Please welcome Mark W. Shead, who blogs once a week on the informative Productivity501.com. He is a business management consultant focusing on using technology to streamline businesses.
I have been moving toward a paperless office for two reasons. First the amount of paper in my life continues to grow each year and I’ve grown tired of spending so much effort just wrangling physical paper. Second I spend a lot of time on the road. It is nice to have access to all my files whether I’m in working in my office in Kansas or waiting for powder to fall in Colorado.
The move to paperless has been an interesting experiment and I’ve been amazed at just how attached I have become to the pieces of paper I have saved over the years. Here are some tips for people looking to make a similar transition.
- Scan what makes sense – Go for the biggest bang for your buck. It doesn’t make sense to scan every single book you own, but it does make sense to scan in your bills, receipts and insurance paperwork.
- Give yourself time to adjust – You are probably going to find yourself very attached to your papers. I got over this by creating a “to shred” set of files. I kept the paper around until I was comfortable with my electronic access to it and was ok with shredding it.
- Backup, backup, backup – Make sure you have a reliable way of backing up your data. Not only do you need to back your data up, you have to test it as well. Also make sure you store your backups in a safe place. I keep one backup in my office and another encrypted on Amazon’s servers using Jungle Disk. That way if a flood or fire destroys my computer and backup hard drive, I can still get my data back.
- Get some help – If you have a lot of paper to scan consider hiring someone to help. A high school or college student can go through quite a stack of papers in a few afternoons. The worst part of switching to paperless is when half of your data is on paper and the other half is digital. Getting a bit of help initially can make your system much more useful to you right away.
- Think “Where will I look for this?” – There are many ways to file your scanned documents. When you are designing your system, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Where should I put this?” You need design you system around the question “How will I look for this?”
- Don’t skimp on your scanner – The ScanSnap is one of the best scanners for the money. You want to make sure you don’t get something that requires putting each page, one at a time, on a flat bed. If it is too much trouble to scan in a new piece of paper, you won’t do it.