I will be writing a blog series on my journey to going (semi) paperless. I will chronicle my process, struggles, and successes. My hope is to help others find the momentum to begin their own paperless journey and to pass on my lessons learned. I'll be discussing my journey, including tackling my receipts and thirteen binders of personal records. My paper filing system works and is organized (meaning that I can find exactly what I'm looking for in a short period of time), but I feel compelled to begin digitizing my records because I think I have more paper than I need and it's taking up valuable space in my home.
There are many benefits to going paperless (or semi-paperless), including reducing the amount of paper clutter in your home or office, being able to access your records from anywhere and on any device, sharing documents with others, the ability to edit and markup your records, reducing the risk of loss in a disaster, helping the environment, etc. Despite all the benefits, paperless or semi-paperless isn't for everyone. Before beginning this process, it's important to be honest with yourself if this is the right path for you. Consider, would you feel lighter and your life simpler if all your business cards were scanned and imported to a contact list, you could pull up a receipt on your phone at a store, you could send your receipts digitally to your accountant, you could find your scrap notes on any device and dispose of the scraps, you could find all your medical records in one place?
The journey to paperless is as important as the destination. Along the way, you should consider what you need to keep, what you can get rid of, if you are holding on to records out of fear, are you combining memorabilia with your reference files, what filing system will help you retrieve records quickly. On the journey, you should continuously assess your goals (make them SMART goals) because they are likely to change as you determine what works for you. For example, you may begin by thinking that you want to be completely paperless and have no paper records in your home or office. After you begin the process, you may determine that some files, such as recipes, are easier to use in paper form and you'd like to keep the papers in your kitchen. Some records will work better for you digitally, and others will work better as paper.
For anyone who is intimidated or overwhelmed by the process, it is completely possible for everyone to be successful and reach their paperless goals! Start small with a realistic, manageable project so that you can begin to get comfortable with the process. Focus on getting your current paper files digitized, and then worry about digitizing past records. Or you could even consider only digitizing records from today forward, and keep past records in paper form. As you're getting comfortable with being paperless, you may even want to keep dual paper and digital records. There is no right or wrong way, just the way that's right for you.
To begin, you will need the right tools. Some of the essentials include storage capacity, scanner, stamp, shredder, and recycling bin. Before beginning, you will want to have storage capacity for the files you will digitize. This could be space on your computer, an external hard drive, or a cloud service (e.g., iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, Evernote, Dropbox). I use a flatbed scanner on my printer and a desktop Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 scanner. There are many scanner options out there, from basic printer all-in-ones to smartphone scanner apps, so you'll want to consider your needs before selecting a scanner. After I have scanned a file, I use a self-inking stamp that reads "SCANNED" and includes the date. This is to avoid confusion down the road about which records are digitized. I dispose of a lot of records after I digitize them, and therefore, use a shredder for sensitive records and the recycling bin for non-personal records. When choosing a shredder, look for one that has a high security rating to ensure that your personal information is safe, and also consider one that includes credit card and CD shredding.
Once you have determined your goals and assembled your tools, you're ready to begin your journey to paperless! If you have any questions along your paperless journey, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (804) 263-3186.