How I Handle the Paper Creep

Stack of DocumentsI love paper. Paper filters my coffee. It provides a surface for my journaling thoughts. My favorite books are printed on it. Paper is awesome.

However, I do not love paper in my office. Having waded through binder volumes and banker’s boxes of paper during my litigation days, I am psychologically allergic to work-related paper now. And I’ve worked hard to slay the paper dragon. I’ve made some progress.

If paper is taking over your life, here is a possible solution:

1. Clean Out. Get rid of anything you don’t need. Be harsh and err on the side of purging. When in real doubt, keep the paper only long enough for #2.

2. Anything you need should be scanned. I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner on my desk top. Expensive, yes, but a quality product and fast. After it’s scanned, can it. Recycle or shred, depending on its sensitivity.

This means anything that is paper and is not a book in the traditional sense. That means conference packets and spiral bound booklets you are sure you will use (BTW, you never will, but humor yourself and scan them). This is why having a good scanner is a good investment; it will allow you to save things like the 2001 booklet about landlord tenant law that you don’t need but think you do.

3. Save the digital. I save all my documents in Evernote, the most awesome cloud application for document saving (in my unschooled opinion, though I’ve tried many tools). I have the premium version ($45 a year), though frankly I’ve never come close to needing that amount of space. The free version is probably fine for most uses.

Evernote is super user-friendly and has very efficient tagging capabilities as well as sharing tools. I. Love. It. The search function is fabulous. When paired with the right scanner (like the one I have), I can even take handwritten notes, which I like to do from time to time, and there is fairly accurate handwriting recognition that makes most of my handwritten notes findable through keyword searches alone.

4. Purge. Once you’ve copied the important documents (except the ones that have raised seals, etc.), get rid of them. I keep a pretty kick-butt shredder right under my desk, but if your office has periodic pick-up for shredding, just dump the papers in the shred cabinet for someone else to handle.

5. At the end of each week, pull out that secret paper stash. Go through it, and scan/shred/recycle as needed.

6. Get Creative. Some really high level Evernote users do cool things like taking pictures of their kids’ school art so they don’t have a basement of Johnny’s art projects K-12 by the time college rolls around. You can use Evernote for audio files as well. I’m not terribly creative but even at my basic skill level, it means I have almost no paper in my office.

If you have other ideas on how to de-paper your life, let me know. I’m obsessed.

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