For many businesspeople, the idea of the paperless office involves leveraging paper conversion services and onsite document scanning to make processes more efficient in the shared workplace. But what if you work out of a home office? If you conduct operations on a smaller scale, then some of the methods of going paperless that would be ideal for larger firms won't apply to you. Moreover, bigger companies often deploy members of the workforce to facilitate their transition – an option that isn't as easily realized for small and micro-businesses.
That said, there are some concrete steps that people who work out of home offices can take to streamline their daily routines and drastically decrease the amount of paper cluttering their desks, drawers and filing cabinets.
Writing for PCWorld, Christopher Null outlined the process he used to make his home office almost paperless. The first stage, he wrote, is to "sift and sort ruthlessly."
Of course, you'll come across papers that you should retain, but a good rule of thumb is this: Unless you absolutely need to keep something, you should throw it out. If there's a particular thing you're reluctant to toss even though it's not actually useful, take a moment to examine why that is. Often, we have trouble parting with items to which we've attached sentimental value, which is all well and good until nostalgia starts to take over your workspace. If there are things you want – but don't need – to keep, relegate them to a separate pile and keep an eye on this to make sure it doesn't get too big. Also, consider relocating sentimental items to another part of the house where they won't interfere with your work.
Recycle vs. retain
Your knee-jerk reaction might be to keep paper copies of bank statements, utility bills and the like. After all, these are important documents, right? However, consider this – much of this information is now available online and accessible 24/7 through your computer or mobile device. Null pointed to tax records and legal documents that he knew he shouldn't throw out, but was also unlikely to need often enough to warrant scanning. "None of this needed to fill up a drawer," he observed. "I offloaded these types of documents to a storage box that could safely gather dust in the garage unless a true emergency arose."
Scanner time (can't touch this)
With the help of document scanning services, you can clear out a lot of records that contain information you need to keep, just not necessarily in a paper-based form.
"[Scanning documents is] dull and unfulfilling, but watching your stack of paperwork slowly shrink to nothing makes it worthwhile," wrote Null.
And think of it this way – the effort you put into scanning these files now will be more than balanced out by all the time you'll save in the future by simply running digital searches, as opposed to pawing through documents.
Say yes to e-billing and scanning
Nowadays, most banks and utility companies have e-billing options, and chances are they've been pushing you to transition for a while. After all, sending an email is cheaper than printing and sending a statement. To fend off future paper-based clutter, make sure you sign up for e-billing wherever you can. Of course, you will still receive some paper documents going forward, but provided you scan these whenever possible, you should be well-positioned to maintain a clutter-free home office.
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