Getting to a Paperless Office
We all aspire to a more paperless office – it helps the environment and increases efficiency and productivity. But it requires consistent effort. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Paper-less not paper-free
The world is not ready for paper-free. Sure you can buy a movie ticket online but you often have to print a copy to enter the theater. Same with many plane tickets, and classroom and continuing legal education (CLE) materials, and court documents. Acknowledging this and accepting that there are limitations will go a long way to warding off frustration and procrastination.
Note-taking during conference calls, meetings and CLEs
Get rid of your message pad and notebook and fire up Evernote to take notes during meetings, calls and CLE classes and training sessions. You’ll solve the problem of trying to recognize your handwritten scrawl later and you can easily share the note by emailing it to colleagues. Tasks and to-do lists assigned during the meeting? No problem. Quickly create checklists in Evernote. Notes are saved as you type and are fully search-able. I have a Notebook called “Meetings and Calls” and open a new note before each Skype call or GoToMeeting rendezvous.
Scan and backup
Scan meeting handouts and other documents into Evernote or Google Docs or store them on your computer.
Don’t make an extra copy of that brief, CLE materials or receipt, then put it in a manilla folder, label it and store it in a filing cabinet. Instead, download the freemium Dropbox and sync select files to the cloud. If you scanned the documents into Evernote or Google Docs, they’re already backed up online, but with Dropbox, you also have a copy on your local drive. You can also upload the documents to a cloud-based practice management software.
Then get rid of the filing cabinet and clear up some office space.
Create paperless habits
A paperless office doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort and commitment. Over time it becomes much easier if you create habit forming work-flows. Like when you sit down to open your mail. In addition to having a shredder nearby, have your scanner ready to go for those documents that you wish to save. Same with receipts for expense reports — as you get them, snap a picture and store it on your local drive, Evernote or online. Nothing is as discouraging as watching a pile of to-scan documents grow out of control on your desk.
As mentioned earlier, we’re attempting to minimize, not entirely get rid of paper. Though you may read most books on a tablet, laptop or smartphone, an occasional hard-copy purchase can be a delight. And I’ve yet to give up my moleskin entirely. But get the (mostly free) tools, acquire paperless habits and see those piles of paper disappear, resulting in a more productive and efficient office.
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