Getting Started Going Paperless

July 16th, 2013

Do you dream about being paper-free or at the very least, paper-less? If so, a member of our Neat Fleet and a productivity strategist and professional organizer, Joshua Zerkel, has some great tips to help you achieve what seems just out of reach.

Until Next Time…Keep it Neat!



By Joshua Zerkel, Neat Fleeter

It’s a refrain I’ve heard time and again: “I’ve tried to go paperless, but then I got overwhelmed and stopped.” Or even worse – “I want to go paperless but don’t know where to begin.” After working with clients over the years to help them start on the paperless path, I’ve seen what works – and what doesn’t. Here are a few ways to get started on the right foot:


Set goals and expectations. Paperless is a relative term. For one person, it may mean that all the documents in their filing cabinet are gone and have been replaced with digital versions. For another, it may mean that all their bank statements are no longer coming in the mail. What does going paperless mean for you at home or at work? Definitely think this through, as it will help you set some parameters for the scope of your paperless project. Decide what will and won’t be scanned, and why. Determine where your scanned docs will be stored, and what will happen to the original paper once it’s been scanned (will it be shredded, recycled, archived, or…?). Finally, be realistic for what you can achieve – paperless does not mean paperFREE. You’ll still have some paper that you’ll need to process, and new paper will still come in the door.


Pre-organize to save time. The old adage “garbage in, garbage out” is especially apt for going paperless. The last thing you want to do is to spend your time scanning documents that you don’t want or need, are duplicates, or that you won’t access again in the future. It’s worth spending a bit of time pre-organizing your docs before you scan them to maximize the utility you’ll get out of your Digital Filing System. Go through your docs and toss out any duplicates, and get rid of papers you know you won’t need again. Create categories for your docs, and once they’re scanned you can group them the same way. Of course, your documents will be searchable once you’ve scanned them into Neat, but it always helps to have some structure for what you’re storing – it makes it even easier to find what you’re looking for later.


Use the right tools. Not all scanners and scanning software tools are right for every use. Consider the context where you’ll be doing your scanning, and invest in the scanning solution that best fits that particular need. For instance, if you travel frequently for business trips, you’ll want a NeatReceipts to scan the business cards and receipts you’ve collected while on the go. Back at your desk, your NeatDesk can be used to scan your everyday documents, contracts, and files. If you use both tools, you’ll be able to sync your scanned docs from both your NeatReceipts and NeatDesk via NeatCloud, which also allows you to access and scan items with your phone or tablet.


Start small. A big mistake I see people who want to go paperless make is trying to tackle too big of a project, too early on during their paperless journey. Rather than trying scan your entire four-drawer file cabinet right after you’ve set up your scanner, start with a more manageable sub-project. Perhaps begin with one folder or set of folders, or just the papers that are sitting around the edges of your desk. Keep it manageable, complete that project, and then move on from there. You’ll be much more successful overall if you take your big project, break it down to smaller, easier to complete chunks, then work to complete one at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be well on the road to creating your paperless world!


Joshua Zerkel is a Productivity Strategist, Certified Professional Organizer® and the CEO and founder of Custom Living Solutions, the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier productivity and organizing consulting firm. Find him on Twitter @joshuazerkel and check out his helpful books focused on organization and productivity.

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