This 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 http://becomingunencumbered.com/.
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 www.becomingunencumbered.com 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)