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Reader Story: Controlling Data and Designing A Paperless Workflow

Control KeyThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Maryon Jeane from Shropshire. She can be found on Twitter at @MaryonJeane.

What problems were you trying to solve by going paperless?

After moving from a large Victorian farmhouse with a huge attic to a small (but beautiful) cottage with a lot of land but very little space inside, I had a paper problem. With the accumulated paperwork of a lot of years and quite a few businesses, I needed to do a major sort out and rethink. Going paperless was the obvious answer – and as I was going to sort everything out anyway (plus I could barely move in the office), I had the spur I needed to go paperless. So I cleared two weeks of work (I am self-employed) and got to grips with the task big time.

What were the biggest stumbling blocks?

The size of the project was daunting, but once I committed to it and made the time it became exhilarating. However the biggest thing was decision-making – it was exhausting! Every single piece of paper had to be examined and a decision made: discard, archive physically, scan and archive, keep extant physically, keep extant in scanned form, OCR or not?

Tell us about your paperless workflow

I drew up a main plan, but was careful not to make it too rigid. I’ve seen people tidy up (their desk, their office, their cupboards, their homes, their garages) and everything looks amazing and they’re so proud – then six months later it’s all back to Square One. This is because they’ve created a system which is just too rigid, too difficult and time-consuming to maintain.

So the outline was:

Incoming documents: initial decision made as to whether it’s worth anything (reading, keeping, etc.); then date stamped; then either dealt with immediately (all basic mail, for example, is skimmed, date stamped if worth keeping or shredded if not), then either scanned or (usually if it’s quite large, as with a legal document, and I’m short of time) put in a scanning folder for attention later (you can scan while you’re on the phone!). Only documents which have a very definite reason for being kept in physical form make their way into the filing cabinet.

Outgoing documents are all digitally created and so are kept digitally (some very few are printed out if, again, there is a legal or statutory reason for this) and/or are forwarded or copied to other people in that form.

Documents are highlighted for keywords before scanning but, in most cases, I allow the scanner software to OCR the entire document. These days computers have enough memory and storage space and scanners (I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap) are so fast even when using OCR that I think that the slightly slower scanning speed detriment is worthwhile, given that it’s then possible to find anything at all by just searching on a word or phrase.

At the heart of a paperless office or home has to be a database – and one that works with humans and not makes a human contort everything to fit into the way it works. It must be freeform, searching the whole database on anything a human remembers as significant, not just on defined keywords. Evernote is very good indeed and that was my first choice – but it let me down. Twice. It deleted some data each time due to a bad upgrade (over which you have no control as your data and most of the program is in the Cloud), and this is the worst thing a database can do, obviously. So I changed to AllMyNotes and I’m very happy with it.

What I needed from a database was that it would be freeform, would handle all sorts of data (scans, typed notes, tables, photographs, graphics, attachments, etc.), would have a reminder/alarm facility, and would be able to find things fast with just a few words. Both Evernote and AllMyNotes fulfil these criteria, but Evernote is in the Cloud, costs quite serious money, and is not under your complete control. Evernote has a lot of communication facilities which AllMyNotes doesn’t (you can e-mail documents to Evernote, or clip straight to it and share the clip on social media sites, for example) – but actually this doesn’t make a lot of difference because you can easily set up ways of working with AllMyNotes for yourself. With Evernote you can give other people access to particular folders (which actually turned out to be disastrous because, certainly in the earlier days of Evernote, this access couldn’t be restricted and someone happily deleted everything in one shared folder because she’d “finished with it”!), but then your personal data is all in the Cloud – forever. With AllMyNotes (which is a one-off price for unlimited personal use and unlimited updates) you can set up the same sharing (I use BitTorrent Sync) with complete privacy, a faster speed – and it’s free!

I have clients, a partner, and a personal life which all need organisation, so often data does need to be shared. If I receive a letter, for example, in the morning mail and I need to let my partner have a copy, share some of the information (but not all) with a client, and file it for future use, then I date stamp the letter, highlight keywords if necessary, and then scan it. As soon as the document is on the computer it’s filed into a ‘bucket’ folder which I use for anything which will end up in the database. Then I e-mail the file to my partner and either cut-and-paste the salient bits and e-mail them (I use a program called ABBYY Screenshot Reader to grab small bits of text from PDFs), or open up the file in a PDF program, redact the parts of the letter I don’t want to share with my client and annotate as necessary, and then e-mail the redacted version on. If I’m going out and want to do anything with the letter when I’m away from my desk I will also copy the letter into a folder which is synced with my netbook.

