IMPORTANT ADVICE: there aren’t any affiliate marketing links, and I don’t receive anything at all from companies or people I mention in this article.
I’m a paperless guy.
Yes, I haven’t used a piece of paper almost for a decade.
I’m still alive, so I can conclude this works.
If you wonder why you should become paperless, this article is the second part of my “2 items paperless saga”, which started explaining “19 Immediate Benefits You Can Get Becoming Paperless”.
You always need a why to do or become something in life.
In this article, I will summarize all the processes/situations you can find yourself in life (talking about a need for a pen and paper), and how you can overcome each of those situations. I will explain the process and the software I use for each of those scenarios.
I’ve thought a lot about these situations, and I can’t find any more, at least in my life.
In case you may found any more situations or a particular need, just tell me, because there’s always a way to not depend on paper.
I’ve listed 14 needs you may need. You need to:
- Write it down something very quickly.
- Take notes.
- Remind something.
- Do things and organize how you will do them.
- Easily create lists of things, such as your shopping list.
- Schedule an event or meeting.
- Have all your information safe and sound… and accessible everywhere at any moment.
- Write a letter, essay, or that type of document.
- Make a presentation.
- Calculate things using formulas and some advanced operations.
- Manage your personal finances.
- Save your most critical information: passwords, credit card numbers, bank accounts…
- Take handwritten notes or draw because your life doesn’t make sense just typing.
Before starting, I will make a series of previous warnings:
- I’ve tried to write the most basic article possible, so that people who hate technology can easily take a step forward into the paperless world. Please, “heavy users”, don’t insult me!
- In this article, focus on processes/concepts much more than software. Each of us is different. Maybe what’s comfortable for me is not for you. Perhaps a software I’m delighted with doesn’t fit your way of viewing things. There are hundreds of alternatives through the Internet. Find the one you’re totally convinced.
- Sorry, but I’m an Apple geek. I’ll dedicate some other day an article to this topic to explain my position. Some of the software I suggest only works on Apple devices. Whenever there’s an alternative, I will indicate it. Again, sorry about this.
- Use each software for what it was developed. We usually try to make a software to work for processes they weren’t designed to. Whenever you only use each software for what it was done, you enjoy it, make the most out of it, and live your best experience as a user. For each software I’m going to list, I’ll include the typical situation you should use it.
- Be open-minded to change your processes. Don’t blame developers for not covering your processes the way you do them. Pay attention to how the software covers a process, and try to adapt to it. Think developers and analysts have thought a lot about each process and the best way to do it. Most of the time, their process will be better than yours. Doing so, you will kill two birds with one stone: you’ll improve your process, and you’ll have software that will do it.
- Right now, I’m in a process focused on centralize, simplify, and optimize my processes and software around Notion. It’s too early for me to explain it. That’s why I’m sharing in this article the process I’ve perfectly used for almost a decade.
- I always look for software with a beautiful design. When I say design, I’m referring to the whole user experience: graphical design (gorgeous graphical user interface), the data model (data upload and recovery), and implementation (navigation through the software).
- I’m continuously trying and testing any kind of software. If I haven’t changed them is just because I consider I’m using the best ones (always talking about those that perfectly fit my needs).
With all that said, let’s go through all those needs and see how we can overcome them!
1. Write it down something very quickly.
Typical situation: “I need a pen and paper!”
It’s what’s called “quick entry”.
Drafts is the one for me.
I’m sorry to say it’s only developed for Apple devices.
This software is great because as soon as you opened it, a blank screen appears, and you can directly write on it your idea, your inspiration, something you cannot forget…
For me, it’s like a giant bucket that can eat anything you throw in it.
Everything always starts at Drafts for me.
It’s my one and only entry point to create a piece of information in my system.
Twice a day, I process it and create the items I need in the software they should be.
By the way, its iWatch app allows me to dictate things on the go.
2. Take notes.
Typical situation: “I need a notebook”.
Evernote is your endless notebook.
It’s one of my loved ones.
You can create all kinds of notebooks and group them in piles.
Each notebook is an endless number of notes.
Each note can have all types of information inside: sound, images, PDF, formatted text…
Finding data in Evernote is impressive because you can even find text information inside images (I use this feature for business cards), or inside attached files.
3. Remind something.
Typical situation: “I can’t forget this”.
You won’t forget anything using Due.
I have to say this software is impressive because of its simplicity and because it has a feature I love.
Whenever you create a reminder, the software starts alerting you until you mark it as done (or you throw away your iWatch, iPhone, iPad, or computer… I won’t say Mac, although that’s what it is…).
This alarm repeats during the interval you previously set up.
I’m sorry to say it’s only developed for Apple devices.
4. Do things and organize how you will do them.
Typical situation: “I have to do this task”.
For more than 25 years, I’ve tried all kinds of task management software.
I have to say I felt very comfortable with 2Do.
I love when the software is enough opened to configure it to my processes, instead of more static software to which you have to adapt your methods.
2Do has a fantastic database model, which allows you to organize it in many different ways.
I really did enjoy 2Do, and it worked for me even for several years.
I ended up with Omnifocus because I started watching videos and reading many articles (even books) about this “classic” solution.
As you may know, this is something but an “opened system”, but there was something that always made me felt uncomfortable with 2Do: its graphical user interface.
