How I Created a (Nearly) Paperless Office
I’ve found that nothing weighs more than paper — at least when you are tired and at the end of your day, and the boss wants you to recycle that double stack of reports or used white paper. Why create all of that in the first place? If you go as paperless as you can, there are savings to the environment, your bank account, and your time.
I found that the biggest obstacle to going paperless was my thinking. It was all about changing my habits, particularly with regards to how I used my computer. Realizing that I could often find a file on the computer quicker than one in my filing cabinet had a profound effect. Here is what I did.
My External Hard Drive Is My Best Friend
I always take my spare hard drive with me, and this also helps me when I’m working from home. I’d rather use my back to practice my golf swing — not cart heavy boxes of files and papers from the office to home, and vice versa. If it’s an important and enduring file then I also pop it onto the Cloud server we use all the time. Gone are the days when bills, catalogues, lists and receipts, as well as thousands of bits of paper, took over my life.
I Made My Paper Mountains Into Molehills
Paper tends to build up. We hoard it because you’ll never know when you’ll need that 2004 JC Penney catalog… I actually found one of those yesterday as I was putting some books into storage. Well, I don’t need that anymore: all of the catalogs I shop from are virtual, and handy, and up to date whenever I want to browse that particular retail store.
So start by having a good clear out! It’s not just about getting rid of clutter; its about saying to yourself that you do not need to be surrounded by all this paper. Vow to yourself that you will never, ever let your office paper get the better of you again! Put your hand on a stack of Wall Street Journals and swear it. Long ago, I formulated the set of rules set out in this article, and vowed to stick to them. They helped me, and they will help you to reduce your personal carbon footprint.
I Think Before I Print
Before you print out that 20 page report that you will probably never read, ask yourself “Do I really need to print this out?” I suppose one day the printer manufacturers will make the bold step of integrating this idea in their software, a bit like when the computer asks “Are you sure you want to delete this file?” But until then you need to do this yourself. What I also like to do is sit down every day and go through my paperwork with my recycle bid at my heels. Oh, and another way to reduce the urge to print and file away paperwork is to buy an office desk without a file drawer. This really worked for me!
Here are 6 more strategies I use for going paperless:
1. My Recycle Bin Is My Best Buddy
I still occasionally get catalogues or magazines mailed to me; I cut off the label to safeguard my identity and chuck them into the recycle bin. Same thing with newspapers, which I buy less of anyway, but those that I do buy I’m careful to recycle. I took up paper mache a few years ago, because I was inspired by a trip to Mexico and a piñata made to look like my cat Fred. I could never recreate that, but it’s a good craft to have if you want to recycle newspapers.
2. I Don’t Buy as Much
That way at I can reduce receipts at the source. When I do buy, I ask for no receipt and no bag. Receipts can often be recycled, so I periodically get rid of any I don’t need any longer and scan the rest into my computer. Some receipts I have to keep for tax records: you should check with your accountant about those you need to keep. I have a few boxes of these tax records in storage, and they are clearly marked. When the times comes that I can recycle them, I do.
3. Shredders Galore
These are useful gadgets because they not only make any sensitive data unreadable, but the shredded paper can be reused as packing material, or recycled in less space itself. I’ve seen those trucks that go from office to office, and all they are is a gigantic shredding machine. They shred paper from two ways so no one on earth could possibly recreate a document. For a normal person (I count myself as that on a good day), a shredder which fits over a wastebasket is perfect; this is what I use.
4. I Banish Junk Mail
I opted out of junk mail and catalog lists years ago. It’s difficult, but if you persevere it will happen. It took me several years but I finally got it down to a few pieces a week. Unfortunately, I moved… and then had to start the process all over again. Sometimes a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your mailbox can work wonders. Some countries don’t have much in the way of anti-spam mailing or junk mailing laws, but check yours and start doing as much as you can.
5. I Try And Deal With My Finances Online As Much As Possible
I get online statements from my bank and credit card companies. All my financial data is accessible by password and account sign-in ID so that I can check these every day or so. This makes sense since it also helps prevent identity theft.
6. I Pay Bills Online
I never give out personal info in response to one of those phishy emails, or click on a link in same. I like to keep my paperless office secure by using reliable antivirus software. You can easily find free antivirus software on the Internet which your computer updates frequently. I make it a habit of setting my software to scan every day, I do a complete scan every couple of weeks, and use Ccleaner to keep everything running smoothly.
Follow all of these tips, and you can reduce your office and home paper waste by at least 75%. Simply not looking at a pile of paperwork which grows by the day is a huge stress reliever. An uncluttered mind is also an uncluttered environment and vice versa. Spending a couple of minutes a day thinking about how to reduce your waste and paper usage will actually make you feel better in your office and better about the environment.
Lloyd Burrell enjoys blogging about all things office. On his own website he writes reviews on modern home office desks including ergonomic office desks and contemporary computer office desk furniture. Lloyd lives on the West Coast of France with his wife and two children.