People love the idea of going paperless, but find the process time consuming and overwhelming. In order to make this process easier, I recommend starting today with current information and documents. This does not mean to forget about your old papers. I find it is easier to deal with the old information after the current documents and data are under control. Once the current information is digital, it is much easier to sort through the old information. Today, I do not think it is possible to be 100% paperless. There will always be a need for some paper information and data you will have to keep. For example, birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, medical records, etc. (For more information on how long to keep certain information, please see our article on document retention). However, the documents we need on a regular basis can be kept to a minimum. Recently, I published a few ways to go paperless on Facebook and Twitter. I have repeated all of the published tips below, and I added a few more ways you can work towards living with less paper.
Ways to go Paperless
- Magazine Subscriptions – start downloading your publications to an e-reader or tablet. You can carry a ton of magazines on a tablet, Kindle or Nook. Also, most e-magazine subscriptions come with bonus videos and other great features.
- Emails – Are you in the habit of printing out your emails to add to a paper file or to-do list? Stop printing out emails today and start using flags and reminders in your email box. Your electronic files should mirror your paper ones. File away your emails in the correct electronic file to retrieve later.
- Setup all banks, investment brokers and financial institutions with e-statements, e-proxy’s and e-reports. Start reviewing all your information online and save the trees!
- Electronic bill pay – Have bills sent to your email box, and pay them online through your bank. It will save you 30-60 minutes a month to pay your bills online through one institution.
- Catalogs – Stop catalogs from coming to your home with an app like PaperKarma or by using a service like Catalog Choice.
- Manuals – Before you keep a manual or any piece of paper, ask yourself if you can find the information online. Most appliance manuals, warranty documentation, and other product information can easily be found online. Usually, you can find the information faster on the internet than you could in a file or drawer.
- Insurance Documentation – Another big paper producer is medical insurance claims and benefit information. Ask your carrier to set you up with electronic notifications and reports. View your explanations of benefits and claim information online via your carrier’s site.
- Take notes electronically – Take your notes electronically on your tablet or phone. You can even handwrite your notes with Penultimate and save them to Evernote. All text (including handwritten) becomes searchable. So, you will be able to find your note in seconds. No more looking for that little note you wrote yourself in a sea of paper!! You can sign up for Evernote premium via this link.
- Business cards – use Evernote, CamCard or another app to collect your business cards. With these apps, you can categorize the contacts, choose whether or not to add them to your phone book, pull in a LinkedIn profile, and share them with others. Read how to save, share and find business cards in Evernote in this article.
- Receipts – many stores now offer an e-receipt sent to your email. This is a good option only if you have a way to file and organize them. You can also save receipts electronically by taking a picture of them with your phone. There are a number of apps to help you sort and categorize your expenses depending on your needs.
Once you get started saving and accessing your important documents, it will be easier to convert the old into your new electronic system. Most people find they can purge a huge amount of their old paper files. After purging, scan only the important information you have to keep. As I mentioned above, I do not think it is possible to be 100% paperless today. However, you can be greener by living with less paper by following these guidelines. You will also be able to access your information more quickly and easily.