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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)

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    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 February 19, 2020

    11 Google Chrome Apps & Features for Getting More Done with Less Effort

    11 Google Chrome Apps & Features for Getting More Done with Less Effort

    In today’s fast-paced and never-ending busy world, we are overwhelmed by tasks that need to be completed by tight deadlines. With so much technology it is difficult to find the right tools to help boost our efficiency. And, many tools get obsolete so its essential to stay up-to-date to know when you will have to make adjustments to these tools. Independently of where you work, there’s a good chance that you have to be working on a PC or a laptop.

    Do you are feel like you do not have enough time, or cannot accomplish much as of late? It is recommended to take a step back and look at the big picture. Also, you want to explore new and innovative ways to improve productivity.

    In this article, I outline 11 features and apps within the Chrome browser that can help you do just that.

    Minimizing Tabs

    Let’s face it we all have more than a dozen tabs opened on our computers. One neat trick to still keep most of them open is to turn them into pinned tabs. On Google Chrome you can right-click the tab and select “Pin Tab” option. This turns the tab into an icon enabling you to continue multitasking.

    Pinning a tab anchors the tabs on the left of your toolbar; a great benefit of the “Pin Tab” feature is that you can’t close these tabs accidentally since the “X” disappears after pinning them.

    Incognito Mode

    Google Chrome is a very easy-to-use and intuitive. But, Google does collect our browsing data; so to remedy this, you can use Incognito Mode. This feature does not keep your browsing or download history. You can enable or access it in three different ways:

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    1. Press Ctrl/Command+shift+N
    2. Select File Menu and choose New Incognito Window
    3. Download extension New Incognito Window

    This feature is very handy if you’d rather not have your browsing history stored and utilized for future advertisement or suggested pages.

    Save Webpages as PDF Files

    Have you ever browsed interesting or important information and then forgot to bookmark or save it in “favorites”, making it impossible to find again? Chances are you have done this on a number of occasions.

    Thankfully, there is an easy solution. You can save webpages as PDF files. On your keyboard, press control/command+p and you will be able to save webpages as PDFs.

    Open Recently-closed Tabs

    Ever had dozens of tabs opened and all of a sudden your browser shuts down? It has probably happened to all of us. You can easily recover all of your tabs using two approaches. Don’t panic if this happens because there is a workaround and solution for it.

    One is by pressing Ctrl/CMD+Shift+T.

    The other approach is to click on the three vertical dots on your browser and hover over “History”.

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    Solve Mathematical Problems

    Google’s Chrome browser doesn’t just search for relevant and updated information. It is also capable of performing some mathematical problems. Within the omnibox (Chrome’s address or URL bar), you can perform mathematical exercises.

    For example, if you are struggling with percentages you can search 20 percent of x amount and it will instantly provide a result. Pretty handy, right?!

    Play Media Files

    Are you frequently met with difficulties when playing or watch a video files? Well, once again Chrome comes to the rescue. You can can listen or play videos from all sorts of movie or music files (mp3, mp4, .mov, .mkv, .ogv, .webm, .wav, etc.) by simply dragging the file into the search bar.

    In addition, you can view images, PDF files and Microsoft Office files, too.

    Navigate Swiftly Between Tabs

    With all of those tabs opened comes great navigation responsibilities. Rather than clicking through every tab, you can use shortcut keys like Ctrl+Tab to navigate all of the different tabs. Also, you are able to navigate to the first tab by pressing Ctrl-1, Ctrl-2, and so on. If you want to switch to the very last tab, press Ctrl-9.

    Stay Focus(e)d

    Computers nowadays have awesome capabilities.

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    Sometimes we like to get work done, but let’s face it, we’re all human. We sometimes procrastinate by visiting a website we really like, or maybe take a break with watching a flick on Netflix, a video on YouTube or browsing Facebook.

    With Chrome’s StayFocusd extension, you can truly stay focused and get more done in less time.

    This extension naturally helps you stay more productive by limiting the amount of time you spend on websites. You can set the time and it will automatically block those sites after a certain period.

    Grammarly for Editing

    Grammarly is a must have, and it’s really a complete powerhouse. Grammarly helps you check your grammar and spelling for everything you write online.

    You can use it professionally or as a student, which will make the editing process much easier and more efficient. Furthermore, it can automatically check for typos when you send an email, type a Tweet, or post a Facebook comment. It’s like having your own personal copyeditor!

    Loom

    There are times that words in an email or written text in a chat app will just not convey the right meaning.

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    There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, the same is true of videos.

    With Loom, you can capture, narrate and immediately share video recordings of your screen, which will help coworkers understand issues you are facing, or to easily convey an explanation on screen. Plus, with video you will be able to easily walk people through a process, and you can use it to create simple how-to videos.

    Chrome Calendar Extension

    No matter what your level of responsibility is at your job, Google Calendar is another essential resource to have at your fingertips.

    Specifically, you can have this extension added as an icon in the toolbar of your browser, which I highly recommend. Once you add the extension to your browser, you can check for upcoming events with a single click without leaving your current page.

    Final Thoughts

    Google Chrome has definitely evolved from its inception. As you can see you have a very powerful tool that comes as a free installation and is loaded with dozens of capabilities. The above listed Chrome apps can resolve some of the most common obstacles to your time management and productivity.

    Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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