I first heard a buzz about going paperless 20 years ago. Just like the metric system conversion that was threatened in the third grade (1974) never came to pass, most businesses have not reduced their paper usage much (particularly accountants). But it isn’t that hard. It’s a mindset and there are a few simple things that will make a huge difference.
1. Stop Printing Things!
It seems obvious, but next time you hit the print button think about whether you really need to or if it’s just a reaction. Send the document to a shared printer that you have to get up and walk to and you’ll be surprised how much paper you never bother to pick up.
2. Get rid of filing cabinets!
If there is no place to keep it, you’ll get rid of it faster. Use that money and energy setting up centralized digital data storage (a server, cloud storage) accessible to the proper people. (I’m personally a huge Google Drive fan, but there are others– Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, Box, etc. You can share documents with only those you want and the data is backed up for you.)
3. Make scanners accessible to all employees.
Maybe even give one to each employee or work area. Convert paper, such as things that arrive by mail, to digital as quickly as possible. It eliminates the problem of losing the document.
4. Get everyone in your organization a PDF generator on their computer.
(Adobe Acrobat Pro, Soda PDF, etc.). Then they can share any document type in a digital format that is readable by anyone. The collaborator can usually comment on the document, mark it up, but he or she isn’t changing the original document.
5. Use Evernote to save your super great web finds.
Set up an Evernote account and install Evernote Web Clipper on your browser. Then you can capture the actual web page into your Evernote notebooks, not just the link. So even if the web page goes away, you have a copy of the original content. No more printing that great article! You can read it later in Evernote. Evernote also allows you to type in notes or email them to your Evernote notebook, so it can replace a lot of your random legal pad notes. (I’m sure there are other programs for this, but I’ve used Evernote since 2009 and love it. If you were to go through my Evernote Clips, you would think I was a genius or terribly confused.)
6. Stop getting your vendor invoices by mail.
Set up an AP@companyname.com email for your bills and notify your vendors to email your invoices there. And once you get invoices in the inbox, don’t print them out, PLEASE! There are some other great automation options for invoices as well, such as Bill.com and HubDoc, which allow your vendors to email directly into the programs, that will link to your accounting system. Bill.com also has an approval workflow that eliminates those sign-offs on the paper document.
Just a few of these steps can be reduce your paper usage dramatically. And that means less handling and storing of paper.