Sunday, April 6, 2008

How I Lost 20 Pounds in One Month On a Paperless Diet

I walked into my interview for a position at the Office of Instructional Technology with a huge blue wheelie bag containing 25 lbs of necessities for my literacy coach position. Inside my bag was the balanced literacy curriculum (in what was known as the big red binder), a bunch of notebooks containing the latest reading and writing workshop units of study, binders with notes on the work I was doing with teachers, and folders containing information that supported my coaching work. I was interviewed by Troy Fischer who looked up, pointed to my wheelie bag and said, "If we are to consider you for this position you'll have to get rid of that thing." I protested explaining I am the type of person who needs to have all resources at my fingertips wherever I am so I wasn't quite sure I could agree. Additionally, I explained that in my position I had no access to a laptop or digital material and though I had access to a desktop it was shared by numerous people making it difficult to reliably access. Mr. Fischer said, "Well, I'm looking to hire someone who’s ready to change all that."

A few interviews later I was offered the position and my first responsibility was to digitize all the literacy and math materials that coaches would need as part of an initiative to equip NYC Coaches with 21st Century Toolkits comprised of fully loaded Tablet laptops. I worked with all our partner organizations and was able to get a treasure trove of textbooks, resource materials, and even that big red binder in digital format. At the same time I was committed to going completely digital. It was surprisingly easy and was ultimately an absolute blessing because once I made the decision to do this I never had to worry about printing or locating a file again and I had all my work with me wherever I was.
Here are my ten steps to a successful paperless diet:
1) I converted everything I was currently working on to my laptop computer so that I had everything I needed at my fingertips at all times. As a result I would never need to print anything because I had everything with me on my laptop.
2) I didn't worry about converting and transferring everything over. I just did it per the project I was working on making this a very manageable task.
3) I committed to traveling with my 3 lb laptop which is surprisingly light when you're not carrying a lot of books, notebooks, and binders.
4) Prior to meetings I emailed the organizer with a request to receive digital copies of the materials in advance of (rather than following) the meetings.
5) I started ordering books digitally and read them using eReader allowing me to read books directly from my laptop. This was great because I could search, highlight, play the audio if I was driving or unable to read at the time, and more.6) I joined Audible and ordered audio books. I found audio books are better for fiction rather than nonfiction.
7) I carried a usb drive with me so I could easily and instantly take digital files from others when necessary.
8) I backed up weekly
9) I started using wikis and Google Docs for my materials rather than my hard drive to make everything easy to share and collaborate on and to free up my hard drive.
10) Lastly I got a Verizon wireless card for my laptop enabling me to have internet access anywhere I had cell service. I highly recommend this purchase and believe that is the wave of the future. While this may seem a bit expensive (about $50 a month) I no longer have to pay wireless fees anywhere and there is never a hassle getting on the internet.

Within a month I was able to shed the 20 pounds of paper and could finally fit into a sleek handbag. After a life-time of paper training, I have successfully been able to keep the paper off for three years now. I vow never to be bulky again.


  1. Nice job losing your extra baggage! You also are able to model streamlined professionalism for those you meet. I also am down to a laptop and a ton of stuff in 2.0 space. Thanks for sharing-

  2. A paperless diet is difficult to go on when the world around you seems resistant. Everyone talks a big talk about saving the environment, but the reality is, folks don't want to give up that tangible item. I commend you for your efforts to make the shift (we know how hard it is to sometime obtain things "digitally") and I hope others will follow suit.