Going Paperless – Realistic, or the Impossible Dream? (pt. 1)

Working from home has become a reality for the indefinite future for many of us. As a result, our home offices, and the way we handle our paperwork, has become even more important. Even if you’re not in the WFH category, most of us have paperwork that we need to save, but need a better way to keep it!

While many of my clients have expressed the desire to go completely paperless, I’m not convinced that we will ever be able to be a completely paper-free society. However, it’s certainly possible to have LESS paper in your life, and there are many different ways to go about it. In addition to contributing less waste to the environment, reducing the amount of paper we produce and save in our lives can help us be better organized, more productive, and save us both space and time.

The first step to take is to reduce all incoming paper. If you keep it out to begin with, you’ll have less to deal with. Get off of mailing lists for catalogs and credit card solicitations – go to dmachoice and optoutprescreen to get that done. Paperkarma is a terrific (paid) app which will also help remove you from many mailing lists with minimal effort.

Do you have piles of unread magazines, journals and newspapers to which you subscribe? If you’ve accumulated more than three months of a monthly subscription, more than one month of a weekly newspaper, or more than one week of a daily newspaper, you either don’t have time to read them regularly, or they are no longer significant enough in your life for you to make time for them. Unsubscribe! Let them go, and if you miss an issue occasionally, buy a single copy at the newsstand.

Opt for email versions of credit card, utility, and other bills. However, if you struggle to stay on top of your email inbox, it can be all too easy to miss these important payments. If you decide to go paperless for bills, set up filters ahead of time so that these bills are diverted to a folder for them, or when you see them hit your inbox, IMMEDIATELY move them to the designated folder. Then mark your calendar with a BIG reminder every two weeks (safer than just once a month) to get into that folder and get those bills paid on time.

If you go digital for bank and investment statements, again either set up filters or immediately move them as they come in to a folder marked specifically for them. Set up a monthly reminder to go into the folder and check them over as necessary. At tax time when you receive your K-1 or end of year statements, you can then safely delete them.

For the information junkies out there, resist the urge to print all those interesting online articles and either bookmark them on your computer (set up folders ahead of time with specific categories to house them so you can find them easily in the future,) or save them as PDF’s in categorized folders on your computer.

User manuals for appliances and electronics can pile up and quickly become a pain to store. You can find most manuals online these days, either on the manufacturer’s website, or on sites like manualsonline.com, so recycle those hard copies and save some precious file space.

Dealing with piles of business cards with contact information for all of those interesting people you meet at networking and social events? Use an app like Evernote or CamCard to scan them into your phone and voila! You have an easily searchable database of contacts without having to save the cards.

For more tips on having and needing less paper in your life, stay tuned for next month!

Lisa Griffith

About The Author

Lisa Griffith is a speaker and consultant who provides services, both on-site and virtually, to help busy professionals organize their offices, systems and calendars. In addition to business and home office organizing, productivity and time management coaching, she provides workshops & seminars for business and community groups.