How I Gave Up Paper
(and Stopped Losing My Mind!)

How This Process Came to Be:

More than a year ago in late May, I found myself standing in my garage after recently moving, digging through box after box frantically searching for a steno pad that contained very important notes. I needed those notes for a project due in two days. My wedding was in three days. Stress levels were at an all-time high and tears were free flowing, all over a piece of paper in the back of a steno pad gone MIA.

Did I learn my lesson that day? Nope. I continued a pattern of taking important client notes on paper and carrying a portable filing cabinet with me to and from work each day which resulted in a disorganized mess. I found myself having a meeting in 20 minutes and instead of prepping I was frantically searching for ‘the’ piece of paper with very important notes!

After a few months of this repeating pattern, and having that very scarring experience in May, I knew something had to change or my career would eventually self-destruct from lack of paper organization.

How to Discover Your New Workflow:

  1. Step 1: Admit Defeat
    Before I could move forward, I had to admit to myself that paper was not working for me, and with this change for the better would come an upfront financial commitment. But also increased productivity and happiness levels.
  2. Step 2: Define How You Work
    This was the most important step, defining my workflow helped me better assess what devices and apps would work for me.  I knew that I was looking for a way to take notes in meetings with clients. My main problem with a laptop or keyboard is that I prefer to handwrite notes because inevitably I am drawing out ideas or mapping out content. I knew I would be investing in a tablet device & stylus. I also needed a way to search those notes dynamically without re-typing them at the end of each meeting into searchable text. Lastly, I needed a way for these notes to sync or auto upload into the same place as my other work notes, preferably in the system, I was already using Evernote.
  3. Step 3: Invest in a Tablet Device & Stylus
    I invested in a 9.7-inch wifi only, 32GB iPad Pro,which was the cheapest option of the iPad Pro family,  and an Apple Pencil. I tested a few other stylus options, like the Fifty Three Stylus and the Adonit Dash. In the end, I decided the Apple Pencil was going to be ideal for my main purpose of note taking.
  4. Step 4: Research App Options
    I already use Evernote for the majority of my client record keeping, and I was hoping to have a notebook within Evernote for client meeting notes. Thankfully, Evernote realizes this is a common need and created an app just for this purpose: Penultimate. Penultimate has the key features I was after:

    • It was simple and easy to use without an overwhelming amount of options. This app was built for notetaking – not painting or drawing – so I wasn’t bogged down by a huge variety of brushes or colors.
    • My notes automatically sync to a specific notebook in Evernote when I am on Wifi. I don’t have to move things or think about copying anything over after a meeting ends.
    • Most importantly, my handwritten notes are searchable! It does a great job of reading my writing, and I do not have perfect handwriting by any means.
  5. Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect
    Notetaking was a little different at first, and getting used to writing on the tablet took a little bit of practice. After a few meetings, I got very comfortable with my new note taking system. Nowadays, I just make sure my iPad is charged and ready to go, and when I step into a meeting I open up Penultimate and take notes the same way I would if I had a notebook in front of me. Later on, if I’m looking for something specific in Evernote all I have to do is type in a keyword or two and up come my handwritten meeting notes.

This is the workflow that worked for me, there are other tablets, different stylus options, and other apps besides Evernote and Penultimate that function similarly. I encourage you to take this as a guide, but to fully explore your options and assess your workflow so that you can find the best system that works for you! I’d love to hear your paperless note taking system in the comments below!

Examples of searching for words in Evernote online:

Searched for the word “Research” and it pulls up 2 results with that word: one being my handwritten note!




Other Related Resources:

How to Organize Your Evernote Notebooks:

Comparison between the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4:

Best iPad Styluses that aren’t the Apple Pencil:

Improve Your Notetaking with these 3 tips:

Evernote for iPad:

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By AIGA Saint Louis
Published September 21, 2016
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