I’ll be honest: Writing this story has been on my to-do list for a few weeks. I didn’t want to publish it until I’d actually tried the super-simple 10-minute productivity strategy mentioned in the headline — I also didn’t really want to try it.
In May, I met with Josh Zerkel, a certified professional organiser and the director of global community and training at Evernote. I told him about my personal organizational challenge: My desk space has been growing ever more limited as stacks of old handwritten notes keep piling up.
Before you start pointing fingers — yes, I am fully aware of the irony in the fact that I’m a digital journalist who still takes notes by hand and stores those notes on top of and under my desk. Let’s not dwell on it.
Zerkel’s advice was to capture and store all those notes digitally — and then throw the papers away. Having all your files in one place is the best thing you can do to start being more productive, he said.
Zerkel emphasised that I shouldn’t spend more than 10 minutes a day on this project, and that I definitely shouldn’t plan to come in on a weekend and get the whole thing done — which was, of course, exactly what I was planning on doing. That would just be overwhelming, and discourage me from making any more progress.
Zerkel recommended using a free Evernote app called Scannable, which is the one I ultimately downloaded.
To use the app, you point the camera toward a document and it automatically scans it and gives you the option to save it to Evernote. (Full disclosure: Evernote comped my six-month premium subscription to their product, but you can also scan and save documents using the basic account.)
It’s worth noting that there are a bunch of similar apps available. PCMag reviewed a series of mobile scanning apps in January, and decided that Abbyy FineScanner was the best. (A one-month subscription to Abbyy FineScanner costs $US4.99.)
And when iOS 11 debuts falls 2017, it will feature a Document Scanner that saves files to the Notes app.
The likeliest reason I put off this project so long is that I couldn’t believe 10 minutes would make any meaningful change in the mess around my desk. Plus, it’s kind of like a Medusa head — I take notes by hand every day, so every time I threw away one notebook, a new one would appear.
I can’t say exactly where the motivation came from, but I downloaded Scannable and started scanning my notes one evening this week. It took me a few minutes to get used to the process — but then it felt a little like a game, and I ended up spending 20 minutes and working through about 1.5 notepads.
Though I’m still not fully convinced, I’m hopeful that if I spend 10 to 20 minutes on this project every day for the next few months, I’ll eventually get through all my paperwork.
The prospect of dumping years of notes from interviews and meetings in the trash is somewhat horrifying — but so is the prospect of being buried alive by a falling stack of notebooks. I’m picking my poison.
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