When I ask clients which item is their largest clutter challenge, I most often hear "paper" as their response. If not the top issue, it is usually in the top three. The time and cost involved with handling and managing our paper clutter is enormous. While a good paper management system can definitely improve your chances of finding what you need when you need it, you still have the issues of printing costs, storage costs and maintenance. One solution that I think all business and home environments should consider is a paperless office.

While the task of creating a paperless environment may seem overwhelming, it doesn't have to be: 
  •  Automate as many forms, statements and processes as possible, reducing the need to print the related paper and decreasing the amount of incoming paper you receive. 
  • Close to 80% of the paper you are storing is not even needed!  Clean out your paper files to reduce the amount that will need to be scanned and stored electronically.  Hold an office clean-out day (at home or work!) or consider Life Made Simple's Productive Environment Day .   
  • Choose a good scanner for your needs.  Consider how much scanning you will be doing, the types of information you will be scanning (documents, pictures, microfiche, books, etc), if you want your pages to be searchable and editable, ability to scan duplex.  Also consider any copyright issues when scanning.
  •  Determine how you will store, organize and retrieve your documents.  I use iPEP (interactive-Productive Environment Platform)  to store many of my documents.  Benefits of this system include:  it is a secure, cloud computing (internet-based) solution allowing access from any computer with internet access, it has a strong search feature so I can find what I need quickly, it allows me to organize my information in many different ways and to share it easily with others.  There are many other options, online and off.  Important considerations include: ease of backing-up data, strong search feature, file space, security, and the ability to share documents if needed. 
Most importantly, set a plan for working towards your paperless environment, and create the systems and habits needed to maintain it.  The upfront effort will be worth many, many years of cost and time savings.
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