Ever feel like you’re just moving your ever-growing pile of paper from one flat surface to another, but never really getting rid of it? Being a paper-pusher in a digital world might feel like just part of the game, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Really. Going paperless is a great way to get more organized, and save paper at the same time.
So how do you go paperless and what does that entail?
It means that you say “no” to paper communication from the companies you do business with and replace it with digital copies that you store on the cloud. Think of it as a digital safebox – your important papers can be well protected with passwords and online security.
You’ll need to do some research and organization to make the switch to digital record keeping, but once you have the hang of it, you’ll be thankful for convenience (not to mention your extra surface space.) Here’s our step-by-step guide to going paperless.
- Convert your paper bills.
Pay attention to the bills you get in the mail. Most should have an option for going paperless that you can choose either on their website or by calling their customer-service number. Once you are set up, you’ll receive email reminders when your bills are due, instead of paper statements. For even more convenience, consider setting up online bill pay as well.
- Sort your mail right away.
Read your mail as soon as you get it, and don’t let it pile up. If it’s junk, trash it right then. Take the time to convert any new bills over to paperless statements. And, if it’s a to-do or something that needs to be filed, scan a digital copy and shred the originals (More on that later.)
- Organize your filing system.
No more tossing your papers into a junk drawer for later. For the paperwork that you do need to keep as hard copies, develop a filing system that’s clearly labeled — taxes, identification papers, etc. Include a section labeled “Might Need” for items you aren’t sure of, then go through and purge that file every six months. The key to keeping your paper filing under control is to set up a small system, and never let it overflow.
- Conquer the paper mountain.
You know you have one. A lopsided, about-to-topple mountain of paper that may or may not be where you put the heating bill that you can’t find. And you might think tackling this challenge might require a sherpa, but we’ve put together some great tips that can help you get to the bottom of the pile sooner rather than later.
- Pick a monthly paper day.
Choose one day every month to catch up on any de-papering, check your filing system for items that can be tossed, and shred important documents. Mark it on your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, but commit to it. If you power through and keep on schedule, it shouldn’t take long at all.
So, how do I file my important documents electronically?
We mentioned scanning your documents earlier, and it’s easier than you might think. First, check your printer to see if it doubles as a scanner. If not, you’ll need to buy one. They come in a wide variety of forms, features and prices, but you can find a simple scanner for under $250.
Next, you’ll need software. Some scanners come already integrated with desktop software or an app, but if you’re doesn’t you can buy software separately. Programs like E File Cabinet, Paper Tiger, Evernote let you scan documents right from your phone, and they’re all under $15 a month.
Once you’ve created an account, you’ll set up a filing system for your digital files exactly as you would for a physical filing cabinet. And you’ll soon find that digital paper-shuffling is a lot easier — and doesn’t cause paper cuts.
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