Paper is so 1990’s
A paperless office is a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. – Wikipedia
In today’s society everything is digital. There are clouds to store information, easy to use and reasonably cheap scanners and things in the form of papers in the letter box seem to be getting less and less each year. You no longer need a phone book to find a number, a text book to research an idea or a stamp to send a message to someone. We have online phonebooks, google knows everything and an email or text messages can reach a person in seconds. The world seems to be going paperless so I have too!
Benefits of going paperless!
I have really found in the reasonably short time I have been paperless that the benefits are endless. I am not exaggerating. From the ease and time spared finding documents to the overall feel of my office. My paperless office has saved me time, energy and money. It also saves space, makes documentation and information sharing easier, and keeps personal information more secure.
So a paperless office, the biggest and best change for me has to be the efficiency. While my paper filled office was organised into years and files with labels, spreadsheets with where I could find documents and my things were ‘findable’ it still didn’t seem to work and have that smooth running slick feel my office now has. It still meant I had to physically get paper items. When storing documents it meant I had to physically put it in the place needed. It also meant I had to work amongst old files in what I would now consider a cluttered, unattractive work environment.
The task of going paperless while running a business took time, lots of time, but the time it continues to save me was well worth the time spent doing it in the first place. This efficiency has saved and earned me money because I am more productive, meaning I can take on more jobs and spend less time doing admin work.
Let’s imagine 2 years ago I needed to find a warranty receipt for an office item. I would have to go to my receipt folder, lug it down off the shelf and try and remember which month the item was purchased in, flip through the piles and piles of receipts until I found the one I needed, I won’t even mention how hard these faded receipts were to read at times. I’d then have to take the receipt trying not to smudge or ruin it as it’s my only copy (I’m in trouble if I lose it)! Now the flip side, last week I needed a warranty claim so I opened my receipts folder in dropbox (these are scanned weekly and takes about 5 mins to scan the entire week and enter date and description), I typed in ‘apple mouse’ two items were found and I printed the one that was needed. I have no stress or fear of losing or misplacing the receipt as they are all here and easily accessible if I were to lose that copy. In past days this particular job could have taken anywhere from 10-30 minutes. This took me less than a minute. Seriously less than a minute.
Another key benefit to paperless is the security. The papers in Dropbox or the cloud are safe, I mean in the physical sense (although the digital sense they are safe as well). If (touch wood) I were to lose all my belongings in a fire my documents don’t burn. They are saved, they are backed up and they are not lost to me forever.
Getting rid of the THOUSANDS of papers really cleared the room. My ‘old office’ compared to my new one had two very very different feels. I had walls filled with shelves that were stacked to the brim with files. I had 8 years of tax receipts in boxes. I had client forms, user manuals, old lecture notes filling every file cabinet and shelf space available. The clutter and furniture that filled the physical space in my office seemed to also cloud my mind. There are studies proving clutter causes stress and I was working in a cluttered environment (and not realising it) every day! You can read more about the benefits of de-cluttering aka the secret to creativity here. I had heard things about going paperless and I just knew it had to be done.
How did I become paperless?
Well once I made the decision I didn’t immediately jump in and start scanning. I looked into the process and researched the technology used. I purchased a scanner and hired an administration assistant to come and help me for 4 hours a week. As a small business owner I knew I couldn’t spend all my days focussing on this and knew it would be a gradual process. I put some great systems into place which work so well for me and purchased appropriate supplies to help me out.
One of the best devices I purchased was Scansnap (Scansnap s1300i), it is a quick, easy to use scanner that has OCR. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology that extracts the text from an image or a scanned document so that it can be edited, formatted, searched, indexed, automatically translated or converted to speech. I set up a Dropbox account and used a feature of Scansnap, automatic send to drop box.
So the scanning process looked like this, I placed as many papers as I needed for the particular document, I pressed the blue button, the papers automatically feed through, both sides if needed. Once the quick scanning process was completed I chose the folder in dropbox that I wanted it to go, changed the name if I needed to (for old documents the folder was enough of a name as the OCR allowed me to search for it if needed not solely based on the name) and I was ready to do the next one. If the next item I scanned was to go in the same drop box folder then I could skip the folder selection step as it was all ready set up to go there. My assistant who usually only worked 4 hours a week spent countless hours over at least 3 months scanning documents, I allowed her to watch TV shows or movies on the iPad as she scanned and shredded, scanned and shredded, scanned and shredded. We had the shredder over heat countless times and eventually blew the motor but slowly my office was clearing out.
I have mentioned dropbox a few times, so here is further explanation from the dropbox information guide.
‘Dropbox is a home for all your photos, docs, videos, and files. Anything you add to Dropbox will automatically show up on all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website — so you can access your stuff from anywhere.
Dropbox also makes it super easy to share with others, whether you’re a student or professional, parent or grandparent. Even if you accidentally spill a latte on your laptop, have no fear! Relax knowing that your stuff is safe in Dropbox and will never be lost.’
So for me this was the best program to save my documents through. As someone who uses a laptop to work away from home, 2 computers in the studio, other devices including ipad and iphone, Dropbox makes file retrieval super easy and the fear of losing documentation is gone.
Try to stop paper coming to you
So once you go paperless you don’t want people to send you papers if they don’t have to. Many things that arrive in the letter box can be emailed. For example bills, some services actually ask if you want your bills emailed. It also saves the step of scanning in your paperless office as once you get that email you can immediately save the file to Dropbox.
Often all it takes is a phone call to the company to ask for it to be redirected to email. While you are on the phone, to save another monthly job, why not ask for direct debit? This is something else I have put in place when I went paperless. For phone, electricity, internet, water, rates, you can set up a payment system so bills are always paid on time and that time taken to pay for them is spent somewhere else doing something much more enriching than paying bills.
How to maintain your paperless office
Honestly, this has not been hard for me. Once the paper was gone, I did not want it back. So receipts are put on a spike and scanned once a week before they a shredded and recycled, documents I used to hand customers and get them to return are now emailed and returned the same way, time sheets are now in spreadsheet format so I no longer need the paper copy. Bills or statements that do still come via mail are also scanned once a week then shredded. My studio does not get messy like it used to. I actually love my studio, I love going to work (even though it is attached to my home) and I feel inspired and ready to get down to business the moment I enter the room. I never realised how much the feel of a place could change until I remodelled my studio after I went paperless.
Becoming even more efficient
Once I went paperless I wanted to improve the efficiency in other areas in an effort to become more lean and agile. Was this because I had more time now I was paperless? Was this because my paperless office inspired me? Was this because the technology is more available? Was this because I wanted to spend more time with my growing family? Who knows but it is certainly working in my favour.
The ways I have become more efficient is moving more and more of my processes to the cloud. I now use Xero, a software company that develops cloud based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses.
I am also using Zappier to become more efficient. Zapier lets you easily connect the web apps you use, making it easier to automate tedious tasks. For example I can have emails automatically subscribe from G-Mail to MailChimp based on specific rules set up.
IFTTTT is another tool similar to Zappier that can help connect apps so they work better for you. Another device worth a look at if you are thinking of becoming more lean and agile in how you run your business.
As I continue to find more processes to automate and eliminate, my productivity in design will continue to improve, therefore my business will continue to grow.
The first step was to go paperless and I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, that you try it to.
psyborg® was founded by Daniel Borg, an Honours Graduate in Design from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Daniel also has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Engineering and has experience from within the Engineering & Advertising Industries.
Daniel has completed over 2800 design projects consisting of branding, content marketing, digital marketing, illustration, web design, and printed projects since psyborg® was first founded. psyborg® is located in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle but services business Nation wide.
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