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The Paperless Professional

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By: Scott S. Elliott, Principal and Founder

Many people are skilled at handling and filing paper. I have never been one of them. I tend to misfile important documents, lose them, stack them on an ever-expanding "inbox", spill coffee on them and - usually - not be able to find them when I need to. So, when it became possible to go paperless in the last decade or so - I jumped on it!

 Now, when I receive anything written or typed on paper, I follow this simple process:


Is it something I need to save?

  • If not
    • I put any actionable items on my ToDo list or Calendar,
    • Then I shred it (or just recycle it if not sensitive).
  • If so
    • I scan it to a PDF format,
    • Check that it is a good, readable scan,
    • Name the file descriptively, with the scanning date,
    • Decide where to file the PDF data on my disk drive,
    • Put any actionable items from it on my ToDo list or Calendar,
    • Then I shred the paper.

 This may seem like a long list, but it's usually much faster and easier than finding a hanging folder, writing on a tab, squeezing it into an overflowing file drawer, etc.

 The advantages of this paperless system are many, including:

  • I can find PDFs much more quickly than I ever could paper documents
  • I can search for them using file manager search tools by date or description.
  • I can attach and send them by email to anyone very quickly
  • I can copy saved text passages or images onto other documents
  • I have eliminated all but one small file drawer (for embossed certificates, etc.)
  • I use very little paper or ink
  • I spend very little on postage

 I eliminated most of my old paper files by hiring an aide to scan all of my old documents to PDFs. It was admittedly a months-long project for my aide and me (in my spare time) to go through these files, decide what to save, and name and file them electronically; but now I have a Zen-like feeling of unburdened relief and satisfaction. The big file cabinets are gone and I can find things again!

 Of course, if you are going to scan and eliminate the physical manifestations of all of your important documents, you must have a fail-safe back-up system. Here is what I do: I have a large (5TB) external drive with software that automatically and continuously backs up everything I download or create on my desktop. I also use a Cloud-based, online back-up system that does the backup of everything in the background. Because of my limited bandwidth, the Cloud service took several months for the initial backup, but now takes only a few minutes per day to register the new files and changes. So if my office burns down, I still can retrieve the documents.  In addition, I have a laptop computer synchronized with my desktop, with copies of my important documents.  Thus I am triply protected - actually much safer than a paper filing system.

 In addition to written documents, I have scanned and eliminated most of my old photographs. My new photos and videos are already digital! I look at old photos much more often now that I can pull them up quickly on a high-resolution display rather than pull out a dusty old photo album that is coming apart or set up an old optical slide projector, and I can send them to friends and family instantly. I also buy eBooks rather than paper-bound editions. I then have my books anywhere to read on my smart phone, eReader device, or computer. I don't miss dog-eared pages and broken bindings at all.

 I understand that many of you readers may be in a profession or organization that still insists on paper documents. But that is no reason to prevent you from going paperless at home. Also, I have many friends that still print computer files on paper just to read them. These people are mostly in my own generation - the last generation that did not know a personal computer in high school or even in college. They don't feel comfortable without the good old feeling of printed cellulite between their fingers.

 To these people I say - get over it and get on-line!

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Corporate Headquarters:

TechZecs, LLC
1730 Kearny Street,
Suite F-3
San Francisco,  California
94133 USA

Principal and Founder

Dr. Scott S. Elliott
Telephone: +1.415.830.5520

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