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Go Paperless - Start Here
Paperless is a Goal
The words "paperless office" can conjure up thoughts of being able to see your desktop for the first time in weeks or even months. Unfortunately it does take some extra effort on an ongoing basis to get there and stay there. Motivation gets you started but you need to accumilate a few things before getting started for real. You need the right technology, some extra time and the know-how to get started. You may think about just throwing away those stacks of paper - do not go there. It is amazing what you find hidden beneath magazines, newpapers and junk mail. Steps you will have to take is sorting, scanning, naming files and backing up data.
I am close to having my home office paperless - although there will always be some paper. Current tax returns and current insurance policies are kept in a special place just in case I need them in a hard copy form. You will learn that becoming paperless is accomplished in bits and pieces and what I tell you here will just be scratching the surface.
All Piles of Paper are Subject to Scrutiny
Assuming that you have just decided to become paperless you probably have stacks of paper laying around on most every flat surface. The stacks are seldom restricted to the office or home office. Sorting through each stack is important because often there will be important and current pieces of paper buried within it.
Plastic Shoe Boxes - Cheap Sorting Containers
Multiple shoe boxes are handy for sorting. They are large enough to hold a stack of paper - yet they are small enough to store during the sorting process. I prefer clear or opaque plastic shoe boxes because the work so well while sorting, they stack well and they can be used to organize your shoes afterwards. Depending on how much paper you have waiting to be organized I suggest you have at least a dozen boxes.
Locate the largest flat surface - even if it is the floor - and lay the shoe boxes side-by-side. Organize them by the month for now. I suggest writing each month on a card that will stand upright at the end of each shoe box. In addition to the monthly boxes you need one that just says current.
Date is the most important
Current papers that require action such unpaid bills, requests for information and appointments need to be sorted from all stacks. It is a good idea to check with your kids and spouse at this point for any papers that you have not seen yet.
Sort from one pile at a time. Regardless of what you come across just sort it by the month. The reason for this method is to save time. If you pay too much time reading and researching each piece of paper you may never get through all of the piles of paper. Later in the process you will pay more attention to the contents of each shoe box. As you may guess - if one shoe box is not enough for some months - just add a second box.
As you sort do not be tempted to throw away receipts or other seemingly unimportant papers. That said, if you come across outdated sale papers, brochures or appointment cards those can be trashed immediately after removing any personal information printed on them.
The mailbox is a major source of papers - both important and not important. Remember that once you place your trash outside on the curb it becomes public information that anyone has access to.
iPad Calendar with Reminders
Electronic Tablet or Smartphone Paperless Event Tracker
An iPad/Android tablet or an iPhone/Android Smartphone is a great way to update events, appointments and deadlines as you sort. Type in each one and set a reminder alarm. If there are papers that need to be retained for those events or appointments such as brochures or forms - note that on your electronic calendar.
Although I own an iPad 2 and an iPhone I purchased an HP Touchpad. The Touchpad allows for color coding on a layered calendar so it is easy to see at a glance what is coming up next. I plan to keep it on my desk so that it is handy to keep me aware of my next action and it is available for research or other information I need at my fingertips. Just today I removed my old outdated calculator from the shelf next to my desk since the Touchpad and my iPhone is just as easy to use.
Follow Through - Reach Your Paperless Goal
Complete the steps I spoke of here and by that time I will have posted the next steps to take. This is not a difficult process but it is time consuming. Eventually you will be able to determine shortcuts that work for you but for now follow what I say and you will not regret that you disposed of something important.
I am a Professional Organizer that specializes in Home Office and Business Office organization. The information that I write about is tried and true procedures that I use in my Home Office. I spend time each day organizing, scanning and shredding papers.