10 Tips For Achieving Paper Zen

10 Tips For Achieving Paper Zen

Photo by unimatrixZxero

Many people dream of the mythical “paperless office”. While these tips aren’t going to take you all the way there (and I don’t think anything truly will), they will take you a long way towards making friends with paper again.

1. Switch to paper-free option when possible. When at all possible, get rid of the paper coming in in the first place. Many banks or vendors will let you switch to online statements and bills, and when possible pay your bills online via your bank’s website instead of writing a check.

2. Get a scanner with automatic document feed and duplexing. If you try to go paperless (or even just less paper) with a flatbed scanner, chances are you are eventually going to find it a pain. A scanner (like a Fujitsu ScanSnap) that lets you put in a stack of paper and automatically scans both sides in with a push of a button will make life much easier.

3. Scan/process/shred right away. If you let things pile up too much, it becomes a chore and you won’t want to do it. Try to through your document in the scanner/shredder right when you get it.

4. Have everything close at hand. Stolen from GTD, you are more likely to process everything right away and correctly if all your equipment, file folders, and other processing materials are right there at arm’s length. If you have to walk to do something, you probably won’t.

5. Get buy-in from family/colleagues. Nothing is worse than coming up with a great system to reduce paper use, but your spouse or co-worker keeps on with their hoarding and filing ways. Try to involve them in designing and implementing the new process so they have buy-in right from the start and it is “theirs” too.

6. Chose a folder/filename system that makes sense to you. Sure you know what the receipt for your new USB turntable is now, but if you see a23422add.pdf in My Documents next year will you know what it is without opening it up? Come up with a folder and naming system and stick to it.

7. Make your PDFs searchable. Similar to #6, don’t just scan things to a PDF image. Use your scanning software to make the PDF searchable. That way in the future you can find it later on just by doing a Spotlight or Google Desktop search.

8. Be careful what you scan & shred. Like this guy says, don’t get too carried away with what you scan and shred. Other people (like your girlfriend), might not be quite as impressed with your mad paperless skillz.

9. Combine the process with something else. If you don’t have the discipline to do #3 right away, try to combine your processing with something else. If you have a laptop and a portable scanner, do your scanning in a batch while watching the football game or something.

10. Automate backups. Nothing will cause you stress with a system like this like knowing you are one harddrive failure away from disaster. Put yourself in paper zen mode by knowing that all your data is safe and secure. Use a backup system and make it automated so that you don’t even need to think about it.

Do you have any other tips for achieving “paper zen”? Share in the comments.

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

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