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Going Paperless in the Digital Age


Image: troyanphoto -
If you’re a tree hugger like me, you’ve probably tried to convert your office or workspace to paperless. With all the desktop applications we have at our fingertips, coupled with a decent-top scanner, who needs paper? I thought I didn’t.
This past week, my staff (again)requested an office supply order that included old-fashioned desktop calendars, mechanical pencils, and multi-color packs of highlighters and post-it notes.
So what’s missing from all these great tools we have on our electronic desktop? Space, position, and convenience.
I use a single 34-inch curved monitor and have become a master at sizing windows on my screen. I aim to achieve the perfect overlap ratio for email, Microsoft Teams, a browser, my UC phone/chat app, and at least one spreadsheet, in addition to PDF or Word documents, as needed. However, when I really want to remember something, I grab a pen and post-it note, or paper scrap, which then stays on my desk until I can safely put it in the recycle bin.
My team uses large desktop calendars, which they highlight in all colors of the rainbow to see different project dates at a glance. But these calendars aren’t mixed with their actual appointment calendars, and instead, key reminders are scribbled on post-it notes and tacked to the outer edges of their monitors. Using different colors in text and highlights are strengths of modern operating systems and desktop applications, so color isn’t the issue. However, using electronic post-it notes is risky because they can easily land behind another window. Could the software developers add a setting that prevents it from being placed behind something?
Yes, but then we’re back to a space problem.
So, how do we solve the space, position, and convenience dilemma? I’m hoping that some intelligent person reads this article and invents the next desktop extension monitor. I envision small rectangular monitors—maybe about three to four inches wide and about 12 inches tall—that can clip or Velcro onto the sides and top of our existing monitors. They’d work solely off of USB and still allow a mouse to travel naturally, as it does between two traditional monitors. To be widely considered, the price needs to come in under $100 for a two-pack.
I’ve seen small USB travel monitors, so the technology exists, but it must be re-sized and integrated. Here’s how I think this would solve the paper problem:
  • Desktop operating systems already include free post-it note applications, including multi-color settings. The problem is the post-it note can end up behind other documents opened on your main screen. If you put your post-it notes on the new side vertical monitor, they would always be upfront and stand out because they are outside your main view. You could train yourself to glance at the new monitor throughout the day to see those notes, even if they aren’t the three-dimensional post-it notes our eyes catch outside of our monitors.
  • Affixing one of these new monitors to the top or bottom of your primary monitor would provide enough screen real estate to see a few weeks of a secondary calendar separate from your main one, highlighted as needed, by using a freeware calendar program. You could also place post-it notes on either side of the secondary calendar.
  • If your hands are already on your keyboard and you're wearing a headset, adding a quick post-it note to the new monitor is certainly more convenient than using a pen and paper.
Meanwhile, I placed the Amazon order, and (of course) they delivered the next day. Feelings of sheer delight flooded the team as they opened their brightly colored supplies, reminiscent of newly-started school days. I’ll keep trying to reduce our office supply footprint while I hope for the next big idea in monitors.

Bobra is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.