- Believe it or not, you can probably turn all your old paper files and notes into electrons in a single day. But if not, don’t worry, there’s no rush.
- If you’re not especially “techie,” consult people you trust on what cloud storage app to use; they all have different strengths and capabilities.
- Congratulations: you have entered a new era.
But paper still comes your way (not everyone is as technologically astute as you!) And you still have scads of old files, memos, notebooks and other valuable documents on paper. Let’s move toward the end game and complete the transition to a truly paperless existence.
Buy a scanner
You’ll need a good scanner. If you want one for your home or personal office, PC Magazine shows some options here.
Your scanner will get heavy use right off the bat as you scan in all the paper docs you want to save and moderate use thereafter as you scan and send to recycling whatever paper lands on your desk, so it’s probably worth a few bucks to get something sturdy and capable.
Many of them allow you to scan directly to Dropbox and other apps, which can be a great convenience.
Find a cloud storage app
The magic is in the accessibility: as with your calendars and to-to lists, anything you save to one of these resources will be available on any device that’s connected to a network.
If you want to function paperlessly with maximum efficiency, you’ll need to stop saving things to a physical location such as your phone’s storage or your computer’s hard drive, and instead send everything to the cloud.
Just as we created notebooks in our note-taking app to stay organized, you’ll want to create folders in your chosen cloud storage app so everything will have a proper place to go. And just like on your hard drive, you can make subfolders so there is an orderly hierarchy.
For example, I have a Dropbox folder named “Transactions,” and in that folder are individual folders for each client.
Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Block out some time when you can work without interruption. Decide where you want to start, and begin scanning. I went through my file cabinets first.
I encourage you to approach it the way you might approach a move: now is a great opportunity to “cleanse,” get rid of what you don’t really need and just save what’s important.
I used the one year rule; anything I hadn’t accessed or needed for a year or more (except client files), I probably didn’t need at all, so those things went straight to recycling without scanning.
The rest I scanned to my email, then saved to the new folders I was creating in Dropbox. After the file cabinets came notebooks, binders, memos and all the other flotsam that had been accumulating over the years.
It’s really as simple as that. Trust me, I was as intimidated by all that stuff as you probably are, but what I found was that the whole process went much faster than I had expected (I did nearly all of it in one day) and that the cleansing part was badly needed.
So I not only got rid of all that paper but also got myself completely up-to-date and reorganized in terms of what I needed and what I didn’t. And lots of random stuff that had been sort of hanging around without a proper home found its way into an orderly system.
Going forward, when something comes to you on paper, just scan and save it to cloud storage (or your note-taking or email app), and send that paper to the great recycler in the sky.
Now, some people hang onto some “security blankets” and keep this or that paper doc or notebook. There really isn’t any harm in that, but on the other hand, think about what you’re trying to accomplish — real paperlessness — and how keeping those things stands in the way of that ultimate goal.
I can absolutely assure you, from experience, that there truly isn’t anything that you need to keep on paper! If you do retain some security blankets, at a minimum give yourself a deadline for giving them up.
At this point, you can go have a beer because — guess what? You’re now wholly paperless. This puts you in a select class that is ahead of the curve, that is higher-functioning and more productive and has a greater capacity for stellar client service.
You notice we haven’t even talked about a CRM. You probably need one for your business, but as we’ve seen you don’t need one to be paperless. And there are myriad other apps that can make you even more efficient without paper than you ever were when using it.
These include helpful items like “scan to PDF” apps for your phone, with which you can take pictures of documents that will be automatically centered and turned into PDF files, “sketching” apps that let you draw or write freehand on your tablet or phone and many more.
When you find you have a need or some part of your system is lacking, look around — there’s probably an app for it.
Here’s the final step: go become an evangelist for paperlessness yourself. Spread the word, and show your colleagues how easy and liberating it is to work without paper.
As we discussed in the first entry, it’s almost impossible to argue that paper is better, so most who haven’t made the change are probably experiencing some complacency and some fear of the unknown. Give ’em a nudge.
Congratulations on your progress, and cheers for taking the initiative to grow. I sincerely hope this has been helpful and that you’ve made changes that will help you do better work.
Brian Walker manages a top-producing Indianapolis branch office for Indiana’s largest independent real estate firm, the F. C. Tucker Company. Connect with him on LinkedIn.