As my e-mail program is key to my paperless life I don’t rely on Outlook (in fact I don’t rely on any Microsoft product except for Windows, which I’m unable to avoid!) but use ‘The Bat!’ Professional. This is easily backed up and – key to all the programs I use – is light on resources. The searching facility in The Bat! is awesome: fast and flexible, so you’re never caught on the hop when someone telephones you as a follow-up to an e-mail conversation (and there’s no giveaway sound of rustling paper of course!).

Backups are absolutely vital. Fires don’t happen to filing cabinets and offices too often, but hardware meltdown and software idiocies are rife and frequent. Again, I don’t trust the Cloud any more, having been let down by two different Cloud backup companies, and so backup to an external drive, a USB key (which I can take out of the office for keeping elsewhere if I’m going to be away for any length of time), and my netbook. I use Cobian 11, which is excellent, straightforward – and again free! Backups are also essential in case you accidentally overwrite something, which is a mistake not made in the physical paper world but easily done in the digital.

There is a need and a time for ‘paper and pen’, even in the paperless office. So I have a Livescribe pen, and on my desk in front of me at all times I have an A5 Livescribe notebook. When I’m holding telephone conversations, or having a discussion with my partner about something domestic (or business, we do a few joint things on that front) I jot down notes and reminders etc. I prefer to keep a pen-and-paper ToDo list as well, a weekly one, which helps to keep me on track and motivated because there’s nothing quite like crossing something out once it’s done and dusted! I also keep a small Livescribe notepad in my bag and take my Livescribe pen everywhere with me when I’m out and about. When I upload the data from my pen it’s immediately turned into searchable text by one of the apps in my Livescribe desktop, so then even my handwritten notes become paperless (and also can be accompanied by spoken notes. For example after I’ve finished a telephone call I will often expand on my notes by voice-recording a fuller version of the conversation – which it would take too long to write or type). The pen is also amazingly useful in meetings and interviews (I sometimes interview people for clients) where it’s just not OK to use a keyboard or keypad (and, again, the recording facility is invaluable in this type of situation).

Is this for a business? Tell us about it

I am what was called, in the ’80s, a portfolio worker. My aim is to work completely from home and online, so I do whatever fulfills that aim and interests me.

My background is in teaching, working temporarily in offices during the academic holidays, and in various areas of IT (helping people make the best use of technology, training people in its use, that type of thing), so I just approach people with my various skills on offer to see if I can help them. At first it was hard because people wanted ‘bums on seats’ and middle management particularly had a problem with employing people they couldn’t see and control; now it’s easy and people are more than happy to work with people they only have to pay on results. People approach me with all sorts of projects with which they need help, and I’ll give anything legal (!) my best shot. I don’t often now have to approach people cold (I do it, but only because an idea takes my fancy) because I’m ‘known’.

Right now I’m taking some time out to concentrate on my own work, a writing project, which is exciting – if a little nerve-wracking!

Is There Anything Else We Should Know?

I’ve signed up with everyone possible for paperless billing and notifications etc. and it’s also in my client terms and conditions that everything between us is conducted in digital form. My legal clients still print things out at their end, but what can you do?!?

I make a point of ringing people who send brochures through the post (these are companies with which I already have a trading relationship – I’ve opted out of junk mail) not to do so, telling them that I will be shopping with them online unless they keep sending brochures, in which case I will blacklist them! (Some people need dragging into the twenty-first century…)

I ask people not to send user manuals with things, but this is only partially a success: if I’m buying something from an eBay seller then they’re only too glad to keep the manual in case someone else loses theirs, but bigger businesses have no way of extracting the manual from a box they usually don’t even see before it goes out. If I have to scan a manual I rip it up first to extract all the other-language versions and any other useless bits – then the physical manual is put with the appliance (for example on top of the washing machine or under the printer), particularly where someone might need to look something up while they’ve got dirty or wet hands (not a good idea with computers…).

My average laser printer cartridge lasts two years.

I have one three-drawer filing cabinet in my office which holds not only office files but also all the domestic files – and it’s not full!

