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Want to Go Paperless? Avoid These 4 Big Mistakes

Want to Go Paperless? Avoid These 4 Big Mistakes

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.

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  • 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:

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  • 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.

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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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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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