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How I Started My Paperless New Year

How I Started My Paperless New Year

    The terms “paperless” and “paperless office” have been floating around for many years; many, as in since the 70’s and 80’s. Everyone thought that the new, shiny computers that were making their way into our lives would solve all problems, including curbing the use of the paper medium. Sitting in the year 2012 we can clearly see that isn’t the case at all.

    I remember in a college economics class, about 3 months before the “Great Recession” in the United States that my professor asked the students which business they’d rather be in; a paper company or an automobile company. Most students chose the car company with their logic being that we are going paperless within the next few years. Once again, we still haven’t seen this “paperless” lifestyle.

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    Here’s the thing. Businesses use paper. Individuals use paper. A lot of it. Even with systems being put into place to reduce paper consumption (like paperless billing, e-signatures, digital document storage, etc.) consumers and workers are still going to use paper for the foreseeable future.

    Why haven’t we reached paperless?

    I think the answer is simple, especially if you look at your own usages. Paper is flexible, portable, malleable. It has an almost limitless resolution (unlike screens and software without zooming in) and can be passed around and used by anyone with ease. It may be the fastest way to write down an idea or pass information to someone in person. Paper is finite.

    Also, there is something about a trusty notebook by your side when going to meetings or classroom. Using paper to write helps you retain knowledge and helps you to more easily be in an conversation in a meeting or with a group, unlike tapping away on your fancy iPad or laptop.

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    It’s a start

    One of the things that I have resolved to do this year (since I resolve in January, not February) is get closer to paperless. There is no way that I can get to 100% paperless as I love taking notes with my Livescribe pen, love the look and feel of Moleskine Cahier, and think that making paper ninja stars is needed. But, I can do some things to get started:

    1. Switch all billing to paperless billing and/or automatic billing. I haven’t completed this step yet but I am in the process. Basically, see if the company that you are billed by has paperless billing (or e-billing). This way you don’t get anything in the mail hence saving the paper that would be used to produce your bill and also the paper that is used for the envelope.

    Some companies will even offer you a slight discount in your bill by going paperless because in the long run you are directly saving them money.

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    2. Stop printing, signing, and faxing/mailing things. That is, if you are receiving these forms digitally. If you are receiving PDFs, then use a tool like PDFpenPro for the Mac or even try the new Adobe EchoSign with the free account for one individual and up to 5 transaction per month. There are of course other options for digital signing like Adobe Acrobat Pro, but the above two tools will work out for most needs.

    After you have signed something electronically you can then send it back via email or electronic fax. I have used eFax’s free service in the past, but I have found that having to send in documents by fax, especially for personal things, is not that normal; emailing an attachement of the PDF seems to be more and more accepted. Signing electronically won’t get rid of a lot of paper, but it is part of the bigger picture.

    3. Get a good scanner, shredder, and digital tool for filing. I chose the Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300, the AmazonBasics shredder, and a subscription to Evernote Premium. If you have to scan a ton of stuff and saving money isn’t important, then I recommend going with the grand-daddy of personal, duplex scanners; the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500. Everyone is using them; you should too.

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    Evernote Premium is great for storing your personal documents because of its excellent OCR service, tagging, and separate notebook creation. You can organize your documents in different ways and being able to use Evernote’s search capabilities, you don’t even need to know exactly where you put them.

    4. Digital notetaking tools. We have written about some of the best digital notetaking tools in the past as well as the most effective ways to use them and our opinions haven’t strayed too much. One thing to add is that if you followed step 3 above and got yourself an Evernote Premium subscription, then you can take most of your digital notes there with your iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac, or PC.

    One way that I have “cheated” is by using my Livescribe pen. I still have to buy the paper to take notes with, but I get the added bonus of storing the audio and PDF copy of the notes on my Mac and PC. After importing the notes, I can shred the paper if I so choose to.

    Conclusion

    As you can see the paperless lifestyle is getting closer and closer to reality, but there are still uses for paper that trump any digital implementation. Regardless, you can start with your paperless journey this year and get a little closer to that utopian view of a world without paper that we have been trying to reach for decades.

    (Photo credit: Stress by bureaucracy and paper filing via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

    Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

    Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

    In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

    1. ScheduleOnce

      ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

      ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

      ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

      Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

      Available on Web

      2. Calendly

        Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

        You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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        Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

        3. Assistant.to

          For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

          From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

          While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

          Available on Web

          4. Acuityscheduling

            Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

            It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

            Available on Web | iOS | Android

            5. Pick

              Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

              At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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              Available on Web

              6. X.ai

                For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

                This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

                Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

                Available on Web

                7. YouCanBook.me

                  is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                  They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                  Available on Web

                  8. Doodle

                    Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                    It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                    You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                    While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                    Available on Web | iOS | Android

                    9. WhenAvailable

                      WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                      Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                      Available on Web

                      10. Rally

                        Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                        Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                        Available on Web

                        11. NeedtoMeet

                          Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                          NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                          While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                          Available on Web

                          Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                          In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                          To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                          Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                          A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                          Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                          If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                          Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                          With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                          The Bottom Line

                          Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                          Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                          Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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