The Paperless Home Office: How to Make it a Reality
If you have a home office, there’s a good chance that you have piles of papers; whether they’re neatly stored in file cabinets or teetering precariously on the edge your desk, paper is often the reason that a home office looks unkempt. Even worse than aesthetic messiness is the chance that you’ll lose important notes, a client’s phone number or a check. Also, all of that wasted paper is not exactly environmentally friendly. Options for keeping paperwork organized and under control are nearly endless, but have you considered eliminating the problem by going paperless in your home office?
Just the thought of having a streamlined, electronic-only approach to running your business may inspire even the most optimistic among us to immediately say, “impossible!” While it’s very difficult to go completely paperless, you can probably at least reduce the amount of paperwork that you need to deal with. Here are some tips for beginning the process:Start Where You Are
If you want to go paperless, start right now by removing notebooks, index cards, “to do” notepads and post-it notes from your desk; instead of taking notes by hand during your next phone meeting, type notes directly into your word processing program. Immediately begin naming these documents with the client’s name and date; this is immensely helpful if you accidentally store it in the wrong folder! Set up a virtual folder for each client or project, and always file right away; don’t allow anything to sit in your unsorted “Documents” folder with the intention of dealing with it later, because later may never come!
Instead of jotting down to-do lists by hand, use the Sticky Notes program on your computer, or open a Notepad document. Another option is to use an online program, such as GoogleDocs to help with this; because the program saves every few seconds, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to save and losing your to-do list in the process.Start Working on Your Paper Pile
Now that you’ve halted the creation of new paper stacks, you need to begin transferring your current paper-projects to your hard drive via your word processing program. Use a scanner when you can, but for some projects, you may need to actually type in the information. If you have names and telephone numbers stickied around your computer monitor or tacked to a bulletin board, enter them into a computerized database. Devote an hour or two each week to working on this; it’s not going to happen overnight.
You really only need to worry about what’s sitting on your desk for the time being; anything that’s been filed away for several months or years might be better off staying in paper form for now. Once you have a good system going, you can start scanning these items, but if you don’t need them right now, they’re not your first priority.Don’t Create Paperwork For Others, Either
Instead of faxing items to colleagues, clients or your boss, scan and email whenever possible; this not only reduces your paperwork, but it also keeps the other person’s desk less cluttered. Contact your utility companies and credit providers to sign up for their paperless billing or direct withdrawal; eliminating bank-related paper will go a long way in keeping your desk (and your finances) under control.
It should go without saying that when you switch to a paperless office, you need to back up everything religiously; without backing up, it only takes a hard drive malfunction to raise your stress level to unimaginable proportions!
Have you gone paperless? Do you have additional tips to share?Author Resource: Michelle Kulas writes about The Paperless Home Office: How to Make it a Reality, for Unique Storage and Organizers.
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