For those of us who want to go paperless, it can be hard to know what to do.
There are different technologies to choose from, different ways to set things up, and of course there is the fear of losing important information.
It can be easy to get stuck.
Over the years, I have seen some mistakes made over and over (and have even made many of them myself):
1. Relying On A Slow Scanner
Nothing makes people give up going paperless quite like the annoyance of having to sit there feeding paper into a scanner.
We all have all-in-ones that have a flatbed scanner, and that is fine to start with.
However, if there is any volume of paper at all (especially if it involves double-sided pages), people have been most successful when they use a fast scanner with an automatic document feeder that scans double-sided. This way you can just put a stack of paper into the scanner and hit go.
How to avoid: If you can afford it, pick up a scanner that is designed to scan documents. I personally use a Fujitsu ScanSnap, but there are many others out there.
2. Not Naming Files Properly
You know how you take pictures with your phone or digital camera and end up with hundreds of files with names like IMG_3164.JPG?
With electronic documents, it is the same thing. When you scan a document, your scanner will probably kick out a file named similar to 2013_06_18_09_38.pdf.
On the rare occasion that people do rename their files, they might put it in a June folder and call it comcast.pdf.
None of these situations are good if they want to be able to find these documents later.
How to avoid: When naming your electronic documents, take a moment to give it a consistent, descriptive name. Even better, include the date in the name so that you can search by title and date.
3. Waiting For The Perfect Folder Structure
Many people get very, very stuck coming up with the “right” folder structure to store their paperless documents in.
Everything grinds to a halt while they think, research, analyze, and research some more.
Remember, these are electronic files and folders. We can start with one structure, and very easily change it as our needs evolve.
How to avoid: Start with a basic, high level folder structure with your main categories of documents. If needed, mirror your paper file structure to avoid confusion.
4. Letting The Pile Return
It is a great moment when one’s paperless process is sorted out and that pile of paper becomes under control.
Unfortunately, the reality is that a ridiculous amount of paper will still be coming in to our lives and businesses, and there is a danger that the pile will grow again.
How to avoid: Have a plan for your ongoing paperless processing. Have a central inbox where paper and electronic documents go, and put a time on your calendar where you process your documents on a regular basis.
5. Not Having An Automated Backup
Everybody knows that they need to back up their computers, but almost nobody does it.
When going paperless, backing up at least the important documents is not optional. It is absolutely required. The best approach to take is to assume that something will happen to your documents, because it probably will.
Notice how I said “not having an automated backup”? I am of the opinion that if a backup is not done automatically, it is not really a backup.
How to avoid: At the very least, have an external hard drive plugged into your computer and use the backup software that is built into your operating system. Even better, have at least two backups: one local (your external drive) and one offsite. I personally use CrashPlan for this, but there are lots of options.
You’re Not Alone
Have you made one of these five mistakes, or are you in the process of making them?
Don’t worry about it – you are absolutely not alone, and we all do it.
The key is to look for at least one way that you can improve things, and then tackle that. You can worry about the rest later.
If you have other mistakes that you or others have made, please share in the comments.
(Photo by JD Hancock)