The idea of a paperless office came around a few years ago. The idea is sexy and daring. But is it plausible?
Ever since the idea of a paperless office came around, it seems I’ve only added more paper. If people in the past saw more paper than the average office, we must have had a serious tree problem. To most of us, the paperless office seems more like myth than a reality.
The truth is, paper will never go away. The simple reality is that you can’t spread 100 pages on your monitor effectively. There is hope however for a nearly paperless office.
Why a totally paperless office is impossible:
Notes – Unless you’ve found a way to effectively type with one hand while using the other to hold the phone, or sift through a book/document you can’t go paperless yet.
Ongoing Projects – You’ll need a place to store documents that relate to an ongoing project you have. While I often keep this on my computer, I also have a folder for any necessary paperwork. I’m currently using this system for a contract that needs ink copies. I cannot avoid this paper.
Quick Access Items – You should keep papers that you use frequently and often to assist your computer work.
Legal Hard Copies – When was the last time a mortgage was signed on an iPad? I’ve never heard of such a thing.
There are apps that will help you go paperless for many useless papers.
Dropbox – If I need to take something home or read it away from my computer, I can add it Dropbox and read it on the iPad.
Evernote – File away things I think I’ll need later, take pictures of papers and scan them in.
Tripit – All my travel reservations and itineraries.
SignEasy – For any document that does not require an original ink signature, I use SignEasy.
Things you’ll need to set up in your office to manage your paper process to make you, nearly paperless. This is my process to shorten the life span of a piece of paper.
File Folders – Stuff everything that must be on paper into these folders and label what projects they are. This keeps everything organized and allows me to flip from one project to another while staying organized, essential to clearing paper from your desk.
File Holder – I use a few file drawers on my desk to hold long term project folders and a wire folder holder on my desk to hold current projects. When I finish the project, I scan in any documents I need to keep and file them on our server. I then recycle everything else.
Inbox – To prevent clutter from the endless barrage of people throwing paper grenades at you, direct them to an inbox that you process daily. Apply the GTD method to this box, either act on an item, file it, or trash it.
Apps – Once I finish actively working on a project, I pull all the files off the apps mentioned above and file them on our server for future reference.
While you can never escape paper entirely, you can certainly minimize its impact on your office by using the tools available to us today. Come to grips with the fact that you can never have a completely paperless office. Instead, learn to direct the flow of paper so that it lives a short life of usefulness then disperse with it.
What can you gain by having a paperless office?