Can my home office be paperless?

Is paperless a pipe dream?  Well, the answer is YES and NO. It all depends on how diligent you are with document storage — paper and electronic. Both systems require an organized filing protocol. It may not be possible to eliminate all paper from your home office, but it is possible to reduce the use of paper especially if you rely on electronics – computers, tablets, smart phones.

A few years ago I ran out of printer cartridges. Being frugal, I decided to find a better way to store information rather than print and file. An amazing discovery on my PC — when I hit the print button there are choices, one of which is Microsoft Document Writer. This allowed me to store documentation directly into a “follow-up” folder on my computer desktop with a customized date to alert action required. For me, this was the perfect solution to eliminate the printing. Paperless? No! But, paper reduction? Oh, Yes!

 

Picture of Print function with Microsft Document Writer

 

 

A paperless office (or paper-free office) is a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. This is done by converting documents and other papers into digital form.  ~Wikipedia

Something to think about:

Digital database replaced index cards and Rolodex.

Email and texting eliminated mailing typed/handwritten letters. (I still like sending handwritten notes when the occasion calls for a personal touch.)

Cloud platforms did away with many file cabinets and allows easy access to documents from any electronic device, at any time.

Google disbanded the use of reference books.

E-book readers and audio books eliminated clutter on bookcases and shelves. (I especially love the Library Overdrive. Check it out to see if your local library is listed.)

Streaming created an easy at-home way of watching movies, sporting events, TV shows…

Data shared electronically banished paper forms, applications and surveys that required snail mail sharing.

 

Electronic forms widely use the following technologies to bypass paper:

  • Portable Document Format (PDF) creates, displays and shares electronic documents and forms.
  • E-form (electronic form) management software provides for the creation and integration of data.
  • Electronic database captures information for easy access, processing and sharing.
  • E-mail (electronic mail) and texting can send and receive information of all types, instantly.
  • Digital signatures solve the dilemma of signing and mailing documents. The E-Sign Act of 2000 provided that a document cannot be rejected on the basis of an electronic signature and required all companies to accept digital signatures on documents.
  • Web servers receive, store and manage documents across a cloud platform.

Even with all the electronic solutions available paper is not completely eliminated. However, the goal of reduction of paper consumed is a huge potential if we stop hitting PRINT. In other words, stop relying on the printer and get comfortable with electronics.

The internet has transformed the world and how we accomplish tasks. With the ability to transmit messages and data instantly, deliver information anytime, anywhere, and connect people in real time, the internet has the potential to be the greatest organizational asset. Finger-tip data management done without paper! Amazing!!!

Here are a few tips to head you towards less paper use:

  1. Electronic billing, banking, paying and balancing the checkbook
  2. Direct deposit and automatic banking transactions
  3. E-mail correspondence, broadcasting, file/photo transfers
  4. Online news services will eliminate newspapers and magazines
  5. Online surfing eliminates catalogs from many retail stores
  6. Search and purchase products and services online
  7. E-readers, audio books, Ebookdaily.com (free Kindle reading) and Library Overdrive
  8. Digital file document management
  9. Voice mail, Skype, Facetime, chat rooms
  10. USPS ‘Informed Delivery’ sends email alerts of items waiting in your post office box
  11. Smart phone use…
    1. Frequent flyer? Use your smart phone for a mobile boarding pass instead of printing one
    2. Electronic wallet for payments instead of carrying the actual credit card and piling up receipts
    3. Cardstar app eliminates the wallet and keychain clutter by conveniently storing your loyalty, rewards and membership cards in one easy-to-use app
  12. Evernote – a flexible productivity system that provides a place to capture ideas, organize them, and keep you on track with the next action step. It is a cloud-based tool ready at a click of the mouse to keep track of information across all your devices. The search capability is incredible at finding the correct file easily. Contact me if you want more information on how to utilize this powerful tool.
  13. Yes, there are many more ways to cut the excess use of paper. Let me know your ideas by filling in the comment section below.

 

Benefits of paperless (and just less paper usage):

  • Saves time. Most electronic activities can be accomplished from a desktop, laptop, tablet and smart phone.
  • Easier and faster access to information stored in the clouds.
  • Saves space in your office with minimal need for file cabinets.
  • Stronger security when utilizing long passwords, two-step authentication, thumb print or face recognition.
  • Saves money; less spent on paper, cartridges, mailing…
  • Easier on the environment; save the trees.
  • Less energy consumption when printers, faxes, and copiers are inactive.
  • Reduction in paper waste.

The bottom line is that using less paper improves efficiency, optimizes productivity and reduces cost. Let’s be realistic, paperless is not the ultimate goal, but using less paper is a realistic potential. Strive to eliminate the unnecessary reliance on paper as a primary medium for information management and you will have taken a huge step in getting and staying organized in your home office.

Less paper usage is another life management skill. Add a comment below and let me know how you are doing.

 

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