Thanks Maryon! I loved this story because it covers a lot of products that I haven’t explored on DocumentSnap in the past. I also like how she made a conscious decision where she wants her data to be and who can do what with it.

If you have questions for Maryon, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered.

(Photo by Faramarz Hashemi)

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Reader Story: A Scan A Day Keeps The Doctor At Bay

Doctor's OfficeThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, and some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s short reader story is by awesome DocumentSnap reader Jim Sewell from JimSComputing.

The other day I took my mom to the heart doctor as she was having some shortness of breath and wanted it checked out. When the doctor came in he wanted to do blood work to see if her other systems were functioning properly. Of course we didn’t bring the paperwork from the labs done only 2 weeks prior. Honestly we wouldn’t have thought about it if we did still have it. I scan everything like that into Evernote when I get home with it and shred the paper.

I set my cell phone to tether-mode and used my WiFi iPad (two devices I always have with me) to log into Evernote and brought up the lab results tagged with “Medical-Labs” and “Mom”. “Here Doc, this is her recent chem panel and HA1C results!” It saved my mom a stick in the arm, extra cost, and another trip to the doctor for a follow-up!

You never know when a paperless lifestyle will pay off in an unexpected way.

Thanks Jim! This goes nicely with a hobby horse of mine: to me, going paperless isn’t about “going green” or anything like that. In my opinion, the main benefit of going paperless is you have access to the information that you need right when you need it. Avoiding another trip to the doctor is a nice side benefit.

(Photo by Morgan)

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Paperless Sewing Patterns – A Reader Story

ThreadThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s reader story is by Annie Muller. Annie is an avid sewer, crocheter, and knitter. She was awesome enough to share how she has taken her hobby paperless.

A few years ago I have gone to email patterns. I crochet, sew, knit, stitch. I love having patterns and not having paper or books all over the house. The problem has been where those patterns are as I am on at least 3 different computers (before my tablet and phone so now 5).

When I travel I was always worried about not having a pattern when I wanted to start a different pattern than the one I planned. Then along comes Evernote and problem solved. I am putting all my patterns into Evernote and even on my smart phone I can access a pattern for materials or even the pattern to start something. I am always working on stuff and if I get stuck somewhere like the hospital in an emergency with family I will find a place to get yarn and crochet as this is a big stress reliever for me. I use to carry a notebook 2 or 3 inches thick with possible patterns so I would always have them with me or my netbook with an SD card full of patterns.

I am still working on my system and would love any suggestions you might have. I am learning I think tags are better than a bunch of notebooks to sort patterns
I love all the ideas and am working on scanning my hard copy of patterns and will eventually get them in.

Thanks Annie! I also came across this great post by Shannon Smith at The Finished Garment: How I Organized My Growing Hoard of Sewing Patterns ; A Software Review.

If you have questions for Annie about how she uses Evernote for her sewing, leave a comment and I will try to have it answered.

(Photo by Randen Pederson)

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Reader Story: Happy Auditor Means Happy Client Means Happy Bookkeeper

Balsam WayThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Sherri-Lee Mathers. It is a little different than the normal reader stories as it will be from my perspective, not hers.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege to speak to two chapters of the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada about going paperless.

In preparation, I spoke to someone who is an awesome combination of IPBC member and DocumentSnap reader, Sherri-Lee Mathers from Balsam Way Bookkeeping over on my old stomping grounds, Vancouver Island.

Sherri-Lee runs her practice as paperless as possible, and told me about a recent payroll audit that she participated in on behalf of a client.

Being the organizational superstar that she is, she used Nitro PDF to organize all the documents that the auditor would need into one searchable PDF.

She went through and, using Nitro’s annotation features, highlighted the important information (check numbers, etc.).

Sherri-Lee told me that when the auditor came in, she was able to search the PDF for everything that he asked for, and was able to bring everything up on the screen right away.

At the end of the audit, the auditor told her that he was done in half the time that he had budgeted, and he said he was extremely impressed at how organized and easy the process was.

One thing the auditor did say: while he was happy to work with the electronic documents during the audit, in Canada the paper copy did need to be produceable if he asked. This matches up with what another awesome IPBC member and DocumentSnap reader, Laura Kenway, also reported at Bookkeeping Essentials when she talked to the CRA[1]. You’ll want to check with your own tax authority on what paper you do/do not need to keep.

