management and you ARE right about those facts.

    But the thing is we are unique human beings and react differently to the various stimulus outside our capabilities.

    Some of us are old-fashioned and I guess we tend to stay that way to the detriment of time passing by next to us.

    Sorry mate. I’m sticking with the stickers πŸ˜€

    Thanks for another great post Robert.

    Regards, Remi

  9. Sherm says:

    Another great paper-saver is Jott. This little iPhone app (works on other platforms too) lets me press a button, speak into my iPhone, and the note gets transcribed and added to my online calendar or to-do list automatically. This amazing service costs only $3 a month, and it keeps my brain free from remembering every little thing that pops into it. No more scraps of paper in my pocket!

  10. Robert Plank says:


    I used to be so bad at scraps of paper. Even just a few years ago you would be able to find about 20 pieces of paper in my pocket at any given time. To get rid of that I used the “notepad” feature on my old phone, and now I just have an iPhone with an app to do it.

  11. Nurul says:

    I agree, to the most part, moving from paper paper everywhere to a paperless environment takes an attitude. A little bit of a struggle initially then its a lifestyle that am glad I have come to appreciate. I find speed in accessing and retrieving stored materials aided by technology is a relief to my mind giving me extra time to play.

    Still, somehow I love pencil and paper to capture some ideas, feelings and insights. Its what I call creation time, my intimate moments with the universe. I use my magic tools (pencil & paper) to create and re-create my dreams and my world, you know those quiet moments when you reduce everything onto a clean sheet of paper with absolute certainty……and the next moment they are out there in the real world! To this I still cling to my lovely journal, my treasure island. lol!

  12. I think you have to accept that people learn and think differently. While most in our culture are primarily visual, some are not.

    And some tasks just seem to work better on paper for most of us. I *never* print out ebooks to read. But I know lots of people who prefer to print them for reading. It really does often have to do with one’s vision.

    I hate *wasting* paper, but when I finish writing and editing an important document, I print it. I’m always amazed at the errors, especially typos and wrong words not caught by spell checker, that jump out at me in print—that I overlooked again and again in proofing on screen. It’s like magic.

    And I get far better compliance from clients, especially techies, in reviewing docs if the docs are printed, with a review form on top. Emails with attachments are easy to file and ignore. A stack of paper on a paperless desk gets action. It stands out like a sore thumb.

    And when I make reviewers write their corrections in red ink, I can find even the smallest marks, *and* I can keep a record of their changes.

    With electronic reviews I may have to search through a 200-page doc to try to figure out what they changed. Or they turn on corrections, which then disappear–or do not turn off properly….Ugh! And did I mention they almost always wreck the formatting?

    So paper still has its uses—depending on how your mind works—and we are all different.

  13. I love Google Calendar.

    It is a great ways to let your family and business partners know what you are doing when.

    I am still not sold on Evernote
    But like everything else you have taught me..

    am I sure you are correct and I will be addicted to it soon enough.

  14. Robert Plank says:


    My argument for EverNote is this: there are some pieces of information that…

    1. don’t belong in any product or membership site
    2. don’t really fit into our accountability blog
    3. are temporary (like a headline or article idea)
    4. you need to write down now but you only have your phone on you

    I guess it’s the digital version of that “tiny book” you carry around.

  15. Alexander says:

    I too love to share a part of my files over a network, but not only on the local network (my desktop and my notebook), but also over the whole Internet !

    I use so every file that gets saved in any of the subfolders of the “My Dropbox” folder gets saved on every your device over the Internet that has the Dropbox application installed with you ID. And you can access all that files from any device that has a browser and an internet connection.
    Dropbox has also the pro that, in case your hard disk blows up, as soon you install a new one, have an internet connection and installed the Dropbox application, you restore automatically your data.

    Evernote and Dropbox are 2 of my 3 essential tools that I install on every computer I use (at home and at work). The third one is Copernic Desktop Search which helps me to instantly find every file, mail or attachment on my local network and this is another great help in removing every sheet of paper from my life and find the informations fast as soon as you need them.

  16. Robert, I was an architect before cad drawing programs were everywhere, so I grew up with paper.

    There is something immensely satisfying about putting things on paper: that is the good news. The bad news is that is immensely satisfying: and a lot of ideas blow off steam while they are put on paper, and many a fabulous projects die at that point.

