I am a paper hoarder. I have been like this for years. I tear out interesting articles from newspapers and magazines. I photocopy pages of interest from books so I can refer to them “later”. As you would expect, I don’t reread these pages because I have moved on to something else. More papers get added to the stack.
I have two manila folders bulging with clippings that haven’t been touched for at least six months. Today I examined the contents and ruthlessly threw out old papers. I kept a few pages and printed articles to read in the next week.
In this article I ponder the question of why I collect these papers and what should I do differently. Here are some of the things I found and threw out.
1. “Interesting” Newspaper articles – usually these are from the local paper which gets delivered twice a week. Usually I read newspapers on line and if I want to keep an article I print to a PDF file or save the images. I have to be conscious of why I am keeping the article and what is my intention. Will I give it to someone? Scan it and keep or send by email? Maybe the article is an idea starter for a speech or blog article. If so, then it should be filed in my Speech Ideas or Blog Articles folders.
2. Printouts of tutorials. Recently I wanted to learn more about creating graphics with SVG. I found a good web site and saved the URL, but for some reason I printed a few pages so I could study away from the computer. This really is wasteful and I should have just waited until I was ready to explore SVG and read the pages on-line. Then I could copy and paste XML code as required.
3. Blog articles to read. There are many fine blog articles which I would like to keep for later reference. The best approach is to make PDF files and load on to my Kindle.
4. Notes from books written on slips of paper. Often when I read a book I use a piece of plain paper as a bookmark for making notes. When I have finished the book I need to do something with the notes – maybe typing out the notes, or scanning the paper. Gluing the page into my journal is not recommended as the journal gets fat and the pages distorted.
5. Photocopy of the back page and dust cover flaps of a book. Obviously I had planned to write a book review for my blog, but I never did. Now I don’t know what I would have said so there is no point keeping the copy. I keep notes of the books I read in a text file as well as the Goodreads website. Sometimes I write up the book in a blog article.
6. Pictures form brochures and magazines. Magazines about classical music were the main culprit. Photos and drawings of composers and performers that looked too good to let go were clipped out for later use. But what am I going to do with the pictures? I really don’t know.
I threw out a lot of paper today, but from tomorrow my practices will be different. I will review the contents of my manila folder every couple of days and be ruthless in throwing things out when I have read them. Articles can be summarised or mind-mapped in my Journal (an A5 sized hardcover notebook). In fact, writing notes is preferred so I don’t need to re-read the article to find the main points.
I just remembered a service where you could get audio summaries of business books. Imagine I made audio summaries of the articles (2 – 3 minutes maximum) then made an archive of recordings to play on my iPod? Then I could learn from the articles when I listen to my iPod on a walk.
Although I wrote about paper, I haven’t mentioned the large stack of National Geographic magazines. That is the subject of a later article.