A week or so ago I decided to go paperless.

I am not going to go into why I did it – way too many books, blog posts, etc go into why one should do it, but very few actually go into how to do it.

Anyway, I am doing it, and here are my steps:

Step 1: I bought myself the book Paperless

You can get a pdf of it here for $5, or buy it on iTunes for US$4.99 (It would be somewhat hypocritical to buy a physical copy now, wouldn’t it? :-) )  If you are thinking about going paperless, and only do one thing, do this!  It’s so worth the $5, and it’s a super practical guide (Warning: Mac/iOS focused, but you have a mac, right?)

Step 2: I read the book (kinda important)

Step 3: I took action:

3(a) – Firstly, I got the tools:

  • the best scanner there is for this kinda work – the Fujitsu Snapscan S1500M (m for mac).  It’s $1200 in NZ, but only $400 US on EBay ~ $NZ600, so guess which one I bought it from? If you wanna do what I did, Google review it – it rocks!

3(b) – Download, install, and set up the right software on my mac:

  • Hazel (to auto file stuff, automates other things too!)
  • Install Text Expander (saves typing the same thing over and over)
  • Get PdfPen proOCR stuff, edit and tag pdfs etc (which is made by the same people who make Text Expander)

3(c) – Download, install, and set up the right apps for my iPad/iPhone:

  • PdfPen for iOS – sign/edit pdfs on iPad etc
  • JotNot Pro (photo/scanner) app
  • Pdf PROvider – convert word, excel files etc to PDFs on iOS device
  • Goodreader – viewing, annotating, storing PDFs (excellent integration with DropBox btw, including two way syncing).  Note: This was the only app I already had.

All up, under $1,000, and now I have all the toys tools, I am set for the next phase: making it happen.

Making it happen

Broadly speaking, there are now three main areas of paper to address:

1) The existing paper around my office

Solution?  Scan, file (name, tags, file location etc) and throw out recycle paper.  This should save me around half the storage I have in my office at present, and around a third of my desk space.

2) New paper that arrives in my office

Solution?  Same as above, but do it before it turns into a pile.   My system is having a scanning day, and do it all then (estimate about an hour a week).  This is everything from receipts for expenses to claim, warranty cards/receipts for personal purchases through to important letters (like insurance) or contracts etc.

3) Stuff I am working on right now

I’m kinda agnostic about this bit.   If having a piece of paper makes it easier to deal with something, I’ll do this.  IMHO, going “paperless’ doesn’t mean never touching a piece of paper, but rather removing all necessary paper from my life.  That’s my approach anyway.  I just need to make sure this group doesn’t turn into group 2.

This is all rather early days for me.  I have only JUST set this all up.  I haven’t yet scanned everything in from group 1, nor have I undertaken many weekly scans as outlined in group 2, but I wanted to put it down on paper in print, so I can review what I said I would do in a month or two.

Btw, in case you missed it, the first step was getting an AWESOME book on the how to of going paperless (pdf here for $5, or on iTunes for $4.99 US).  It covers all the key stages, from getting the tools, to developing workflows, as well as discussing various filling systems that work.  The e-book has lots of short useful videos too – very cool!  It’s very Mac/iOS centric, but all the ideas work fine on any platform/OS, but the software suggested won’t all be available across all OS’s, nor will some of the specific hints, like how to use Mac’s print to pdf creation via automator to auto name and file documents.

Black and White Version: Phase one of going paperless set up.  Let’s see how I go compliance-wise (I think that’s the real test).

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