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How To Go Paperless

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How to go paperless

Amy Milchard MMB Sheffield Blogger Pink Spaghetti

By Amy Milchard – Pink Spaghetti

How do you clear the desk of all those piles of paper, notebooks, and receipts and become paperless? Or as someone once put it to me, take yourself from chaos to control!

There are so many benefits, a clear desk leading to a clear mind for one. No more searching through piles of paper and no more drawers of shame! And with apps on our phones creating a back-office suite in our pockets, we’re able to access record and document systems anywhere and everywhere. The time saved is well worth the initial time spent setting them up.

The why is clear enough, but what about the how. There are plenty of ways to save information nowadays, and I’m about to detail a few that should ease your mind and your life. It’s not a paper ban however so if you still like notebooks, use them!  I LOVE them and won’t ever stop using them however, my diary, records, bookkeeping, client files and reading materials are now all electronic.

Likewise, my team and I share files on Cloud storage which for remote working is absolutely essential.

  1. Start with an assessment of what you do

Spend an hour listing the activities you do that you either receive paper for or create some kind of document for, or record of. Section them into the different areas of your life and business.

  1. Look at who you do it with

With that document or record in mind, who else needs you to share the information with them? If it’s for you and you alone, for instance your shopping list, that’s a big difference to say your accountant who needs to see you monthly bookkeeping return.

  1. Look at why you do it

Is it habit?  Or essential? A priority? Knowing how valuable the task ranks helps shape your choices for a digital alternative, as you may wish to invest an amount of money, with the payoff of gaining more time (and sanity). One factor may be how many times do you refer to it.

Once you know what you receive and what you create, who else needs to see it and what priority it is, you can start to look at the storage options.

If you need it and someone else needs it, prioritise it highly. You need a solution that saves you time and is accessible on different devices so that more than one person can access the information without troubling the others.

This could be something as simple as Xero accounting software that you can invite your accountant to join, in order to access your bookkeeping. Or a Cloud Storage system like Dropbox that you and your family, team members or clients can share files and photos in.

As a rule, choose what you can afford but future proof it. Think of what you might start using it for or the amount of capacity or capability you might need later. It saves the hassle further down the line of moving things again to yet another system.

You have the luxury of time and choice, and you’ve got this far, so nothing is going to happen if you don’t do it immediately. Choose wisely and do your research. Take up free trials for a small aspect of a task and see how you get on with the system. Quite a few clients come to me initially to look into new systems or solutions for a process they’ve been managing on scraps of paper and in their head for ages! We generally test the waters with something less risky and build from there.

As a rough guide, if it’s not intuitive or a good fit for you, there’s enough choice out there to find something that is right for you. Some people love Google docs for the ability to comment and edit on documents as a team in live time, saving you those flipchart sheets and post it notes that no one quite feels able to let go of! Others don’t, and prefer project management systems like Basecamp or Trello.

Whatever is weighing you down the most (figuratively or literally!) start with that. Chunk it down and trial it. Try for instance using the notes section in your phone at a meeting or, typing straight into an email to yourself. You can use your folders in your emails or something like Evernote to create online filing systems. Voila! No more notebooks.

I said I wasn’t going to do that didn’t I!

To get going I’ll leave you with a few things you can implement immediately. Here are my:

Three Quick Wins

  • Everyone can make a start by photographing receipts and then disposing of the paper copy. You do not need them and neither do HMRC if you have a photo file. While you may not want to face the backlog, the new tax year starts soon so why not start then.
  • Likewise, those of you collecting business cards, you don’t need the hard copy. There are apps such as Haystack that scan and save not just other people’s business cards, but also store a copy of your own that you can quickly share it with anyone you meet via a QR code.
  • Stop printing. The security of holding paper in your hand is comforting I know, but where does the paper go afterwards? You probably save it just in case, when you’ve already got it in the electronic format it came in. You’ll also be doing the environment some good too.
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