So You've Decided To Go Paperless, Now What?

The short answer is get busy, or pay someone to get busy for you. The decision to go paperless is by far the easiest part of the process. The actual act of becoming paperless is a monster, or at least that's what it seems like at the outset. Get busy attacking the paper monster and before you know it he'll just be a small nuisance coming up and nipping at your toes every now and then. How do you attack the paper monster? That's easy, a little bit at a time.

Come up with a clearly written out schedule and stick to it. Quantify it by either amount of files scanned in a day or number of hours spent scanning during the course of the day. I started out setting aside one hour a day scanning. Sometimes it ends up being a little more than an hour, but on average it's one solid hour of nothing but scanning. You could do the same if you want or choose instead measure by number of files scanned in a day. Make a goal to scan 10 files a day, whether that is all at one time or spread throughout your work day. The point is to get started and to chip away at the monster a little bit everyday. You may be able to do more or less than I do. That's probably up to you, your boss, your coworkers, or maybe your ability to hire someone to come in and do the scanning for you.

One misconception that I had when starting out was that I would just open a file, throw it in the scanner, and let her rip. I soon found out how wrong I was to assume it would be that easy. The thing that I hadn't planned for was the amount of paper or documents within some of our files that didn't need to be scanned because they were either outdated or obsolete. So many of our client files had statements in them that went back many years. These statements are not only available to us online but to our clients as well. Why make a digital copy of something that will likely never be needed, isn't required by compliance, and is already available in a digital form online.

This revelation was eye opening and made me realize that this business of becoming paperless was going to be much more involved than I first thought. It's really a very extensive exercise in becoming organized. Each file must be screened for useless documents prior to being scanned. The price of scanning the useless documents is that it makes searching for specific information at a later time that much harder. The important stuff would get lost in the crowd of all the meaningless stuff you don't need.

Now is the time to be ruthless with those bloated files of yours. Do you think you could do that. The thought of somebody being ruthless with a bunch of files is comical, but you get my meaning. Trim the fluff from those bloated files and make them lean mean fighting machines filled with nothing but relevancy.

That is the single most time consuming part, at least for me, of digitizing your files. Do you have to filter your files first? No, of course not, but it sure will help in the future if you ever need to retrieve that information. Some of you may be fortunate enough to already know without a doubt that every document in every file is important, and therefore, will be scanned. In that case all you need to do is get busy scanning.

  • Remember to attack the monster one day at a time.
  • Quantify each days work by time or number of files.
  • Set a goal and schedule for each the week and stick to it.
  • Filter useless paperwork from files to be scanned.
  • Get busy scanning or pay someone to get busy for you.

Deciding To Make Your Office Paperless

Sounds easy doesn't it? You just decide one day that you're going to make your office a paperless one, as if becoming paperless was as easy as just making a conscience decision to do so. If that was the case wouldn't everyone be paperless, from the work at home mom to the largest insurance company? I would hope so, but I doubt it, which is partly the reason why it may just be impossible to become truly paperless. In order to become totally paperless every individual or business that your company works with must become paperless as well. Is that likely to happen soon? It's not likely.

If you're waiting to go paperless when everyone else does you'll be waiting a long time. Do it now. Make a hard, determined decision to go paperless and begin the long but ultimately rewarding process of getting it done. That was what I finally did after a few months of debate with myself. I concentrated on the future benefits of becoming paperless instead of dwelling on the seemingly insurmountable task of physically getting it done. Did I know it was going to be a large undertaking? Of course, but having gotten about a quarter of the way through, I now know that it is very achievable and not as difficult as once thought.

I work in an office of three, which isn't very large compared to some, but we deal with a ton of paperwork and have a few more tons tucked away in filing cabinets that we are continuously having to add to or get information from. Working in the financial industry as our company does, we must maintain client files and any paperwork pertaining to that client for a number of years. Many times these files must be accessed for various reasons, one of which is an audit making certain that we do indeed have said files on hand. The amount of paperwork needed to open up various types of accounts in this industry is ridiculous, to the point that if the entire financial industry became paperless, I'm quite certain that it would cause shockwaves throughout the entire world, to the point that entire ecosystems may be affected for the good. That's sarcasm of course, but it's hard to deny how much useless paperwork is produced everyday in this country and the world .

Think of all the digital products out there that would easily facilitate the process of becoming paperless. Never before have we had so many cheap, easy, and productive machines to enable us to digitize essentially anything that before required a tangible piece of paper. I'm not trying to save the trees, reverse the supposed global warming trend, or put money into Al Gore's pocket, but I can't get over the fact of just how stupid it is to produce so much needless paperwork when so much of it could be digital.

Anyway, you probably understand my thinking at this point. I just wanted to go paperless to make our business more efficient and organized which would ultimately enable us to give our clients better service. And because I just thought it would be cool to be paperless. So realize the benefit it will provide you as an individual(home office) or a business and look past that mountain of paper and vow to become paperless.