Thursday, December 27, 2007

the paperless office revisited

Yes, I'm declaring war on paper... again.

A year or two back I tried to morph completely to a paperless office.

But the idea was flawed from the start because I wasn't solving the problem - paper itself. I was finding ways to digitally store it (using the Fujitsu Scansnap Scanner with a lot of success), but doing nothing to stem the flow.

This picture shows the mail and paperwork I have on my desk from a week's worth of mail neglect. They include:

  • Money and checks from customers. In my websites I state that I don't accept payment in any other form except for credit cards, yet they still keep sending me money.
  • A refund check from a company returning my credit card deposit for goods that weren't available. They were unable to deposit the amount directly back to my credit card.
  • An account from my Mercedes shop, because they hadn't prepared it before I picked my car up. I always like to pay immediately.
  • Numerous bank account statements and payment advice.

All this paperwork could have been avoided if the companies and people involved were a lot more organized and businesslike.

So my task for 2008 is to eliminate as much paperwork from these sources as I possibly can. I guess that I can quit at least 90%. There will always be the exception, like the bill from my plumber that I'll need to pay manually. But already I have eliminated a lot of paper activity by automating my payments through internet banking. Of course these institutions are obliged to send the bill and receipt as well!

However, there will come a time when everything on paper is electronically satisfied. And I'm looking forward to that day.

Here's a look at the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510:


Cat said...

Hi Ken - Interesting update on your original article (which I found by way of Unclutterer).

I started my paperless process in reverse. I tried to figure out how to stop the tide of paper coming to me many years ago, but I only recently bought the ScanSnap for dealing with the current paper I have.

I actually went to ebills/statements for just about everything possible in 2001. I lived in Fairfax, VA and my mail facility was one of those totally shut down by the anthrax scare. Suddenly getting paper mail was a terrifying idea. :) It's a lot easier now to get ebills/statements online thankfully.

I also subscribed to one of those services that will get you off of catalog mailing lists. It's effectively reduced my mailbox bulk by about 60%.

Finally, I have a recycling bin by the door in the garage. On the way into my house, I remove every important piece of mail from its envelope and dump every piece of paper I possibly can into the recycling bin before stepping into the house. Then I'm left with stuff that must be dealt with - or shredded.

It's working pretty well for me. I'm sure you already have most of these ideas in place but I thought I'd share them, since I'm finding your digital archiving of paper ideas from your first post so useful.


Cat said...

PS: As for those pesky checks, I can work out a deal where you could send 'em to me if you want. :-D

Ken Silver said...

Good idea. Yes, a lot of paperwork issues are just undercover management ones. I know some people who send all their accounts to their accountant to pay - thus eliminating paper and tasks entirely. Haven't yet taken that step.

madronatree-at-gmail said...

Ken - I have a question about your paperless office. Do you scan/file thermal receipts? If so, how do you file them? We must save ALL of our receipts to use as tax deductions. I'm concerned about what happens after they're scanned in. Any thoughts?



Ken Silver said...

If your state/country requires you keep the originals, then you'll have a problem anyway. Thermal paper just doesn't last that long when exposed to light or heat.