Any time you have a happy auditor at the end of the audit (and happy for the right reasons!), I’d call that a win. Nice job Sherri-Lee.

If you have questions for Sherri-Lee, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered.

  1. Canada’s version of the IRS.  ↩

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Paperless Bills And Record Retention With Hazel

Automatic For The PeopleThere is nothing I love more than when DocumentSnap readers share their paperless tips and workflows. I especially love it when the tips come from friends-of-the-blog like Michelle Muto.

Michelle is an author whose most recent book is Don’t Fear The Reaper, but you might remember her from her previous paperless workflow post.[1]

This time, she was kind enough to share how she uses Hazel to automatically file away her paperless bills.

Before I get into the post itself, a quick note. I love reading about and sharing these workflows because I am a productivity nerd and am always trying to make things as efficient as possible.

However, if you read this and your head is spinning or you don’t understand it, just ignore it. None of this is stuff you have to do to go paperless. Just focus on taking action with what you can do now, and worry about the rest later.

With that said, take it away Michelle (there are some minor edits by me to make it more post-y. Any mistakes are almost certainly mine).

Moving Based On The Content of A Bill

There are two things to ensure I’ve got the right file:

  • department of water resources
  • Current Due Before

These occur exactly as typed on my water bill.

Hazel 1
Hazel 1

Adjust The Date

Notice the extras in the Do the following. I add the date created, modifying it (Edit Date Pattern) to reflect the YYYY-MM. I’m willing to give up the exact due date because I’m really only getting one bill per month, right?

Then, I modify the date created qualifier some more. THIS IS THE KEY. Click on the down arrow in the qualifier, choose Adjust Date. Since my water bill is usually due the following month, I add 1. See below.

Hazel 2
Hazel 2

Move Into The Folder

About those other actions? It sorts into folder by year, creating a folder if one doesn’t exist. Now, all bills in 2012 will sort into a 2012 folder while next year, they’ll sort into a folder named 2013.

Records Retention

I’ve also added a keyword in the comments. This is for records retention. It can be whatever your accountant, IRS, State, local or whatever retention method you use. I tend to use only two, although there are several for my situation and location. For instance, I have records I need to keep seven years, and ones I need to keep four years. Since I have extra disk space, I just lump the two in the same pot so to speak. You could essentially only make one search if you prefer.

Now, to use that record retention comment (you don’t want to keep your water bill forever, right?) So, I built some more Hazel rules. Because… well, there’s always room for more Hazel goodness.

I needed Hazel to look inside the Filing Cabinet structure and subfolders, hence the following rule that watches the folder Filing Cabinet. Note that it MUST be the first rule.

Hazel Subfolder
Hazel Subfolder

Next, I created a rule to color files meeting the record retention of seven years red and add the keyword Possible Deletion in the comments.

Hazel color by year
Hazel color by year

Hazel doesn’t delete anything, so far, so good. Now, all that’s needed is to create a Smart Search in Finder to look inside the Documents folder for PDF files that are colored Red AND contains Possible Deletion in the comments. I save it to my side bar and that’s it. I can now either delete any files, or use Quick Look to verify I really do want to delete them.

Now, the last rule would be to have Hazel delete empty nested subfolders inside the folder named Filing Cabinet.

And last but not least, I can now get back to finishing my new manuscript.

Editorial comment by Brooks: The retention part is really going above and beyond. Very nice, Michelle!

  1. Surely she is more famous for that.  ↩

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Reader Story: From Panic To Fun

EvolutionThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Sue Campbell, and it is an amazing one.

Here’s my story about going paperless. Actually, the paper in my life was only a small
part of my problem in the beginning. My biggest hurdle to start out with was a truly
limiting belief that “I can’t do this”. But, thanks to persistence and a guiding hand in the form of, I now see myself as totally competent in managing our finances. I’ve been married for 50 years, and my husband has been handling all that for the majority of that time. Over the course of the 50 years, somehow I got it into my mind that it was beyond my capability. Nuts? Sure, but that’s what I used to think.

My path to competency and a paperless world all started with my husband getting a
diagnosis of lung cancer at the beginning of January. He immediately started going
downhill, having little time or energy to pay bills, track investments, etc. Then he had
surgery, which unfortunately was unsuccessful. And before he had recovered from that, they started six weeks of radiation treatments on him, rendering him totally depleted in energy, and sleeping most of the day.