I say all this because 2Do graphical user interface is something like “back to the future”, an environment in which I never felt comfortable, but that I bet on it because of its functionalities (sometimes you have to sacrifice design and cozy sensations due to pragmatic principles).
And I’m just talking about his desktop app because if you try its mobile one, the experience is even worse from my point of view.
Omnifocus is not as opened as 2Do, but it’s another level.
It’s a very serious software: significant, reliable, and a classic in its area, with lots of years, users, and documentation all over the place.
I got engaged with amazing guys who have created very interesting flows.
I have to admit its graphical user interface perfectly suited me, no matter if I used it on my iPad, iPhone, iWatch, or Mac.
My recommendation for beginners: Todoist, Things (Mac).
5. Easily create lists of things, such as your shopping list.
Typical situation: “I want to create a list of items”.
Even though you can perfectly use Evernote or any task manager for this, sometimes you want a place in which you quickly create a list of items using your smartphone, especially if you’re going to share that list with someone like my wife, who’s not a tech geek as I am (as you can see, she’s smarter than me).
That’s why I started using Wunderlist (now Microsoft To Do) for our shopping list.
Using this software, it’s effortless to create a list of items in your smartphone, check them whenever they’re done, and share that list with partners, friends, or whoever you may need.
6. Schedule an event or meeting.
Typical situation: “I’m meeting someone, and I need to schedule it”.
I’m an Apple geek… but I’m also a Google geek (conclusion: I’m a tech geek).
I think both companies are awesome. Both of them have improved my life.
That’s why I get the best of both, which is A LOT.
Google Calendar is the place to schedule all your meetings and appointments.
As an Apple user, I’ve been using Fantastical for a long time because of its user interface, but recently I went back to Apple Calendar because Fantastical wasn’t giving me real added-value.
You can easily connect your Google Calendar with your Apple Calendar app on your iPhone (I prefer that app to Google Calendar’s for iPhone).
7. Have all your information safe and sound… and accessible everywhere at any moment.
Typical situation: “I need a place to store my files”.
My virtual hard drive is Google Drive.
For me, there’s no need to use any other application, such as Dropbox.
If I’m using a software provider such as Google, and I’m happy with it, I try to meet as many needs as possible with that provider because that simplifies things a lot.
I don’t care about my local hard drive because I also use iCloud Drive to automatically synchronize my desktop in all my devices and “in the cloud”.
This is something very useful because I don’t care at all about the device I’m using. I can access all my data everywhere at any moment, even not having any of my devices, just an Internet connection.
I also don’t care if I lose my laptop or I change it. It’s a matter of minutes to have everything ready to start using my new device.
8. Write a letter, essay, or that type of document.
9. Make a presentation.
10. Calculate things using formulas and some advanced operations.
Typical situation: “I need to write documents, use spreadsheets, and make presentations”.
All these things can be done using Google Suite. Well, now, Google Workspace.
Like everybody, I started using Microsoft Office. I’ve always said that an average user only uses a 20% of what all these oversized suites offer you.
That’s why I was a pioneer using Google Suite, even for my companies. I was delighted about “the cloud concept” since its beginning, and having fewer features didn’t worry me at all.
Nowadays, all these Google products are excellent. There’s nothing you cannot do talking about word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations (and I’m talking not only for personal purposes but also for professional ones).
11. Manage your personal finances.
Typical situation: “I need to track my expenses and plan my personal finances”.
I spent years fighting with spreadsheets until I found out You Need a Budget.
I started using it in 2012. Today, I still use it.
I haven’t been able to find any better application to manage my personal finances.
If you want to have complete control of your personal finances in an easy, comfortable, and simple way, this is your software.
Typical situation: “I love journaling, and I’m used to it”.
Day One: A classic for journaling.
Excellent graphical user interface and unique features. Period.
Congratulations to these guys because they nailed it!
13. Save your most critical information: passwords, credit card numbers, bank accounts…
Typical situation: “I want a super-safe place to store my most private information”.
1Password is the key to open all the doors.
I can’t remember how long I’ve been using this app and how easy to use it is. I use it dozens of times every day.
I cannot say anything but nice words about it.
14. Take handwritten notes or draw because your life doesn’t make sense just typing.
There are people (it’s not my case) who love to draw or take handwritten notes. If that’s your case, you can grab a tablet and a digital pencil.
I only have this need when I’m sketching a complex idea. That’s when I use Noteshelf.
In Noteshelf, you can draw, write, and anything you could do using a pen and a piece of paper.
Something great about this kind of software is that you can do text searches, and they can do those searches even inside your own handwriting.
Noteshelf is the closest thing you can find to using a traditional notebook and a pen.
As you can see, today, there are no objective reasons not to become paperless.
Some people want to feel the paper while reading or while writing something. I do respect them a lot, and I also understand them.
Each of us is different and sees life in our own way.
We only need to feel comfortable about what we do and how we do things every day.
In my case, the paper was a mess.
This combination of processes, software, and hardware allows me to manage a massive amount of information every day.
Having that peace of mind, knowing everything’s safe, controlled, organized, available at any time and any place, increases my productivity to levels I couldn’t have imagined a decade ago.
I hope sharing my vision will improve your life. This is what this article is all about.