They key to making friends with paper again is to recognize what it is good for and what it is not.
Paper is outstanding for creative capture, quick notes, and expressing thoughts. There is nothing quite like the tactile experience of sitting there with a pen or pencil and writing or drawing things out.
Unfortunately, paper is great at being a capture point but terrible at being a destination. You can’t (easily) search paper, it takes up physical space, you can’t (easily) cross-reference it.
As Malcolm Gladwell writes “The solution to our paper problem, they write, is not to use less paper but to keep less paper. Why bother filing at all?”
I totally agree Malcolm. Of course, you need a system that will let you do this securely and most of all easily. If something is a pain in to do, we won’t do it.
Here is, in my opinion, a four step process to paper-embracing happiness:
You need a trusty tool to turn those beautiful pieces of paper into the ones and zeroes we all love.
Right off the bat I am going to say forget flatbed scanners. They will do the job, but it is a pain to have to do one side at a time for every piece of paper that you have. Despite your good intentions, the whole thing will fall off the rails pretty quickly unless you are extremely disciplined (which I am not).
What you want is a scanner that does duplexing (2 sides) and has an automatic document feeder (something that grabs each paper and sucks it through like a fax machine).
My favorite by far is the Fujitsu ScanSnap. Why? It takes different sizes of paper and scans 2 sides with the touch of a button. Just throw what you want to scan in and hit the 1 button. Simple simple simple and fast.
If you’d like to know more, sign up for the Paper Sanity e-Course over there on the right side of the screen. It will teach you everything you need to know about scanners.
So you have your files scanned, but what do you with them now?
Either come up with some folder structure that makes sense to you, or use a software program to keep your files together.
Also, its important that your PDFs are searchable so that you can find them later.
I have created the Paperless Document Organization Guide to help you learn all about organizing your electronic documents, so you may want to check that out.
If you’d like to know more, sign up for the Paper Sanity e-Course over there on the right side of the screen. You’ll learn all you need to know about tools and techniques for managing your documents.
Back It Up
Hard drives are notorious for crashing. Imagine going through all this work to scan your important documents and then losing it all in one crash.
You can’t go paperless without backing it up. It’s just too high risk. There are 2 ways you can back your stuff up: on an external hard drive like a Western Digital Elements, and “in the cloud” using an online backup service like Carbonite or Mozy.
If you’d like to know more, sign up for the Paper Sanity e-Course over there on the right side of the screen. We run through all the options for doing offline and online backup, with some encryption thrown in..
Everyone knows that identity theft is a huge problem.
One of the keys to preventing it is not to garbage or recycle paper that in any way identifies you or can help someone steal your identity. Crooks can and will go through that stuff!
If you’d like to know more, sign up for the Paper Sanity e-Course over there on the right side of the screen. You’ll learn all about protecting yourself from identity theft and what you shouldn’t shred.