The idea that your life can be ‘paperless’ is one of those utopian dreams that only happens on Pinterest, right? Wrong. It is possible to achieve paperless personal admin and have a clutter-free home or office. It just takes effort, a big effort. We were inspired by a woman who has helped many clients ‘go paperless’, personal concierge CAROLINE BASHAM, founder of Caroline B. Personal Management. Caroline tells (true) tales about paperless makeovers that would make Marie Kondo proud. The best part is, she says those who take the paperless plunge often discover other unexpected benefits in the process.
Caroline has kindly shared some real-world tips on ‘going paperless’.
It’s likely you’ll start your ‘go paperless’ journey with boxes and drawers full of documents. The first step is to understand the scale of what will be required after the initial ‘go online’ process. You’ll need to audit the documentation you regularly and irregularly deal with. This will give you a complete picture to start planning a system.
#2 Create your paperless system
Next, you create a policy for document retention and destruction. This is critical – you need to make a policy about what you will ‘not scan’ (retain hard copy only), ‘scan but keep’ or ‘scan and destroy’.
Allied to this policy is the design of the main online folder structure. It’s best to fix this before you start so the main folders are in place.
#3 Scan & store
Now you’re ready to scan and store! You’ll need to select a scanner and an online storage account that suits the system you have created.
Today’s storage in the cloud solutions mean you can access your digital data over any internet connection, including via your Smart Phone. The cost is rarely more than $800 per year. Some clients choose their own providers or we opt for Dropbox (light use), Box (office) or Google Drive (lots of collaboration). If security is a heightened concern we also have options to meet that need.
Investing in a fast, reliable scanner is a must! Again, there’s a big range to choose from and we help clients choose the right scanner for their needs.
Expert tip! Caroline recommends subscribing to a cloud storage system that supports OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This allows your system to find documents by key word search. Not all systems do, so check that functionality before signing up.
#4 Get shredding
In your new paperless life, there’s loads of room for a shredder, even in a tiny Hong Kong apartment! Again, there are options for shredding – you can buy a shredder or start a contract with a secure confidential waste company like Iron Mountain. They give you sacks, you fill ‘em up with documents and they collect and destroy. Easy.
#5 Back up
We all know we should be backing up (duplicating) files, but the reality is we often forget! There’s a wide choice for auto-backup services, Caroline suggests looking at iDrive and Acronis True Image.
Caroline warns, “In my view, the main risk is accidental deletion. For example, a whole folder is deleted by mistake and the deletion not discovered until some months later. Some systems like Dropbox Pro have sophisticated systems for ‘recovering’ from this sort of issue (I know, it works!).”
If you don’t trust the cloud storage industry – even with the encryption type (or it’s too complicated) there are reasonably priced alternatives that place the file storage server in your home. Caroline notes, “We have a few clients that follow this path. It’s a bit technical and usually requires a level of technical support that raises the total cost of ownership significantly.”
Once you have mastered cloud-based document storage, you may want to consider the next step in your storage evolution – a note taking system. Caroline recommends we all try Evernote. She says, “In technical jargon, Evernote is a cross-platform online note-taking and organizational system. In short, it addresses the fact that so many ‘documents’ you wish to store personally are already digital, (e.g. web site pages, PDFs downloads). It’s worth investigating!”
Are you inspired to go paperless? Reach out to the Caroline B team at caroline-b.hk
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section.