No one said being paperless, or even paper-less, is easy. In fact, it’s just as much work as a paper filing system just in different areas. The payoff, however, is in productivity & time spent, something a paper filing system can’t and won’t ever offer.
It’s tough being paper-less and takes a lot of effort.
I speak with a wide array of people on Twitter (follow me @thepaperlessasstnt) on the topic of paperlessness as well as keep my ear to the ground regarding paperless office processes and the frustration people encounter when launching into or maintaining their beautifully implemented paperless processes.
The #1 reason people don’t go paperless is simple: FEAR OF FAILURE.
We fear computer technology will fail us. We fear electricity will fail us. We fear we will fail ourselves by not being 100% paperless 100% of the time. We fear failure at the root of everything. We let our fear incapacitate us. It’s time to let that fear go because fear of failure is detrimental to our mental well being as well as the planet.
I know there is no manual to help us all out so here are my top tips to letting go your fear of failure when trying to go paperless:
1. OWN IT. – Own your fear and own the fact that sometimes you’re going to be imperfect (that’s a good thing!).
2. TALK ABOUT IT. – Sometimes all we need to do is get a fresh perspective. Talk to people who are paperless about the good and the bad. Ask them what works, what doesn’t; Learn from their mistakes.
3. GIVE YOURSELF SOME LEIGHWAY! – Nothing in life is all-or-nothing. If it is, it shouldn’t be. Just because you want to go paperless doesn’t mean you can’t afford yourself the luxury of still maintaining the use of the occassional sticky note or to-do list that is written out. Fundamentalist paperless folks, while they have honest intentions, are intimidating. They scare me, too. Please don’t become one of them by just doing the best you can.
4. CLEAN OFF YOUR DESK & TAKE A STEP BACK. – Physical clutter creates mental clutter. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re being buried under a mountain of paper – it’s because you are and YOU are creating that mountain. In this electronic age, there’s a true zen to be discovered when you have a streamlined, clean desk. Weigh your options. Would you rather feel like you’re being smothered with your own paper or like you have a solid paper-free system that will make that feeling disappear? It’s always ultimately up to you.
5. KEEP ON TRUCKIN’! ‘Nuff said. 🙂
Bonus tip –
ALWAYS PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED – Fear of technology failure is a simple indicator that you do not have a continuity plan in place. When you know you’ve got a backup plan that will work even when your technology isn’t, jumping off the paperless deep end is refreshing.
I love Unclutterer. It’s possibly my favorite place for regular reading. I stare at my RSS like a junkie waiting for my Unclutterer fix some days.
Yesterday was no different. Yesterday, they ran this tasty morsel:
Professional organizer Deb Lee runs a neat feature on her organizing blog every Friday, titled “Fact Friday.” This past week, she featured a statistic from 1992 that I found to be fascinating:
“In a recent survey of 200 executives of 1,000 of the nation’s largest companies, respondents were asked: ‘What percent of time do executives waste because they or their assistants can’t find things?’ The median response was 4.3 hours a week, based on a 40-hour week.”
[When Time’s Money, Organizing Pays Off · Penny Singer · New York Times · November 29, 1992]
Computer usage and digital search functionality have certainly increased and improved since 1992, but I doubt that this statistic is much different today. Now, we search for things like old e-mails and mis-named documents instead of paper memos and proposals.
While I mean this with the most love possible, I have to politely disagree. My paperless functions have saved me an unreal amount of time. The trick is proper implementation. If your processes are poorly implemented then of course you’re going to mis-name documents and emails- which is why I’d like to highlight today my file naming system that helps me stay organized.
Everything I touch gets named in this format. We use Sunbelt Office Supply for great prices on our regular day-to-day office supplies. I place an order and get an invoice back then it’s named something along the lines of this:
This way even if I were to mis-name something, in the file name I can still visually cross reference and ID what I’m looking for. Typically if AP has a question about an invoice they’ll give me the amount or the invoice number, possibly just the vendor and the date. I can do a simple, easy search for any of those items and pull the requested invoice with ease. My boss, the VP of Operations, seems pretty pleased when he asks something of me and I’m able to produce it in a little under a minute and have it to him via email in less than 5 minutes. Repetition of this type of activity, at least for me, HARDLY adds up to 3-4 hours a week. By my estimate I’d say procurement of documents takes me a total of 30 mins to 1 hour a week, if that.
I’m a bit more anal-retentive/organized than most so I have all of my paperless information sorted out by vendor then year then paper type (invoice, work order, packing slip, etc) but the argument could be made that even organization such as this is but a luxury with indexing.
Anyhow, call me blindly optimistic but I will be a sad, sad GenY employee if my paperless functions didn’t save me time and, in a round about way, increases my productivity. When I come across a more updated statistic than one from 1992, I’ll post it without a doubt!
Have a happy and productive week!
The Paperless Assistant
Today over at Productivity501, one of my personal favorite blogs I have on RSS, they did an informal study of bloggers to see which areas they still prefer to be “low tech” in. The resounding answer?
