Paperless Office!

Lets say that useless redundant paper products prey on the likes of business offices throughout America. It’s an epidemic I think. It hit me recently, well it’s hit me before but it REALLY hit me recently, that most of the reference material and records I keep in paper form are duplicated elsewhere. Policies, phone lists, general reference material, meeting notes, etc., are usually available online or can be stored digitally. So what’s with the 8,000 binders, file folders, notepads (a new one for each meeting), and post-its (of all sizes)?! I realized that the only paper I REALLY need to keep in hard copy form are files with ink signatures and/or originals, NOT STORED ELSEWHERE. The list of documents that fit this criteria are few.

So, what does one do? Digitize! I have zero binders, that’s right, zero in my office. Over 60% of the paper stored in my binder collection came from online sources and was subject to constant updating. So, basically most of my binders were out of date. Can you relate? I can’t tell you the amount of freedom and inspiration that came from shredding (and recycling) three garbage bags full of paper. So enough of my preaching, if my paperless plight appeals to you at all, here are some things you can do to reclaim your freedom:

  1. Scan business cards. I store them in Evernote using Evernote Hello
  2. Scan reference material not stored online (E.G. your personal notes). And use an iPad or laptop for future notes.
  3. Use your iPad or tablet to review commonly accessed reference info. I use iAnnotate PDF. If you don’t own an iPad or tablet, consider using desktop shortcuts. This way your phone list is one click away instead of embedded three levels down in a forgotten folder. Plus with a shortcut, your horribly embedded original is still safe in your backed-up network drive in case your computer crashes (heaven forbid)!
  4. Lose the post-its! Start using your email calendar for goodness sake! You can track appointments, to-do’s, etc, and if you train yourself to check your calendar (which I almost never did!) you will find it is a handy paperless tool!
  5. Use a White Board. There are those times I need to jot down some quick info, a phone number, etc. So I mounted a foam-backed whiteboard to my desk. I can easily write down ideas and quick notes and when it gets full, I snap a photo and sync with Evernote. Sometimes my ideas need to marinate for a while. This is a way to archive my ideas minus the paper!
  6. Create a decent e-filing system. I love this post from How To Geek, Zen and the Art of File Folder Organization. It’s very in depth and took a bit of work to implement but I can access computer files far more easily now! It may take a few sittings to digest but for those of you determined to go paperless, I highly suggest it.

OK, this is probably enough information for now. I hope I didn’t overwhelm you! Going paperless is a process, sometimes it takes a paradigm shift. You may have to examine what you truly value in order to rid yourself of the fluff and clutter. Maybe that notepad isn’t as valuable as you once thought? Perhaps that live-or-die binder offers more dust than useful information? Just think about it.

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Evernote – My New BFF

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Evernote, once a fair-weather friend is now my BFF. Perhaps it’s the effect getting older, owning a home, or having more life responsibility in general, that I find the paperless lifestyle to be sweetly appealing. In my previous going paperless post, I gave you a window into my cluttered life and strategies I used to dig myself out. At that time, I’m sad to say, Evernote was not yet a part of my inner circle. Oh, but now it IS! If you have never heard of it, or like me, have been avoiding taking the relationship to the next level, I’d like to inspire you to befriend this handy application.

What is Evernote?

Evernote is intended to act as your “external brain.” All of the important information, ideas, experiences and projects you need to access can be stored, mapped, searched, indexed, sorted and shared in Evernote.

I like to think of Evernote as the largest virtual three-ring binder ever. Information are stored in Notes, Notebooks and Stacks. A “note” is like a piece of paper in your binder, with index tabs represented by “notebooks” and the binder itself a collection of notebooks or a “stack”.

How do I use it?

I literally use Evernote EVERYWHERE. I have the desktop app on my Mac, I use the web version when at work and the iPad and iPhone versions when mobile.

I store a ton of information in Evernote including reading lists, draft blog posts, recipes, professional notes and projects such as resumes, leadership development projects and goals, business cards, health and wellness tips, sheet music, technology tips and tricks, product wish lists, research and the list is growing!!!

What are my favorite features?

I love Stacks! A stack as mentioned above, is a grouping of interrelated notebooks. As a youth ministry volunteer through the Bay Area Christian Church, I store separate notebooks for events, calendars, meeting notes, info on people I mentor, bible studies and more in my ministry stack.

