Close

Redesigning the paperless office

Posted on by Mike Evans

The new ergonomic desktop. The Twelve South HiRise unit raises the monitor so that the centre of the screen is more or line in direct line of sight. The MacBook Pro Retina screen is at a similar height thanks to the Griffin Elevator stand. Inside the HiRise base is a 3.5in external disk and a four-port Belkin USB 3 hub. All the cables are tidier, with just the single multi-cable from the monitor to the computer and one USB 3.0 cable to the hub. Note the Belkin iPhone dock to the left and my Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner on the right.

The new ergonomic desktop. The Twelve South HiRise unit raises the monitor so that the centre of the screen is more or line in direct line of sight. The MacBook Pro Retina screen is at a similar height thanks to the Griffin Elevator stand. Inside the HiRise base is a 3.5in external disk and a four-port Belkin USB 3 hub. All the cables are tidier, with just the single multi-cable from the monitor to the computer and one USB 3.0 cable to the hub. Note the Belkin iPhone dock to the left and my Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner on the right.

Nominally, I have a paperless office but the holy grail eludes me still. Junk has replaced paper and I am still keeping too much original paper in case it is needed. It is surprising how much junk we create and harbour. Time for a purge and a redesign, I decided last week. Now my little office is more paperless that before and all my stuff is pedantically organised with the hope that I will not get into the same mess six months hence. Several black bags of old and useless bits and pieces have been carted off to recycling

Good old purge

One of the problems with tackling a purge is actually starting. The task is so daunting that procrastination always rules. So I split my giant task into lots of little ones and doggedly worked at them through the week. First step was to throw out a second desk, just taking up space and harbouring clutter, and a couple of bedroom-style chests of drawers which were crammed with old cables, papers, gadgets and general rubbish. I bought two of IKEA's Hopen four-drawer chests which have nice deep drawers. They are also designed to accept the truly wonderful Skubb six-box sets. If you haven't had a close encounter with a Skubb, take my word for it. They are magic. They come flat but a single diagonal zip erects them to create a box. Each six-pack contains two large boxes, two half-size boxes and two small cubes. They all fit together in the Hopen drawers to provide infinitely variable storage for all my stuff. No longer do I have large drawers groaning under a tangle of cables, switches, power units and adaptors. The Skubb sets cost a very reasonable £6 and I bought eight to fill all the drawers in the two chests. Total outlay for the two chests was £250 and the Skubbs cost a further £48. It's a small price to pay for instant and effective organisation in a home office.

While moving all my stuff into the Hopens I was able to purge the collection (yes, I even had a couple of parallel printer cables and the odd serial connector) and whittle the whole down into a much more manageable mass. To my surprise there was space left over, so I was able to remove boxes, manuals and other unsightly stuff from the bookselves and squirrel them away in the Skubbs. And I still have space for expansion.

Optimal desk

Next I turned my attention to my desk. It's rather narrow at 65cm but long because it fits unter a double window. At the moment I am using a MacBook Pro Retina as my main computer and it is mounted on a Griffin Elevator stand. I have had this stand for about five years and it is a model of functionality and good design. By the side of the MBP is my old 24in Cinema Display but I found that I was looking down at it rather than straight into the centre of the screen. This downward view was exacerbated by the narrow desk which means my eyes are only two feet away from the screen. A little more distance would be ideal. As a result, over the months I've noticed a tendency to slouch and found my neck bending uncomfortably. To tackle this problem I bought a Twelve South HiRise stand which raises the Cinema Display by four inches to bring it right into my line of sight. I can now hold my head up straight and look directly into the monitor. The interior shelf of the HiRise is adjustable so the display can be raised to a variety of heights. I chose the maximum, four inches

Eliminating cable blight

This HiRise is typical Twelve South and looks a bit like a tiny Mac Pro sitting on its side, with ventilator grilles front and rear. A big advantage is that there is room inside for accessories. I managed to squeeze in a relatively bulky 3.5in 2TB Seagate Expansion drive and a Belkin USB 3 four-port hub. The drive holds a cloned volume of the MBP's SSD and is in turn backed up to my Drobo-FS RAID storage attached to the Apple Airport Extreme. The HiRise raises the Cinema display to my optimum height for viewing and aligns the bottom of the screen with the foot of the MacBook Pro's retina display. The whole set up looks very neat and, because of the internal storage, I have cleared a lot of cable clutter from the desk.

With all these changes I am now sitting pretty. Or, at least, I was sitting pretty until my old chair collapsed. Fifteen years ago this was the last word in expensive Swedish orthopeadic design, crafted to cosset the most demanding of spines. I remember it cost a whopping £990, so I cannot imagine the current price. Now it is a pile of junk and I am currenty sitting on a stiff dining room chair while I wait for a replacement. Even the unforgiving dining chair is more comfortable than the old creaky throne. This time, instead of spending a fortune, I have opted for the Racer 200 chair. This cheap option promises to make up in style for what it lacks in orthopaedic prowess. It will arrive next week and I am looking forward to a test drive.

After all this excitement I forgot to mention the paperless bit. My old and trusted Fujitsu ScanSnap has been working overtime as I commit more of my paperwork to digital care. For four years I have been ruthlessly scanning and shredding most of the paper that comes across my desk. But I always kept a few bits and pieces that I thought I might need. I have realised that there is very little that must be kept on paper, so the hanging files in my desk drawers are now much slimmer. Over these four years I have gained confidence in digitising 99 percent of my documents. Not only are they permanently stored, they are much easier to find if I should have a query in the future. So I am fully committed to paperlessness. I hardly ever print anything these days and I am generating next to no paper.

Next project

My next office project is photo and nagative scanning. I brought down three large boxes of old prints, negs and colour trannies from the loft and they are now sitting in the corner of the newly purged office awaiting my attention. I am researching pro quality scanners and have settled on the Epson Perfection V750. Now I need to save up my pennies before ordering. Once I have scanned the old pictures the boxes and contents can be sent to the dump.

Sitting here smugly on my hard chair I am filled with new enthusiasm. I have a drawer for everything and a little Skubb box for the tiniest bits of junk. A place for everything and everything in its place. I can find my gear quickly and there is absolutely no excuse for becoming overloaded with junk ever again. Until the next time, that is.

∞ Permalink