An old-fashion book is still better than an MP3 or a PDF. There’s just something inexplainable about holding a good, hard-cover book in your hand. It feels more important. It feels like there’s actual knowledge contained within.
And it’s easier on the eyes too.
Absolutely! I use a paper calendar. I just could not give up being able to see everything at a glance!
My To Do List! I’ve tried numerous online apps as well as the usual Outlook/Note functions but what has always worked best for me is a simple spiral bound notebook in which I can write my to do lists, then tear them out when I’m done or need to re-write one.
Plus I can carry it everywhere easily and it takes 2 seconds to open up and scribble something in, instead of the time it takes to power up the laptop.
People just do.not.want to give up paper. What suprised me is the number of people who are very tech-centric, such as bloggers, who should well know how to accomplish the same things without the use of paper. But yet, it continues.
I’m ready for the culture change though I don’t think it’ll come anytime soon if people who have all of the tools at their fingertips to perform their functions paperlessly simply aren’t because it’s not as convenient. Of course changing habits isn’t convenient!
So this came in the mail for me today:
It really got me thinking. OK so nowhere on this sheet does it say that you’re signing up for the website listing (I sure as heck am not going to pay $177 to be listed in the PAPER phone book!) so I went to see what all they were selling me, just out of morbid curiosity I suppose, because they weren’t readily advertising physical space in the paper phone book.
The website then says this:
GET YOUR FREE LISTING NOW! I’m just wondering what exactly they want me to pay $177 for. Paper phonebook space??!? YIKES! I’m glad I checked this out. I’d feel terrible if I helped perpetuate the paper phone book proliferation by supporting this serice with money.
I think we’ll just stick with our Google Local Business Center listing for right now. It’s free too and I don’t have to figure out if they’re trying to help me or hurt me by subversively trying to get $ for advertising in the paper phonebook.
The Paperless Assistant
Part of being paperless is combating the paper forces that you involuntarily receive via USPS. The most frustrating industry I’ve seen thus far as far as egregious paper mail has been the training seminars circuit, namely CareerTrack.
I called this morning to be removed from their paper mailing list (after it took them 8 weeks to remove me from their e-mailing list!), I kindly explained that my job is now paperless as well. I was met with:
“Ma’am I need to let you know that it can take up to six months to be removed from our mailer list. Our brochures are printed six months in advance.”
SIX MONTHS! That hurts me!
Pained and disappointed,
The Paperless Assistant
Over at Virtually Organized this morning there’s an amazing post called “Want to Do More With Less? Become an “Imperfectionist”” that really has me motivated this morning to be productive but more importantly has me thinking about how imperfection is a crucial part of working in a paper-less environment. Here are the key points author Debbie provides to accepting imperfection and my notes in italics relating it to my paperless office experience:
1. Strive for excellence, but work to avoid perfection.
It’s tough enough to get participation in the workplace for any initiative. When you strive for paper-less excellence the quality of the service you provide is going to increase and your work will be better as a result. Anyone who’s ever had a perfectionist manager knows that when you strive for perfection, that is when you mess up the most. My hypothesis is that it’s due to the stress of KNOWING you HAVE to be perfect.
2. Reduce unreasonably high expectations.
This is a biggie for those who are blazing the paperless trail. It’s hard not to get so wrapped up that our expectations of other people go through the roof. Be careful of being condescending to high-volume paper users about their paper consumption. Knee-jerk reaction for a lot of people when someone is being condescend is to automatically reject whatever it is they’re saying. This is not a good way to a)set an example and b)get participation in the paperless initiative for the long term.
3. Seek simplicity.
A lot of the perception I encounter about paperless is that it means things are more complicated. There are more steps to the process therefore it’s difficult. I completely disagree. Paperless puts everything in easier search parameters and I’d rather not sacrifice my productivity at work searching through filing cabinets for something I’m not even sure I know is there.
4. Ask for help.
For the paperless, help from others is another extremely crucial element for success. If you’re not vocal about your intentions, it’s hard to ask for help later if you need the help desk folks to locate an e-document gone lost somewhere on a server (for those in a smaller office and who don’t use a 3rd party for their e-document management).
5. Fake it.
In reality, my work is 90% paperless. I still use post-its for things and there’s still the element of incoming paper (mailed invoices, adverts, etc). I guess this part means “faking it” by announcing you’re paper-less even if you aren’t 100%. Today’s business environment hasn’t yet flexed it’s desire for paperless the way it will, it’s still important for you to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” If you act the part of the paperless, you eventually will play the part of paperless. Patience. 🙂
Let’s be real for a second: Sometimes there are still some things that you HAVE to print in the office that you can’t just recall from online storage in your email or on your local drive.
It’s a fact of reality still that everyone in an office still has these moments as well, even those of us that try really, really hard.
I strive for Lean in Operations at my job. I don’t like waste, it takes up space in my mind, takes up my time when it’s unnecessary and more often than not, it’s expensive to deal with at the end of the day. That’s why when I order our printing toner cartridges, our office uses refurbished toner cartridges. We use the high-volume cartridges to optimize the process as well.
So, when making printer toner cartridges and looking at the cost, think about optimization. Less time spent changing the printer toner is a productivity advantage, refurbs reduce the environmental damage that disposable things contribute to.