    People who get this mini-orgasms from using paper, sketching, brain-storming on paper also assign power to that piece of paper: and they never throw it away.

    Truth be told, many of my students (all the ones I had the privilege to work directly on their computer) do the same things with electronic documents: there is a massive fear of losing something?

    Deleting the building blocks once you are done is like cleaning up the kitchen after cooking a gourmet meal: of course. Those building blocks are in the finished product and you are done.

    Which may mean that people are afraid of completion: and throwing stuff away/deleting them from your computer is an expression of that.

    I am speaking both as an observer and from my own experience.

    Hanging out with you has made a big difference in this regard: I have much less half-finished good ideas, and a lot more launched, public, buy-able items on the internet.

    But: I still have my itinerary on paper, and I am observing a handful of postit notes on my desk: I don’t have an Iphone.

    And I am with Jeanette on some things, as far as eye sight goes: I can’t see. I can’t see my phone’s screen, I can’t read (use naturalreader to read anything that’s longer than a page) and maybe I have such a difficulty translating words to actions because I am a kinesthetic / auditory learner… hmmm. Now what?

  17. Robert Plank says:


    About the eyesight thing, get an iPad. πŸ™‚

  18. Robert, I am sure you meant cloud, not crowd…

    I just looked up cloud computing: does this mean that your evernote notes are networked through the internet, and are stored on some remote device?


  19. Robert Plank says:

    Sophie, you’re right, I fixed it.

    That’s what happens when you have someone transcribe for you… but then again those people make less typos than me.

  20. Nancy Boyd says:

    One of the main problems with all these tools is that they require being chained to your online empire in order to use them. Some of us are not online 24/7 (oh the shock!)

    That said, there is another reason to use paper, and so far I don’t find a suitable electronic substitute for it. The kinesthetic action of writing something down in your own handwriting actuates the first step in the manifestation process. Yeah I know, that sounds all woo-woo and stuff.

    But you know what? Something different happens with what I write down on paper than what I type into my computer. Dunno why, it just does. The stuff I write on paper gets done. What’s online is the “product” of what I’ve written on paper, if that makes any sense.

    I may not be expressing this as clearly as I’d like (too many articles written today) but those are the main points in favor of handwriting and paper vs electronic media.

    That said, there are ways I do use some of the online tools too; “for everything a time and a season”!

    Keep up the great posts, Robert! Thanks.


  21. Alexander says:


    One of the main problems with all these tools is that they require being chained to your online empire in order to use them. Some of us are not online 24/7 (oh the shock!)

    That is NOT true: for example Evernote and Dropbox work offline and they sync as soon as you get online.

    The stuff I write on paper gets done.

    I’m convinced that everybody has to find his own way and that a solution that works for me, not necessary works for you. Altough the post written by Robert has the advantage to challenge us to try a few steps into the direction of a paperless world. Maybe the extreme to live totaly paperless is too much for you, but maybe you might benefit from getting rid of “some” paper πŸ™‚


  22. Warren says:

    I am migrating away from Post it Notes and Index cards everywhere.

    I have already eliminated my printing of most emails and documents. I only print Airline info and Receipts for my taxes.

    I do find my Moleskine book a great resource. It fits in my pocket and can take drawings, text, to do lists, commitments and dates when I am on the go. Even though I do not often review much of what is in them (exceptions being commitments) the process of writing by hand makes the content stick in memory better than any other way I know.

  23. Robert Plank says:


    “I only print Airline info and Receipts for my taxes.”

    For the airline info, I just put the flight number into my FlightTrack iPhone app, that way I know not only when it is, but if there are any delays. And most airlines now (I’m not sure if they all do) will scan any credit card you have on you (not to bill you, just to read your name) so you don’t need to know a confirmation code anymore.

  24. HelenRappy says:

    Thanks for sharing so much great content!! You have a lot of really good ideas here and some that I use but I just love paper!! I LOVE it!! I have notebooks everywhere, in my coat, my purse, by my bed.. Everywhere! I love to get my thoughts out and brainstorm on paper. I know I have countless sheets of it that I may never look at again, but I think I helped record it in my head by writing it down.

    Without paper, how do you take notes? I know you are not a big fan of notes but you must hear a few things you want to capture?

    TY, keep up the great work and sharing your ideas!

