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How Paper Doesn’t Have To Be A Thing Of The Past

April 19, 2021 by Drew Smith

Below is an article written by Drew and shared on the GWBJ Insights page.

Do you ever long for the simplicity of yesteryear? Back when technology wasn’t at our fingertips and could be kept at an arm’s length. I think of the Tim McGraw song, “Back When” where he says: “We got too complicated. It's all way over-rated. I like the old and outdated way of life.” So often we feel the pressure of new technology and immediately push back to a simpler time. While I don’t think our technological situation is overrated, I do believe there are some things that we can hold on to that some may deem as outdated, but for others may supplement how they best productively evolve with technology.

Below are just a few ways that you can supplement your digital ways and still stay productive.

Keep It Flowing

One of my favorite aspects of my job as Director of Communications is when I get an opportunity to get in a room with others (safely) and brainstorm new and innovative ideas. I find a burst of creativity through bouncing ideas around and having others throw in their opinions. The last thing I want to do in these moments of creative synergy is to take the time to type out notes, even though I almost always have to rely on notes to remember pertinent details to follow up on. While having someone to keep “minutes” of a meeting is always a good practice, it isn’t always possible or the best strategy.

I will often use tear apart sheets of poster paper that have adhesive on the back to stick to walls for brainstorming sessions. I feel these keep the energy and attention on the discussion and away from any screens and the distractions that can come from emails and notifications. It is also visually helpful to have everything in front of you and presented exactly how you want. Similarly, whiteboards provide this same type of freedom though require the space and materials which sometimes can be limited or require erasing to enable more room to write.

Meeting Facilitation

When I am running meetings, I like to rely on hardcopies not PowerPoint presentations. The three main reasons for my hardcopies are structured notetaking, attention gathering, and accessibility for all. With a hardcopy, the attendees have a flow of how the meeting is going to go and room to make notes when a thought may cross their mind, instead of forgetting it or having to interrupt the presentation before they do. As for attention gathering, if all you have is a hardcopy and the presenter, it makes it easier to implement guidelines for the meeting such as a strict timeline and rules for no computers or phones. While this may seem tyrannical to some, it can be an eye-opening experience when you are able to get your team members 100% engaged and interacting with material undistracted.

By having the disclaimer of the amount of time you will stick to and communicating it ahead of time, you will be more likely to get buy-in and enthusiasm from attendees. Finally, the accessibility piece. I have always struggled to see things clearly due to my severe astigmatism. When we rely on screens and projectors for presentations, it can cause people to check out because they may not be able to see what you are referring to. If you do feature a presentation on a screen, consider sharing a hardcopy appendix for the meeting along with a guideline with key takeaways for those that may need to follow along at either a different pace or due to other restrictions such as limited hearing ability.

Map It Out

As a content producer and having to constantly work through how to best visually display written concepts, I have begun relying more heavily on large colored notecards. While I use them in coordination with my digital notes, they offer me the flexibility of mapping out additional ideas without the boundary or graphic restrictions of a word processing document. I also find this technique helpful when studying or reading through a relevant book. I will use the notecards to reflect and make lists of various topics for further evaluation and then use it to bookmark that section in the book.

I understand that not all of these ideas are for you, or maybe none of them are, and that is okay. The beauty of the matter is there is not a wrong way to approach technology as long as you don’t turn away from it completely. If it takes a little paper to get you to be your most productive and creative self, go for it!

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