First day of my paperless life

Day 1: The first day of my paperless life.

My first task is to make a list of the paper sitting around my office. So I can get rid of it.

In order to make a list of paper in my office, I immediately reach for a pen … and a piece of paper.

Crap. Going paperless is hard.

Well, obviously the first item on my paper inventory is notes, like the one I am making here. And in the spirit of the project, before I can get started I need to decide on a quick, albeit interim, paperless solution to making notes.

The easiest solution seems to be Microsoft Word (yes, I am a PC – I might use Pages if I was a Mac, or Google Docs if I was a millennial). I have it on my computer. I know how to use it. So I fire it up.

Here is my initial inventory of paper around my life:

  1. Personal notes. This is my notebook. A nice $34 Moleskin number. The Renaissance Woman of Order that I was emulating with my own paper-based system seemed to favour the Quo Vadis. Nice.
  2. Project documents. I have binders of these. Tabbed. Colour coded. I currently have 11 binders in my office: 1 binder for each of my two companies, 5 binders for my 3 non-profit boards and required committee work, 1 strategic-planning binder, 1 policies and procedures binder, and 2 large-project binders. Each 1.5” – 2.0” thick. That is almost two linear feet of paper.
  3. Receipts. I do a lot of corporate purchasing. This creates a lot of paper. Fortunately I have a shoe box in which to keep it all organized.
  4. Forms. I seem to have lots of forms hanging around. Some of the forms I need to complete and send back to the maker of the form. Some of the forms are documenting something important, like my kid’s hockey registration. Some are forms we created here at work in order to drive my staff crazy. All good.
  5. Accounting and Legal Documents. These seem to come in droves, and always on paper with nice blue corner protectors. When I think deeply about it, they are really just project documents. So I am going to classify them as Project Documents, but documents created at a cost of $500 per hour.
  6. Meeting Agendas, Minutes, and Reports. This one is curious to me. It isn’t really project stuff, but it does support operational decisions. This isn’t stuff I need to keep forever (no binders necessary) but it does arrive on paper. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. As I am thinking about it, having access to the historical would be handy. Every meeting I attend creates paper. I get reports from our accounting system, our ticket-management system, our project-forecasting system, our task-automation system (more on that later), and from my staff. The interesting fact here is that most of it seems to have a very short shelf life.
  7. Books, Magazines, and Manuals. A surprising amount of the paper in my office is in the form of books and periodicals. At least five magazines a month plus a book every week or two. Manuals for every device that I purchase. That all adds up.
  8. Greeting Cards / Thank-You Notes / Tickets. This appears to be the last thing I can find in my office consuming paper. Greeting cards, thank-you notes, and event tickets. Didn’t actually expect to include these on my inventory. But there they are, on my desk and in my drawers. The question is … are these really things that need to go paperless? I love getting cards, notes, and tickets in paper form. I love giving them too. Paperless greeting cards are terrible. A paperless thank-you note is called an email. And paperless tickets – well those are actually pretty cool and very convenient. This will need some thought.

So there is the inventory – at least a first cut at the inventory.

The next task is to figure out three things:

  1. How to capture this paper electronically.
  2. How to file and store this paper electronically.
  3. How to consume this paper electronically.

Obviously I don’t do all of the capturing. People are sending me a lot of paper that they produced themselves. I don’t necessarily have control over that. A problem.

Filing isn’t my strength, so perhaps digital will give me some more options there. But let’s mark filing in general to be a problem.

And not all of this paper seems easy to consume electronically. Another problem.

Next week – how to dig into these problems and solve them, one by one.

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