Drowning in Paper

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I have a problem I don’t know quite how to resolve.   I am drowning in paper.   Businessman sinking in heap of documents

Most of my colleagues–old and young–keep everything on Outlook or on our server and never print out anything or very little.   They read files and emails online.   They can quickly parse information online in a fragmented series.   On the opposite side of the spectrum, in order to comprehend and create I need to print out relevant materials, assemble or spread it out in front of me, and take in the whole picture at once.

A plus on their side is that they can prepare very rapidly, much faster than me, with a lot less effort.   My plus is I will remember details or questions they have missed.

But, the world is moving much faster, communication and response are much faster, and it’s hard for me to keep up.   I get into work earlier and earlier to assemble, coordinate and organize.   After months of doing this, I am struggling and wonder if it is worth it.

Since I feel stretched thinner and thinner, at some point I can see myself giving up on paper and just doing the best I can with whatever detail I take in on the fly.   I don’t know that I will ever be comfortable learning and creating that way, but realistically I need to do better on time management.

Is anyone else facing this dilemma and how are you handling it?


3 thoughts on “Drowning in Paper

  1. Know what you mean. Felt exactly the same until I was able to clearly see the problem. Pick up a copy to check out of library: The Geek Gap: Why Business And Technology Professionals Don’t Understand Each Other And Why They Need Each Other to Survive by Bill Pfleging

  2. I scan a lot of different websites first thing in the morning, not necessarily related to my job. Because I don’t want to take the time to read them right then, I print them, intending to read them when I stop for a decompressing coffee on my way home. But some nights, I either don’t decompress or don’t get through everything. So I put the unread pile on my desk at home. The pile grows and when it threatens to fall over, I start a new one. Periodically, I go through these stacks of paper, discover that, for 98% of the articles, I’m no longer interested, their subject matter has been overtaken by subsequent events, or I just decide that all the really good stories come around again – and I toss the 98%. After each purge, I stop printing … for about a week, and then the cycle starts up again. I don’t know how to stop, except to stop. The problem with the web is it makes *so* much available. It’s like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet (except for the sites with paywalls) and having a little of this and a little of that and a little of this other thing, until you’ve piled enough on your plate to feed a small town.

    I think my solution is going to have to be to read more narrowly and remember one person has only so much time, energy and attention.

  3. Karen I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head with this topic. I think our society and work environments are becoming more reactionary than ever. So much information comes at us every day with 24/ 7 access online, we are processing more information every day than people ever did in the past. As a consequence, our brains have to make constant decisions on what to take in and what to ignore. It’s exhausting!

    As a result, as you pointed out, people tend to miss details. I think there is less depth and more breadth in our information processing these days. There’s a lot to be said for taking our time to process the details, but unfortunately I don’t think people have this luxury of time any more. They have to react quickly to the information coming at them.

    I wonder if at some point there will be a backlash?

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