I hate printing.

PC Load Letter…?

More than most anything else in running my own businesses, paper drives me nuts.

Now I know this makes me a bit out of the ordinary. Most people still default to notepads, post-it notes, or random pieces of paper to keep short reminders, meeting notes, and ideas, but maybe it’s time for you to buckle down and think about using your technology to do this job, and de-clutter your life and business.

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Things You Probably Need To Print

There are some things in business that you might need to print, unfortunately.

  • Contracts
  • Invoices for Clients
  • Meeting Agendas

Print these if you must, but try to use tools like Docusign for contracts, email invoices from your accounting software for invoicing, and email or other electronic means for meeting agendas if possible.

Why Digital Instead of Print?

Like most controversial subjects, humans are looking for justification on why to do this process instead of just doing it like we’ve “always done it.” Need a few reasons to use digital instead of print? Here you go !

  • Offsite Backups – Fire, water, carelessness, etc can ruin your print documents. Digital files can be secured and backed up in several locations in case there’s a catastrophic event.
  • Searchable – Ever tried searching for a term or keyword in piles of paper? How about searching on the internet? Way easier to just type in what you want and have a few documents presented to you, isn’t it?
  • Accessible By Multiple Devices – Get to a document with your laptop, phone, tablet, or really anyone else’s device, all protected by login credentials.
  • Share or Limit Access to Files – Pretty much anyone can get into a general access filing cabinet. So that means you need MORE cabinets saved in secure areas like the accounting office, C-level suite, or possibly even another room. Digital files can be locked down to a single user, keeping access as secure as possible. On the flip side, if you need to share with multiple users a document can be shared across the network with anyone you wish.

Avoid the Day-To-Day Paper Mess

Ok, so it’s apparent that moving to paperless is a great method to clean up the office and become more efficient. How about some tools that will help you do this?

  • Storage – The first thing you need to do is determine how you are going to store and share the documents. If you want to keep everything contained in your network, you can use your internal server to do this. But if you want the advantages of outside accessibility you might consider using a cloud storage.
  • Backup/Security – Of course a big concern is security and backups of the data. Most of the cloud services have automatic backups and recovery systems. Also, most of them have encryption either natively active or available as an add-on.
    • Versioning – In some cases having multiple versions of the same document is desired. This works great on marketing documents, meeting agendas, policies, or other items that require several revisions. Cloud services like Box.com have a great way of tracking versions and accessing them as needed.
  • Receipts – One of the biggest sources of paper for many small businesses are receipts or bills. Get them digitized and out of your filing cabinets and make them easy to sort and report. All of the tools below make it easy to scan, photograph or submit a PDF of your receipts or bills.
  • Track Mileage and Travel Expenses – Eventually we all have to travel for business and tracking vehicle mileage, gas, food and other expenses can be tricky, or just a pain in the butt. Luckily there are many mobile apps and computer programs to help you with keeping track of these easily.
    • Milebug
    • MileIQ
    • Quickbooks
  • Notes – The staple of business life, right? We all take notes… lots of them. And most of the time they are on legal pads or composition notebooks that contain pages and pages of random notes and meeting results. Using electronic note systems keeps these loose notes organized, searchable, and shareable. And, if you use an tablet or some smartphones some of these applications also will allow the saving of handwritten notes.
    • Evernote
    • OneNote
  • Project and Task Management – Need to keep you and your team on task? You could use a whiteboard, random post-it notes, or just your brain to do this, or you could find a technology solution that meets the needs of your tasks and projects.
    • Scribblepost – My favorite task management application. Usable across all my devices.
    • Basecamp
    • Outlook, Gmail and GSuite all have excellent task management tools built in.

More Tips on Avoiding Printing

Reasons digital is better than paper… check. Tools to keep me from printing… check. Now, you just need a few more tips on how to avoid using paper during the work day.

  • Print to PDF – Every time you would normally print a document to be placed in a filing cabinet, select Print to PDF and file it in your digital storage system.
  • Don’t Print Emails – I can’t think of a single reason, short of saving something offsite to maintain your innocence or proof of someone else’s guilt that you would print an email. It’s in your email, leave it there and use your other tools to
  • Maps – Remember the frustration and pain of using (and folding) paper maps? Heck, most people can’t even find north! Paper maps are close to obsolete the second they are printed. Use your GPS or smartphone to get where you need to go.
  • Faxes – If you need to fax something, first of all, yell at the company you are faxing information to. Then, after your meltdown, use a service like E-Fax to send electronic documents to their system. Odds are they have a digital service and don’t realize that the rest of us beat up our fax machines in an Office Space-like rampage.
  • Web Pages – Printing webpages was a pretty useful service several years ago, but now it’s just extra pieces of paper lying around. Send URLs via email, messaging systems, or share websites using apps like Pocket.
  • Bills – Did a bill arrive in the mail? Open it, scan it, save it in your storage location and accounting system, then put it in the shredder or trash bin… where it belongs.

Existing Paper

Finally, what should you do with the existing paper products you have in the office? You may have years of old documents, invoices, meeting notes just sitting in filing cabinets waiting patiently to be shredded when you’re ready to move or need more space. The easy solution would be to drag them out the parking lot, gather everything up, and set it on fire. But safety, and the law, make that impractical. So your options are really down to two. Store existing paper and remove it as it becomes unneeded or obsolete. Or, scan existing paper into your new digital system.

Scanning existing can be an expensive solution. However, do some math on what processes could be optimized by having the old documents digitized. Could more workforce work from home or remote locations more effectively? Could you share some information with partners, vendors or other resources to make things quicker? Could you make more money, or possibly spend less by buying less equipment or renting less space by getting rid of clutter? Is having your documents in a secure, emergency-proof location attractive to you as a business owner?

Scanning services are in nearly every town. They roll up to an office with a truck to keep documents in-house for the most part, and can even provide some solutions or guidance on how to set up your digital files. And if it’s something easy like receipts, Shoeboxed offers a service where you send in your receipts, then scan and organize them all, and you’re all set.

Stop Printing!

A paperless office might be right for you and your business. Maybe it’s time to get rid of those printing costs like paper, printer leases, toner, ink, storage and more by going all-digital. And, think of all that time you’ll save by not standing around the printer/copier waiting for you document to print!

Have any questions or suggestions on going paperless? Leave them below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

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