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Go Paperless Today in 4 Easy Steps

PaperlessIn4EasySteps

I revel in being paperless. Being eco-friendly is gratifying. I visit places like San Francisco and buy sushi packaged in cartons made of corn and say, ‘Wow that’s so eco-friendly! I’m paperless, you know.’ Paper has just been a hindrance to my lifestyle. Traveling with paper files and books, and scrambling to sort paper receipts in airports, is no fun at all. So I’ve spent the last four years of my life scanning and digitizing all of my paper, learning the ins and outs of GTD (Getting Things Done), Evernote and other productivity tools for the management of this paper, and have increasingly become more organized, focused and sane.

In the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Sandy, where people lost their homes and irreplaceable documents, I want to encourage you to go paperless. Here are 4 easy steps to go paperless:
1. Assess Your Damage: What types of paper do you have and where is it? Files from clients? Receipts? Bills? Sentimental items like greeting cards? Are your paper items organized in a file cabinet? Are they scattered throughout your home? Piled on top of your desk? There are applications and services that will help you sort and categorize your paper. Ensure that your paperless journey is not only easy, but productive. For example, Shoeboxed will not only scan your files, receipts, bills, business cards, etc., but they will also sort and label them by item. This is useful for finding your information quickly, and it will also help during tax time. Imagine being able to send your receipts organized by travel, dining, office, etc., to your accountant in one swoop!
2. Take Action: Make the decision to be proactive around your paperless journey, as paper definitely piles up! I recommend preventing the initial overwhelm by investing into ship to scan services like Shoeboxed and simply shipping your paper off. In this way, you begin with a clean slate, foregoing a 3-year long scanning project like I endured.
3. Store: Shoeboxed, OfficeDrop and others actually come with built-in storage for your documents, but they also integrate/play well with services that have additional features for your business, or to enhance productivity like Google Docs or Evernote. Select a service that you feel has good security for sensitive documents, has longevity – so that you won’t have to move your docs for a long time – if ever, and that allow you to access your documents at will quickly.

4. Maintenance: Buy a portable scanner. I recommend a Doxie Go Scanner; it’s wireless, lightweight, can easily fit into a briefcase or a purse for travel between work and home, and even scans a great quality photo. Scan paper as soon as you get it. If you don’t want to buy a scanner right now, visit your phone’s app store for an app that will allow you to scan (Search Keyword – “Scanner”). Scanner apps allow you take a picture of your paper, detecting the paper’s edge for a clear and optimal scan.

Some Quick Tips for Paperless Success:
  • Subscribe to email bank statements, bills, and receipts when possible and/or use FileThisFetch.
  • Snap pics of business cards instead of exchanging them, or use a business card app like LinkedIn’s Cardmunch (Search Keyword “Business Card”).
  • Use an eFax service.
  • Use an eSign service.
  • Make an ePortfolio (See mine as an example) to showcase company work vs. a paper portfolio.
  • Buy eBooks vs. books when possible.
  • Buy eMagazines vs. magazines when possible.
  • Send eCards vs. greeting cards (There are also a ton of free eCard apps. Search Keyword “eCard”).
  • Use an eRecipe service (yes they exist!).
  • Use eCoupons when possible.
  • Use an eTicketing service vs. mailing invitations to an event that you are planning. Attendees, don’t print the email.
  • Use your bank’s Bill Pay service vs. writing paper checks.
  • Never print emails for your reference file; instead, save them in Google Docs or Evernote.
Letting go of paper can be a bit intimidating, but you won’t regret making this life change. Being able to access ALL of my information on the go, or collecting expense reports from my staff through our paperless workflow, has allowed me a freedom and productivity that has changed my life and my business.
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About the Author

Lindsey C. Holmes is the CEO/Lead Strategist of Usable Tech Co (formerly LCH Business SM & Tech), a digital marketing firm based in Newark, NJ, with an office also in Washington, DC. Lindsey is the Evernote Small Business Ambassador, a self-taught developer, a proud geek, and mom of a shih-tzu named Banks. She spends her free time converting the masses to understand and apply the technology that will make their lives better. Follow her on Twitter @lindseycholmes.

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