Why should you go paperless? Is it even possible? The short answer, yes but it’s very difficult. With some diligence and flexibility to change your old ways, you can have a pretty big impact.
Let’s assume that you’re over the whole ‘go green’ initiative since recycling placates your conscience and the whales are safe, thanks to Drew Barrymore and that guy from The Office. The environmental effects of going paperless will be secondary to the impact on your bottom line. The more important and better question is: How much can you save by going paperless?
Consider these stats from industry experts:
- Paper not only costs the environment, but using paper over digital records can really hurt your wallet: The associated cost of printing, copying, postage, storing, and recycling can be as much as 31 times the purchase price of paper.
- The average office worker uses way too much paper – around 10,000 sheets in a year. To put that into context 10,000 sheets of paper weighs about 100 pounds and stacked would stand just over 4 feet.
- Like your filing cabinet? After you read this you probably won’t anymore: A 4-drawer filing cabinet costs about $25,000 to fill and $2,000 per year to maintain.
It’s easy to see how we could all benefit from less paper and more organization in our lives, therefore I put together a list of my favorite tools anyone can use to go paperless (or at least limit the amount of paper you are currently using) and how these tools can help you achieve paperless Zen at home or at work.
1. Paperless Billing Options
It may not seem like much to switch from your traditional paper bills but the impact can be huge. Electronic billing options are way easier to keep track of and provide a lot more value than their paper counterparts. The benefits include being able to receive auto reminders, paying bills on time while avoiding penalties, and saving on postage.
2. Online Bill Pay Services and Electronic Payments
If you’re still using your old checkbook, it’s time to ditch it and start using electronic payments. Outside of using your banks online bill pay there are online bill pay services that allow a secure account to pay all your bills in one place. There are a variety of different options but the best free one is My Check Free from FiServe. This eliminates check purchases, postage costs, allows same day or auto payments, and provides better overall payment tracking. For more options check out this article, The Best Bill Pay Services.
3. Scan Old Documents
Not only will you have less in your file cabinet (or on your desk if you’re the messy type) you’ll be able to find all your data a lot faster, given you actually take the time to come up with a naming and storage method.
Using a scanner with auto-feeder you can remove paper clutter by digitizing paper files, save space, eliminate file cabinets, eliminate folders, find documents faster, and easily e-mail documents. There are tons of options out there but here are some good one to consider based on your needs.
For home or small based businesses an economical light duty scanner will do the trick. Here are a couple options that are reasonably priced and get the job done are the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 and the NeatDesk. If you’re in a high-volume, office environment then you’ll want to go with a professional high-volume scanner like a Panasonic workgroup scanner or an Epson WorkForce Pro.
4. Online Storage and Document Apps
Once you’ve got your documents scanned in its best to put them into an online storage or document application like Drop Box or Google Docs. Once upload you can take your documents on the road for access anywhere anytime and easily share them with co-workers, family or friends. You also prevent the possibility losing all the valuable data if your hard drive hits the fritz, and as an added bonus there a lot easier to search for!
5. E-signing Documents
If you’re going paperless for a business might be thinking “We’ll what about all my contracts and legal documents? I need a way to get them signed still.” Well fear not as there are E-signing solutions like DocuSign, so you’ll be able to avoid paper even when you need to sign off on contracts and legal documents. You can securely send documents and acquire signatures while reducing travel and courier expenses too. Nice right?
6. Document Management Systems
If all of the options above still don’t cut it, you’re probably pretty crazy about going paperless, so a document management system (also known as ECM) is your best option. These systems can capture information from a variety sources like your scanner or even many office products like MS Office, account systems etc. and create a document database that can index a whole variety of information. On top of that many systems include distribution controls and workflows so processes that involve documents can be visualized and tracked.
The ball is in your court
Now that you’ve read through some of the solutions I’ve used to go paperless, it’s time you use some of this arsenal for your own betterment.
Have more tools I didn’t mention? Share your tools and tips in the comments.
Photo by rosmary.
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