  25. Robert Plank says:


    If there’s a bunch of notes I can group together, like from an event, I’ll take the notes on my iPhone/iPad on EverNote and then copy/paste onto the accountability blog when I get home.

    If they’re random little notes, I’ll post to EverNote and then delete once I’ve used them.

    Either way, EverNote syncs all the notes with my iPhone, iPad, desktop and laptop.

  26. Who would have thought “paper” could inspire such a lively discussion?!

    From what I’ve ascertained in the comment boxes so far, looks like ya got your paper people and your non-paper people.

    And they all sound like great people.

    Me? I like paper.


  27. I find that I am moving away from paper as a method of storing information. I scan things that need keeping and put them in folders on my network. I write and think better at a keyboard rather than on paper. However, I find that when I really want to study something, I do that best by having it printed out, in a folder or a notebook so I can make notes and highlight things. Also, it gets me out of my chair and in another setting. I find that I am in front of a computer for so many hours a day that my neck and back really hurt. I’ve now purchased 3 different chairs to help, but I still struggle with it. Plus, my reading glasses work better away from the computer…focusing for long hours becomes an issue. I guess these things are for the older crowd. Those who are young will wonder what I’m talking about. I still love handwritten notes and I use them myself, although I have an account with Send Out Cards and I also send digital cards, albeit in my own handwriting font. I don’t think I would use Send Out Cards if I couldn’t use my own handwriting font. I think I will always love the feel of a book in my hands. Nothing digitally even comes close to that magic.

  28. Sarah says:

    Robert, seems like a lot of people here like to use paper still. Is there any wonder why your paper template works so well? People just like paper!

  29. Clyde Reid says:

    I am in the process of getting paperless but I do not think I will ever find anything to replace the 5 1/2 X 8 1/2 half pads for notes to put in my Bible for when I am preaching. If you have any suggestions for that I am all ears.

    I do store all my sermon notes on my hard drive so I do not have a ton of paper stacked around all over the place but, even then I have to print them out landscape 2 to a page to carry to the pulpit with me.

    Thanks for all your help and I am still waiting on a reply to a message I sent asking when Membership CUbe is going to open again.


  30. Robert Plank says:


    All I have to say is iPad. It has an app for the kindle (with landscape option and adjustable font size) and there are 8,000 versions of the bible on there. It has a highlighting functionality and the screen is good enough that you don’t get eyestrain. There are a couple hundred bible apps too.

    Membership Cube is closed? That’s news to me… the buy link looks functional on this page:

  31. Alexander says:

    Hi Robert,
    how/where do you store notes that you want to keep for reference ?

  32. Robert,

    I know what you’re saying and agree in the main about going electronic, however paper is still always going to be a useful tool for all the reasons given above by those in favour of keeping and using it. I also find that I ‘lose’ stuff electronically, so I use Copernic too but I also need to spend time to clean up and organise my PC folders as I’m sure I’ve bought stuff twice!

    As regards Google mail and Google calendar, I would love to use it but my employer, The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC here in the UK, has a policy of blocking access to all web-based email services, so when I am at work doing the 9-5 day job… I can’t access the Google services (only Google search). Shame really.

  33. Robert Plank says:


    There’s an easy solution to that… only do work stuff at work! When I was at my day job, our contracts said that regular non-work Internet was grounds for dismissal.

  34. Thomas says:

    OK Robert,
    I have been thinking about switching everything to the cloud for the last 6 months and you have gone and forced me to finally take that leap, Thank you.
    Thumbs up on the evernote tip.
    I can see that this will not be easy but it is doable.
    Couple these tips with some of your other products and I see business coming up here.

  35. I still think my good friend, Cyril, said it best today when he said this on Twitter:

    “a paperless office has about as much chance as a paperless bathroom.”

    He has many good points and certainly worth following which you may do from

  36. Rob says:

    One of the things that I do is I have a private folder on my hosting account server. I put all my courses that I am working on and or things I am testing so I can access them from any computer. Finally I use firefox mobile and filezilla mobile, so all my favorites are alway with me and I can up load things to the web on the run.

  37. Ron says:

    I use Outlook Express (now Windows Mail) for years and I found the Drafts folder is a handy little place for notes or small code snippets I need etc. Since my email is always open I have access at anytime.

    Maybe not the best solution, but it’s worked for years for me.

    I just got my iPhone yesterday and installing Evernote as I type this.

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