Hi Team Lifehacker, I try to go as paperless as possible at work, just like in your complete guide to going paperless. The problem is, something in my caveman brain finds it much more difficult to really absorb and analyse text on a screen compared to good old-fashioned paper. I find that with around five pages or more, I really start skipping information and missing important detail.
Is it the way my screen is set up? Distractions at work? Or is it just the enforced attention when I’m holding the paper in my hands and not seeing email popups and the like? I’m young enough to have grown up with computers, so it can’t be a technophobia thing.
Naturally when I print as a last resort it’s double-sided and recycled, but that’s really only mildly softening the environmental blow. Any ideas?
(Funny Printer Joke)
Our going paperless guide does indeed have a lot of tips to offer on strategies for using (and storing) less paper. As we’re currently in the middle of our Tax Week 2011/a>, it’s also worth reminding people that you don’t need paper versions of records for tax purposes; electronic copies are entirely acceptable.
However, those strategies don’t generally address the issue you’ve raised — wanting to use paper rather than a screen for going through long documents. Frankly, my first immediate thought is that if you’re adopting all the other paper-reduction tips and using recycled and double-sided paper for this one printing task, you probably don’t need to beat yourself up too much. Our office printer is routinely strewn with spare pages and forgotten print-outs; compared to the average, you’re already doing pretty well.
With that said, here’s a few thoughts on strategies you could use to make on-screen reading a more compelling experience:
- Maximise your app window. An obvious point, but many people don’t think to maximise the application before reading through longer documents.
- Adjust your screen resolution. Reading small text on a high-resolution screen can be unpleasant and difficult, as can reading on a screen where the resolution is so low that every word is a centimetre high.
- Change the font size. In a similar vein, if you’re working with a word processor document you can edit, then try changing the font to make it easier on the eye. (This is also a useful trick for editing your own work with a fresh eye
- Disconnect from the Internet. If you don’t want to get distracted by emails, IMs or other procrastination triggers, yank out your network cable or switch off your wireless until you’re done.
- Transfer the document to a tablet or e-book reader. If you want the experience of stepping away from your PC without involving paper, convert the document to a PDF and sync it to a Kindle or tablet.
- Get rid of the printer so you don’t have a choice. OK, that sounds drastic — but if you don’t have access to a printer, you won’t have any choice but to work on screen. Admittedly you can’t get rid of the office printer if other people use it, but it’s a viable strategy when working from home. (You could also delete the printer from your own machine so it’s inaccessible.)
If readers have other paper-avoiding screen-reading tactics, tell us in the comments.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send an email to [email protected], and include ‘Ask Lifehacker’ in the subject line.