In the middle of all that, our income taxes were due. OMG! I knew, that because of
his health, my husband couldn’t even start putting that together. He had used Turbotax for years, but the idea of digging into that myself brought on total panic.

However, one day the thought occurred to me that you don’t have to be smart to use Turbotax. In fact, I bet that some pretty stupid people use Turbotax just fine. So I said to myself, “One step at a time, girl. If it doesn’t work, you can always hire it out.” So I dug in, and before I knew it our taxes were filed. Eureka! I also learned that this kind of thing was fun.

Now here’s where the paperless part comes in. After filing the taxes, the big question
was “where do I put the paper documentation?” My husband’s system had him
amassing huge files and boxes of paper, some going back 15 years. If it was going
to fall to me to keep our finances from here on, I knew that wasn’t going to be the way I was going to handle it.

It was right about that time I ‘happened’ upon the website
(amazing how the angels manage things, isn’t it?) I read everything I could on the
site, bought the Paperless Document Organization Guide, and started studying. I felt like I had jumped into really deep water, but I was determined to learn how to swim.

Throwing caution to the wind, I bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 scanner, and started gathering all the tax documentation for my first scanning session. The FileCenter software I bought to accompany the scanner made everything SO easy. I also loved the fact that (with FileCenter) my files weren’t tucked away in some propriety software, and I could find
them easily.

I was giddy with accomplishment! I then tackled all the investment reports, and the
bill-paying papers from the beginning of the year. The scanner couldn’t have been
easier to work, and FileCenter became my best friend. Then I bought the final piece
in my paperless setup…a Fellows W11C cross-cut shredder. What fun that gizmo is!
Loose paper doesn’t have a chance around here any more. I bag it up in clear plastic
bags, and the recycling people love me.

Excel spreadsheets completed my paperless journey. My husband kept track of our
investments for years on multiple huge sheets of ledger paper. No more! Now that I’m the one overseeing that duty, I’ve set up Excel spreadsheets for everything. Even for the monthly bill-paying. (And they’re color-coded! Heck, why not have fun with this?)

And that’s what has surprised me about this whole story– I found out it’s FUN. From panic to fun….who’d’ve thought it?

So, that’s my story. I owe you a huge THANK YOU. You came along at the perfect
time in my life. Keep up the good work. And keep reminding the scaredy-cats out
there that they can do it.

Thanks so much Sue! I almost don’t know what to say about this story. It is amazing what we can do when we are thrown into a situation, isn’t it? You are my new hero.

If you have questions for Sue, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered.

(Photo by stevendepolo)

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Reader Story: An Evolving Process

EvolutionThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Lee Chinshue Coello from Puerto Rico. She can be found at

What problems were you trying to solve by going paperless?

My paperless dilemma is two-fold. First it was a necessity in preparation for packing up our life and going traveling long-term . In addition to our household effects, we needed to streamline our storage and handling of files, mementos and mail simply because we would be on the move for the next six months to a year. There had to be a way to eliminate a backlog of physical paper piling up in our absence while still ensuring that our essential documents were secure, yet accessible if needed. The second reason ended up being because our plans got sidetracked and now we need to organize and archive the papers of an incapacitated relative. We are basically using and fine-tuning the system I started for my family.

What were the biggest stumbling blocks?

As I am still going through this process I would have to say my biggest stumbling block is the culture around me. I am currently located in Puerto Rico where most transactions still generate a lot of paper and institutions require physical paper rather than electronic records. Build-up of receipts can be a nightmare as almost every store prints two different kinds for each transaction. My husband and his father are also paper attached and that makes it hard to just get rid of it. I’m doing a lot of coaching and training each step of the way.

