Last year, my New Yearís Resolution was to go paperless. I succeeded, but not in the way that I expected.
I began the year trying several new online applications that aimed to help me organize tasks ranging from setting up a snapshot of all my bills and reminders to pay them, to creating a family system that would allow my kids to track their allowances and chores.
As I often discover (and re-discover) when I embark on an effort to create new habits, starting simple is best. As such, I found that a lot of these applications fell by the wayside, probably because I tried to integrate too many of them into my busy routine at once. Collectively they were too new, and therefore too difficult to master, in an efficient amount of time.
I ended up laying the foundation for my paperless life Ė and eliminating literally bags upon bags of clutter - with three simple steps:
1. Assign one email address as my contact for reminders from banks and bill companies, and then sign up for paperless statements.
2. Create a filing system on my computer to organize all documents, back it up twice with an external hard drive and a cloud-based storage system, and set quarterly reminders on my calendar to download statements.
3. Buy a desktop scanner thatís also portable for when I travel. As silly as this may sound, having the big all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine that sits at the opposite end of the room was simply too much effort when I could more easily throw a piece of paper into the scanner to file online while talking on the phone or finishing an email.
My two favorite go-to products that have made this system easy to maintain are SugarSync and the Canon imageFORMULA Scan-tini Personal Document Scanner.
SugarSync is a really easy to use cloud back-up system that you can set up to instantly and automatically upload the most recent version of all documents saved to your computer. My favorite feature of this storage system is that I donít have to create a new set of files on the cloud to save the documents. My SugarSync account is an exact replica of my computer so I donít have to think twice about where things are.
I also love the fact that I can assign certain files to appear on my other mobile devices, so that if I need to access something on the go, it can appear on my phone or tablet.
The Canon printer is so easy to use, and the scans so clear, that using it has become one of those habits that is now second nature. I also love that one unit is easily Mac- or PC-compatible, a big plus since my husband and I use different computer systems but can share this one unit seamlessly. If you travel and need to bring your office with you, you can even buy a little padded carrying case to keep it safe. I love how clean my desk looks after buying this!
This year I have two apps that I have quickly fallen in love with because adopting them has been as simple as using the Canon scanner.
The first is Expensify, a great app for tracking those small cash expenses that you can easily accumulate on business trips. Itís those small receipts that waste so much of my time (and infuriate me!) when itís accounting and tax season. With Expensify, you can create customized categories, reports, and even upload receipts with the SmartScanning function so that you have a copy saved right away and donít have to go digging in your bag or pockets when the trip ends. (The company gives each user a few SmartScans for free each month, and then charges a small fee for additional scans.) You can also upload scans or pictures of receipts from your computer.
The second is Toggl, which helps you track time. You can assign clients and projects for each client, and with just a click of the ďStart/StopĒ button manage a stopwatch. At the end of each day, week or month you can run a report of all, or a select group of, projects. The app is easy to use and free for basic tracking. There is also a premium service for a fee.
Iíve found that going paperless and organizing my files online has definitely helped me better track my spending, bill deadlines and time. Iíve been able to streamline my budget and feel better about how Iím allocating my funds. Not to mention it just feels great to get all that paper off my desk!
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