I love automation! Currently, I have a filter set up in my Gmail account that forwards emails with attachments to my Evernote email address. Forwarded emails ultimately land in my default notebook…voila! Every so often, I sort my uploads into their respective notebooks and I never have to go through the hassle digging through my email.

I love Links! This is where Evernote surged ahead of Dropbox for me. Not only are all my notes and attachments stored in Evernote, but I can create links to ANY of my notes within a single note. This makes my life even easier. Right now, I am using this feature to index my bible studies, but I also use for food, natural cosmetics and green cleaning recipes. I have hundreds of bible studies I’ve collected and digitized; links make it easy for me to find the studies I want. Here is a screenshot of my bible study index (in progress). How handy is that?!

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I love Sharing! I can easily invite friends to view my notebooks. No more digging into my tangled abiss of e-files to email an attachment to someone. I can say, “here, look at my notebook and read what you want!” Sweet!

I love Shortcuts! In the newest desktop version of Evernote for Mac, I can create shortcuts to notes I want handy. This is great for current projects, which for me are Christmas gift ideas, holiday recipes and plans.

Some other products and services that I LOVE from Evernote are Web Clipper, Clearly, Skitch, Penultimate, and Food (which I now use to capture all of my recipes).

I look forward to sharing more of the fun ways I use Evernote and would love to hear how you use it!

Going Paperless – Out of Sheer Desperation!

Recently, I have decided to go paperless. This was a hard decision to come to for many reasons: 1) I am a bit paranoid and fear my digital documents will be lost, corrupted or stolen  2) I have an obsessive attachment with paper 3) I can’t imagine life without a 50lb laptop messenger bag full of junk.

However, I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I’ve spent more time, staring at paper, shredding paper, organizing paper, sorting paper and recycling paper than I would ever care to admit. It’s got to go! At least, what is not absolutely necessary, must go! So, I have made some progress in the right direction, as well as taken advantage of some fun apps to help me improve my paperless peace of mind.

Work

  1. I converted several 3″ binders containing policies and guidance into organized pdf files. Some of these were available in hard-copy only so I manually scanned them on our lexmark copier to a pdf text file (300 dpi recommended). This printer also scans directly to a flash drive which is nice. I also scanned archival files for personnel, programs and activities that are no longer active.
  2. I stopped using post-its! I force myself to limit my brain tangents to the notes section of my daily calendar. I also use a fun litte app called Clear to track my To-Do’s. I DO use post-its to write notes or instructions on documents but they are NOT cluttering up my workspace!
  3. I’ve instituted organization Friday! I shred papers, properly sort electronic folders, and scan inactive files.
  4. I scanned business cards to CamCard. I tried to be very merciless with this. I have well over 100 business cards from people I haven’t contacted once! I am still sorting through them. So far I have scanned about 10.

Home/Personal

  1. I’m reducing junk mail using Paper Karma. Every time a new catalogue comes in, I take a photo and Paper Karma unsubscribes me from the mailing list. This was very hard since I am very attached to my catalogues. However, they are unnecessary. If I really want to buy something, I will seek it out!
  2. I uploaded rewards/loyalty program cards to Key Ring. Are you drowning in Safeway, CVS, Hyatt, United Mileage Plus and a million other membership cards?!  This is a great app for that. I keep the originals in a plastic bag in my filing cabinet but I don’t carry them around.
  3. I use Mint to track and manage my budget. It tracks all transactions so I dont have to go to each bank site and I have no need for statements. Its very sortable and user friendly. This service takes some commitment to get started, but boy is it great! I also receive paperless statements for 90% of my recurring bills.
  4. I track personal, professional and charitable vehicle mileage using Trip Cubby. No more paper logs! I can export monthly excel reports to file in my tax folder.
  5. I’ve found Dropbox to be a great service for storing must-have documents. My Dropbox folder can be accessed from all of my devices or online. Also, the documents are easy to share with others. I used to carry around sheet music, bible studies, event calendars, phone lists, you name it! Now all files are easily stored for quick access.

I have kept ONE thing though. I can’t let go of my Moleskine journal! I just can’t journal on an iPhone; I’m not there yet.

So there you have it! Life is good! Perhaps I’ll check-in a couple months down the road and let you know how it’s going 🙂