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Chaos, Cabinets and the confessions of a paper phobic

Now I’m back in the office I’ve replaced my holiday reading, which included a book about a teenage detective with Aspergers syndrome, the story of the hunt for the Commandant of Auschwitz and the latest Mark Bililngham, with a book to help me with just getting a tiny bit more efficient.

The book that’s hopefully helping me do this is “Getting Things Done” by  David Allen.

Although I’m getting a lot out of reading the book (some of the systems contained within are deceptively simply, but with a little discipline I reckon they’re going to be incredibly useful) David Allen and I seem to have a massively different opinion on the importance of a particular thing.

A thing we take for granted and can be massively useful, but can also create Chaos.

A thing which you’d find it tough to spend a day without touching.

A thing which, in my opinion, is becoming less of a necessity in our lives.


“What’s that Chris? This massively important thing you were talking about was Paper?!”

Yep, Paper.

The difference in opinion comes from the fact that David Allen thinks that paper is a necessity and I reckon in a modern office it can quickly turn into a burden.

Now before you switch off your computer and pick up the phone to the exaggeration police and report me for severe overestimation of the importance of paper or giving me the award for the most boring blog ever, let me explain…

Three years ago my office was full of cabinets. These cabinets we’re full of paper.

I was finding myself increasingly spending way too much time going through these cabinets to find files and then finding the particular document in the folder in order to perform a particular action.

After a particular frustrating day of shuffling paper I decided that as a business we needed to make a change.

I then, document by document, and with a huge amount of help, scanned every single piece of paper into an electronic system…electronic folders with every document labelled and backed up to ensure we have an assurance that the information is secure and safe.

Once done (and it took us a couple of days) we felt relatively good…and we we’re also pretty determined to keep it this way.

However whilst the ideal is to be totally paperless and we’re a million times better than we were I still seem to be surrounded by unnecessary paper.

Although part of this might be my own lack of efficiency, I reckon the reason we never get a completely paperless environment is simple…

Every day I get another avalanche of paper coming through my letterbox!

Also, I’d estimate that between 50 – 70% of the paper we get goes straight in the bin.

I get that publishers need to publish and marketeers need to market but I can’t help but thinking about the waste of time, cash and paper (oh so much paper!) gets wasted trying to tell me a story I’m never going to read or sell me a product which i’m never going to buy due to our policy of anything not pertinent and relevant getting chucked away.

Even with the pertinent and relevant paper we receive, It’s massively rare that we receive a document which couldn’t have been sent more efficiently, with more speed, and at lower cost electronically.

However, and even though having electronic document as standard it would save buckets of cash, massive amount of time and millions of trees, we seem to be determined as an industry to continue to cling onto our obsession with paper based communication.

I’m not completely papyrophobic. I still like the touch and feel of a good old fashioned book. I love a nice notebook to write in. I just wish that as an industry and profession we could see paper as a thing to enjoy but use sparingly.

After all, it doesn’t grow on….erm, hold on!

So, I’m interested in your thoughts…

Are you as frustrated with the amount of pointless paper you receive?

or do you like working that way?

Why do you think we seem to be obsessed with paper? or am I making a huge paper mountain out of a molehill?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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