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Paperless Home Office – Dream or Reality?

I’ll admit that I have a certain fascination with the idea of going paperless. In fact, I’ve written about it before.  In a previous post, Going Paperless – 15 Tips to Help You Get There, I discussed some of the benefits of going paperless and gave some simple strategies to use less paper.  While I do use most of these tips myself, I still wouldn’t say that my home office is paperless. Far from it!

When I first started thinking about the process of going paperless, I did some research online and came across this blog post by Lee Rosen, The Paperless Home Office, which I found very inspiring!  In his article, Lee talks about how his home office is completely paperless, and gives a rundown of where all his documents, photos, and books are now “living” in the cloud.  I don’t know about you, but the picture that Lee describes is pretty much my ideal.

Imagine, going on an extended vacation or traveling in retirement, and having all your documents, photos and books “with you” at all times.  Imagine never having to worry about mailing in a bill payment.  Imagine doing much of your work with clients electronically– eliminating most travel and postage costs.   Imagine that a natural disaster occurs and wipes out everything in your house– but it’s all safely stored in the cloud.  Now I realize that some of you are probably thinking about security issues like online hacking and such. Not to mention the possibility of getting your laptop or smart phone stolen along with access to all your valuable data.  I worry about that too, and definitely plan to do more research on ways to deal with these issues.

So why haven’t I achieved this paperless nirvana?  Well, I’m part way there, in that I can already access many of my documents and books on the cloud, most bills are paid electronically, and I already use email and other online tools pretty extensively.  But I still have quite a bit of paper lying around.  I have client files that actually won’t fit into the file drawer, because the drawers are already packed full!  While my plan is to eventually scan and discard all the existing paper, I haven’t managed to do this yet.  I’ve thought about why, and in my case, it comes down to these four reasons: (1) Time, (2) Habits, (3) Technology, and (4) Need.  Let me explain:

(1) Time:  I just haven’t had the time to really devote to going paperless.  This is a simple one.  What it’s going to come down to is making this a priority.

(2) Habit:  Like many, I’m a creature of habit.  Sometimes it just feels better to read from an actual piece of paper or a real book, or I just have a need to get away from my personal electronic devices for awhile (o.k., not very often).  Other times I like to print things out (like the tax returns I prepare for clients) so that I can review and mark them up with my notes.  I’ve used electronic grocery and task lists, but sometimes it seems easier to just write them out on paper!  I’m sure if I thought about it some more, I could come up with many other examples of how paper has become ingrained in my life habits.

(3) Technology:  A couple of months ago I invested in a scanner.  This is an extremely handy little device which, in theory, makes it so easy to go paperless.  Definitely a step in the right direction.  I’ve also realized that to truly be efficient in a paperless environment, it might be a good idea to have dual monitors in my office.  Let’s say I receive accounting or tax documents electronically from a client and need to enter them into QuickBooks or my tax software.  Without dual monitors, I can’t see both the source document and the software at the same time– so usually I just print out the source document so that I can easily refer to it.  Oops, trying to avoid that!

(4) Need:  I’ve figured out that all of the first three reasons can and will be dealt with provided that I have the need to do so. I can find time by changing my priorities, work on changing my habits, and invest in new technology. But at this stage in my life, I have plenty of room to store my papers — so my need to go paperless is not that great.  However, if at some point we downsize or decide to travel extensively, it may not be so convenient to keep all that paper.

Despite all the excuses, I prefer to take the optimistic view that having a paperless home office is not just a pipe dream.  It can be a reality, and is in fact a worthwhile goal. And as an intermediate goal, just working on having “less paper” is a step in the right direction. What’s your opinion? Is going paperless (or having less paper) worthwhile, is it achievable, have you actually done it or are you part way there?  Please share your story in the comments!

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Related posts:

  1. Create a Productive Home Office Space
  2. Going Paperless – 15 Tips to Help You Get There
  3. 10 Steps to Organizing Your Paperwork

Comments

  1. Hmm. I like the idea of going paperless in terms of helping the environment and saving trees. However, I’m very much a paper person. I process things by writing and I love the feel of books, paper, pens, etc. in my hands. I do my bill paying online and I have a lot of files on my computer and in my email system. I have tried Trello and I have Evernote on my phone and computer. But I LOVE my paper systems and I always come back to them. Love my office supplies . 

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