Tell us about your paperless workflow

I recently wrote a blog post called Fighting paper enemies on this very topic. It details my reliance on gadgets and apps to aid me in keeping on top of paper. Step one for me is receiving my mail online, as well as any document for which I won’t need to present an original. This stops a lot of paper from ever entering the house. I can have the mail scanned, shredded or forwarded to me as needed. Anything I want to keep I just save a copy of the scanned document to my computer. Next, for paper I do have in the home I use my Doxie scanner and then save immediate need items in Evernote and long-term or more sensitive files in Dropbox. Everything is on automated backup through CrashPlan to both an external computer drive and a external hard drive on site with me. I also make use of my smartphone to input almost everything I am doing in the moment into Evernote. I also use apps on my phone for my grocery list, electronic checkbook, passwords keeper and business rolodex. Having a scanner app on the phone that turns pictures taken on the phone into PDFs that I can send to Evernote means I never have to make a photocopy of anything. The other day my son missed a day of school and important test review notes. I snapped a picture of a classmate’s notes, converted it to PDF and put it into Evernote for him to review on the computer. No paper generated!

Is this for a business? Tell us about it

While my work in lifestyle management solutions does overlap into this area, I needed to improve and automate my system specifically for personal reasons. The extra, more complicated task of putting in place a paperless system for my ill father-in-law has made me focus on this area of my work more, and how to better guide clients through the process.

Is There Anything Else We Should Know?

Becoming paperless is an evolving process that begins with understanding your own personality. Just like when I help guide clients through organizing their possessions or household systems, no single method of doing it works for everyone. It all comes down to finding your sweet spot where habit melds with what leaves you feeling accomplished and in control of your system. Even for me, a more naturally organized person, this has been challenging. Finding good resources to give you ideas and direction is important. On this topic I am still learning and doing so I read sites like this one regularly for tips and instructions. Setting a paper priority list takes a bit of thought and tweaking. And of course, patience.

Thanks Lee! Great workflow and tools, and I just love your point about going paperless being an evolving process that needs to match your personality. So true.

If you have questions for Lee, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered, or head on over to her site.

(Photo by kevin dooley)

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Reader Story: Paperless Accountant Using OneNote And A ScanSnap

Income TaxThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Eileen Reppenhagen, CGA from Delta BC, Canada. She can be found at

What problems were you trying to solve by going paperless?

How to create binders with information, for example, creation of a working paper file. As an accountant, you start a file, and then find transactions that require different categorization either as capital or income, and additional information appears that requires processing. Sometimes the working paper file gets completely revamped four or five times.

What were the biggest stumbling blocks?

Figuring out a way to find everything again.

Tell us about your paperless workflow

I use Microsoft OneNote to create working paper files and in fact, showed the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers how to use OneNote in a recent series of online workshops which were recorded and are for sale on my website shopping cart.

I also use Evernote for recording my Tasks and To Do’s and Notes. What’s cool about Evernote is that I can move an email straight into Evernote to create a note and sort it into folders right from the Outlook email.

Is this for a business? Tell us about it

Yes, I’m an accountant who prepares personal tax returns. I used to prepare business returns too, but have decided to narrow my focus to only personal work. This can sometimes still involve a self-employed person, and for every person or family, I prepare a working paper file to keep pertinent information about the work and a record of the work. It’s referred to as ‘work product’.

Is There Anything Else We Should Know?

I use Outlook for email and Calendar, GoToMeeting to meet online, Evernote for Tasks and OneNote for creation of working papers and project files. For example, I’m writing a story, which is will be published as an e-Book about organizing your personal papers. I have 24 checklists for sale on my website in the Store to help you organize paperlessly, by entering your data into the Microsoft Word fillable forms, and storing those forms to edit when your financial situation changes, plus creating a Quicken data file with your financial records, you can be very organized, all paperlessly.

All of this paperless organization, combined with the use of a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 means that I’m using so much less paper than before. I used to stock up at tax time with multiple boxes of paper, but this year, I’m thinking that I might not even use one box.

Thanks Eileen that’s an awesome combination of tools to get your work done efficiently.

If you have questions for Eileen, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered, or head on over to her site.

(Photo by Alan Cleaver)

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Reader Story: It All Starts With The Mindset

IBM Think ExhibitThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Alexander Walter from Munich, Germany.

What problems were you trying to solve by going paperless?

