Resolved to go paperless but want to do it the smart way? In this article we’ll cover 4 big mistakes you might be making in your quest to go paperless.

Mistakes to Avoid When You Go Paperless

Mistake #1 – Not stopping the flow of paper to you

  • Are you still receiving paper magazines? Cancel those subscriptions now: how often do they just sit around and pile up before you get a chance to read them?
    • If you love your magazines and need a digital alternative, try the Next Issue app.
  • Sign up for paperless billing and avoid a ton of paper items being sent to your mailbox.
  • Unsubscribe from unwanted mailings the easy way: use an app like Paper Karma to take a picture of the to and from addresses on the mailings and they will take care of the rest.

Mistake #2 – Letting Paper Pile Up

To be successful when you go paperless you need to stop paper from piling up around you.

  • Handle paper when you bring it into the house:
    • Recycle or throw away mail or notices you don’t need. Be sure to use Paper Karma to stop the next item from that company even showing up at your door.
    • Designate a spot for all paper that needs to be handled, e.g. If you have a bill you need to pay, you can put it a designated bin for bills.
      • Don’t forget to sign up for paperless billing for any recurring bills.
    • Any papers that need to be filed should be scanned immediately and then shredded or recycled.
    • If you need to keep the original document for some reason, scan it first and then file in a safe spot.
      • I generally keep receipts that may be needed for returns in a file for the current tax year.
      • Small item receipts get shredded after a couple of months, unless needed for tax purposes.
      • Large ticket receipts should be filed until you no longer have the item.
  • More companies and vendors are now allowing for paperless receipt, which will really help us all go paperless.
    • Forward any receipts you have to your Evernote receipt folder and tag with the date, company, and item (if appropriate).
  • Ask family and friends to send emails or eCards rather than paper cards. Check out AmericanGreetings.com or Apps like Red Stamp to send nice digital cards.

Mistake #3 – Scanning Incorrectly When Trying to Go Paperless

I know a gentleman who spent hours and hours scanning all his documents in his effort to go paperless. I thought this was great until his wife told me the details of how he scanned them. Please don’t repeat these mistakes in your paperless quest:

  • Scanning unrelated documents in one big lump. Sure it might make scanning quicker, but then you have big .pdf files of papers that are unrelated and can’t be filed electronically in a meaningful way.
  • Saving your scanned documents to any old spot on your hard drive.
  • Not having a system for being able to find the documents you scan.

This gentleman’s wife had no idea where to find anything he’d scanned. She said it was now much harder to find anything and always had to ask him to try to locate a document. There were no productivity improvements that came from this project.

Avoid these scanning mistakes by scanning like papers together, and maintaining a good electronic filing system to be able to find documents you save. I use Evernote to accomplish the latter, replicating my filing system in Evernote via Notebooks and tags. The search within Evernote is exemplary and allows the user to easily search within a document for the keywords they need to identify it. Especially helpful is the Evernote Pro PDF search capability, which is a must for anyone wanting to go paperless.

Mistake #4 Not Having a Backup System in Place

Whether your scanned documents are on your hard drive or in the cloud, be sure to have a backup. I recommend a minimum of one set locally, and one in the cloud.

Have you started your paperless quest yet? If so share your best tips to go paperless in the comments below. Also let us know how these tips help you on your journey.

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Featured photo credit: Paper chain people united to save the environment via Shutterstock

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