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Digital/Paper Divide


verklempt
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I feel like I haven't been able to get organized for school since I started last fall. The main reason is because I can't reconcile whether I want to be a paper person or a digital person. I'm given a lot of paper from older fashioned professors, and I do prefer to do my readings on paper if possible. However, it is a lot to carry and shuffle around. I have my calendar on Google and most things for school need to be submitted electronically. I feel torn. Anyone out there feel the same way? It feels like if I don't get it together soon, my grades will suffer. Help?

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  • 2 weeks later...

You don't have to define yourself as either or.  I do whatever suits my needs for that particular moment.  In general, I tend to be much more of a digital person than a paper person.  But if paper suits me better, I do that.  For example, I read the vast majority of books electronically, but today I bought two paperbacks.  I just wanted the feeling of paperback books in my hands, and I wanted to physically underline in them and post-it tag them, so I splurged a bit.

 

I get a lot of paper from professors - ugh - and in the beginning of my program, I read all of my readings on paper.  It was easier to shuffle them during class discussions, and I didn't yet have an ultraportable computer or an iPad.  I just had a messenger bag and tried to prioritize what I needed for the day; I had separate folders for each class.  I used highlighters and all that stuff.  I took notes using a good old-fashioned pen and notebook.  I also handed in some papers hard copy and other papers electronically.  It depended on the professor.

 

Now I live almost my entire life electronically - at least as far as my program goes.  I'm in a journal field so I look for journal articles electronically; I only go to the library if I need a seminal work (and even then I try to avoid hunting for it in the stacks, lol).  I write papers electronically and share them with collaborators that way.  I read my journal articles on my iPad, which allows annotating and highlighting, and organize them using zotero.  I manage my life using a Google calendar that I have synced to my computer and my phone and the cloud so I can always check it.  I have all of my work backed up on an external hard drive and on the cloud in addition to having it on my computer.  (Paranoia!)  I honestly don't have room to store hundreds of journal articles; I barely have a place to put library books when I borrow them.

 

But I also use paper.  Like I said, I still buy paper books; sometimes I do print out journal articles (or other people give me paper copies of their articles), and more often than not I take notes on pen and paper.  I prefer notebooks because they don't require any boot time; you have a thought and you just instantly jot them down.  Sometimes if I have a thought and I want to write it in Evernote, my Mac will take a minute to think and I'll lose the thought.  No worries of that with notebooks.  I also remember things better if I write them down, so I sometimes buy a planner for the sole purpose of writing things in it, even though I never check it.  I mostly do that for internal deadlines like dissertation deadlines or paper deadlines.  Otherwise, I put it in my Google calendar.

 

Why don't you store electronic copies of your readings on your computer but also print out the readings (or at least the most important ones) to read in hard copy?  That way you have an electronic reference but can still read the way you prefer.  I also think you should do anything else the way that makes the most sense to you.  Don't try to rationalize it; we all have our kooky rituals and stuff.  If you want to plan your days by Google calendar but print out your readings on a good ol' printer and use a highlighter and sticky flags, go ahead.  If you want to proofread your papers in hard copy and then fix them and turn them in electronically, do that!  I have a friend who is writing her master's thesis in long-hand (pen and looseleaf paper) and then typing it because she thinks better that way.  Go for it!

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This is also causing me considerable angst. I've been trying to go on a "bag diet" for the longest time but the damn thing always ends up weighing 10 lbs no matter what I do. Having an iPad (mini) certainly has helped but I can't seem to part with my binder that has notes and papers from all my courses. Whenever I separate courses, I always end up leaving one at home the day I need it. Bah!

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I'm a paper person. I have to think with pen and paper -- for some reason it's hard for me to get my thoughts out coherently and efficiently when I'm typing. I also find that I'm much more organized on paper. My only problem is that being a paper person, as others have already noted, makes for ridiculously heavy purses. I constantly have shoulder and back pain from lugging around all my notes. This year, I'm planning on solving that by having a single binder full of loose leaf paper that I'll keep with me for note-taking, since I remember things and analyze them much better when I write them down, and then organize my notes into their respective classes on a regular basis. That may prove to be too much work, but I'm going to give it a shot. Computers are convenient, but for some reason my brain just makes more connections when I physically write things down than when I type.

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One idea is to scan paper notes into a per class pdf file on a weekly basis.  This way you can still have them with you, without all the bulk of the paper.  This is what I am planning to do as I like both paper and digital methods.

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