As you can read below, I was trying to get rid of all the incoming and outgoing papers every single day in my job. I cannot go totally paperless but my wish is still to reduce the paper where it’s possible. Therefore I have come to the conclusion, that even Rome wasn’t built in one day and so I’ve done this with ease and lot of brainstorming. What can be accomplished easily and right now is one’s own thinking. I was never afraid to loose any paper or significant documents since I trust myself and the computers I’m working with. They were built to make people’s life easier. The next step was jumping over the papers and give it a try with the folders from last year. Emptying them, getting the paper in packages and feeding the machines. Soon I got myself a big pile of empty folders and a whole year’s storage transferred to the computer. Much better: I could now gain immediate access to anything I was searching for, since the PDFs created are searchable.
Nowadays there are almost no more folders in my office. They were replaced by a simple briefcase-inbox. All of the papers are going there and whenever the inbox gets full, I start a scanner-session (in fact I can’t wait for the time because this is great fun!)

What were the biggest stumbling blocks?

They were none for me. It is all a matter of willing to solve the paper problem. First I got myself a Mac, next I bought some pretty intelligent software. With these means I got curious what else can be accomplished in an easy way and that was about the time, when I started research on the web and reading books about going paperless. Soon afterwards I was quite convinced that I was in need of one last but essential thing: A document scanner.

Tell us about your paperless workflow

I have already. Anytime the inbox is full or at least at the end of a month, when all the rest of the work has to be done, I start the scanner. Important documents are scanned immediately, digitally signed with my autograph and sent as PDF via e-mail.

Is this for a business? Tell us about it

I am working as head-nurse at the Emergency Ambulance University Eye Hospital in Munich. There are about 50.000 visits a year and they are still getting more, since we’ve reduced the capacity on our stationery ward. Surrounded by incoming and outgoing papers, such as receipts, orders, invoices and much more on a daily basis, my folders and file cabinets ran out of storing space after a few years of doing this the old-fashioned way.

Is There Anything Else We Should Know?

Guess what’s the hardware I use? A Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500. I love it! The software is DEVONthink Professional. The books I read: TidBits publishing on Take Control books. My favourite website on paperless office: DocumentSnap. Always brightens my day.

Thanks Alexander, glad to hear I brighten your day! Great use of a scanner and DEVONthink, but I think my favorite part is the realization that everything starts with a mindset shift.

If you have questions for Alexander, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered.

(Photo by aria9)

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Reader Story: Devonthink, ScanSnap, Libraries, and Stamps

Bluenose StampThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Myron Molnau from Idaho. His website is

What problems were you trying to solve by going paperless?

Get rid of a lot of paper that dealt with my stamp collection, books in my library, old tax records and all the loose paper from our travels.

What were the biggest stumbling blocks?

Finding the time to get started! After planning and laying out the entire process, I found I needed at least two scanners so I had to shop for new scanners. I had at least three choices for saving data so I spent more time experimenting but finally settled on using Devonthink Pro (DTP) which I have used for years and I am familiar with it. I also had to solve the problem of having several pieces of paper on my desk at one time, particularly while writing a paper or long article. This was solved by using two monitors. The rest was easy except for finding the time to do it right.

I like this quote:

If I could just do it over, I would do it better – maybe even right.

William Faulkner (1897–1962)

Tell us about your paperless workflow

The workflow is pretty much the same, regardless of what is being scanned and saved. Sort all the paper into two piles: scan and recycle (be ruthless!). I set up several Profiles on the Fujitsu S1300 so each group would have a proper name and destination. Also, not everything needs OCR. When needed, DTP would do all the OCR, not the ABBYY included with the Fujitsu. The AI in DTP does a good job in sorting through the files and putting them into proper usable groupings. That also makes it easy to get information out of DTP.

When going to the library or taking data from bound materials, I use a portable Pandigital Handheld Wand Scanner. That saves a lot of time clipping newspapers and magazines and allows very flexible use in libraries and away from home.

Is There Anything Else We Should Know?

There are two major processes in the paperless office: getting documents in and getting useful information out. I found that there was a lot of paper that I was saving that did not need to be saved. Just because you can dump it easily into a computer does not mean that you need to scan and save it. The use of Devonthink Pro, Circus Ponies Notebook, Evernote, Aquaminds NoteTaker and others like them may make a person lazy but you cannot make maximum use of the documents that you scanned unless you plan on using an intelligent scheme to retrieve those documents and be able to use them to solve some problem.

I still need to find a way to get some data types into Filemaker pro without having to use Excel as an intermediary.

Thanks Myron, That’s such a great point about the distinction between storing and retrieving useful information.

If you have questions for Myron, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered.

(Stamp photo from

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