One note: be diligent. Some refurbishers are better than others so if ones not working, don’t be too hesitant to look elsewhere. Once you find a company that’s giving the best quality in product as well as service, you won’t have to worry any longer. Trust me, they’re out there.
The Paperless Assistant
Well, it was a no-go on the topic of me teaching a paperless work processes “lunch & learn” series however I’m happy to report I’ll still be doing “lunch & learn” tutorials on some common application functions we do here in-office. For example, I’m working now on doing “Lunch & Learn: Excel Basics”, the way I’ll work in my paperless objective is to insert it where it’s available during these sessions.
One way I will do that will be to teach people how to print to file or PDF when they’re about to print out their Excel sheet. I’ll put in a few minutes on how-to save not only to PDF, but also how to save their Excel sheets onto their personal user drive on the intranet.
In other news, this single article has given me the most valuable information I’ve come across in terms of quanifiing the cash resources used for one year of business proccesses paper for an office of 100 people. We are currently at 117-130 (depending on if you count contractors) so this really hit home:
But let’s look at the REAL COST OF PAPER (written by RCC Consulting) written back in 2001. I think this is a very imformative look at what paper costs to an office of 100 people.
“The price of paper is cheap. Right. Wrong. When you consider the real cost, paper is extremely expensive. A number of factors must be taken into account to measure the cost of paper and the savings that can be achieved by instituting a paper reduction program. These factors include copying, faxing and storage costs. Let’s look at a typical office with 100 employees to calculate the total cost of paper.
Let’s assume that this office purchases approximately 10 million sheets of paper or about 50 tons. This seems like a lot but if you look at your own purchases you will find that 10,000 sheets of paper per person is a reasonable number and could even be conservative for most offices.
The cost of this paper is relatively minor at .003 cents per sheet for a total cost of approximately $30,000.00. Now let’s look at how that paper is used. Generally this paper is used for photocopying (45%); printing (35%); faxing (5%) and mailing (5%) with 10% being wasted. Approximately 30% of this paper ends up in filing cabinets. 95% of this paper will have to be disposed at some point.
Now let’s look at the costs associated with each of these activities:
– Photocopying and printing generally costs about 3 cents per page. This price includes the capital cost of the equipment, toner, and maintenance but not necessarily the time spent waiting at the copier for your turn.
– Fax costs can vary depending on the distance the faxes are sent but in most organization fax costs can be about 40% of the monthly telephone cost. In our office let’s assume the annual telephone cost is $50,000. If fax costs are 40% this would be about $20,000 per year. Since 5% of the paper or 500,000 sheets are faxed annually this equates to 4 cents per copy for telephone costs.
– 5% of the paper or 0.5 million pages are mailed or couriered. If we assume that 10 pages are included in each envelope this would be 50,000 envelopes sent out each year. Assuming that 90% are mailed and 10% sent by courier this means 45,000 are mailed with an average postage cost of 60 cents and 5,000 sent by courier at an average cost of $10.00 per delivery. In addition the cost of each envelope is 5 cents.
– Then there’s storage costs. Let’s assume that each drawer of a filing cabinet holds 7,500 sheets of paper. One years worth of paper could be stored in 100 filing cabinets. This is calculated by taking the total paper times 30% divided by each 4 drawer cabinet which would hold 30,000 pieces of paper. Each filing cabinet takes up 3 square feet and let’s assume that office space leases for about $60.00 per square foot. This comes to a total cost of $18,000.00. Adding the cost of filing folders and tabs etc. our cost might be $20,000.00 or approximately .0067 per sheet. This assumes that the filing cabinets are cleaned out each year and replaced with new files. In most offices files generally have to be kept for seven years, however some files can be moved to archives. Since this cost is relatively small let’s assume the long-term cost of storage is $10,000.00 per year, for an average of 5 years for a total life cycle cost of $50,000.00. This gives an average cost of .0167 for the 3 million sheets in long term storage. Assume disposal costs of .001 per sheet for the total 10 million sheets.
Activity Cost per sheet No. of sheets Total Cost
Paper purchases 10,000,000 $30,000
Photocopying 4,500,000 $135,000
Printing 3,500,000 $105,000
Faxing 500,000 $20,000
Mailing 450,000 $27,000
Courier 50,000 $50,000
Short term storage 7 3,000,000 $20,000
Long term storage 3,000,000 $50,000
Disposal Costs 10,000,000 $10,000
©2001 RCC Consulting
Even though we aren’t the first Logistics company to go paperless, I’m hoping we can be in the top 5. We’ll see though.
The Paperless Assistant
I came across an article today in my RSS that really got me thinking:
“Over 50 percent of baby boomers print for archiving while less than 30 percent of young workers print.”
If that is the case, in order to reduce the burdensome money-suck known as Operations printing, wouldn’t a savvy office manager attempt to target baby boomers’ regular print jobs for process refinement? How would one go about that?
The answer seems clear to me, though I have been known to be more industrious than I’d like to admit: Teach a class about implementing paperless work processes to everyone.
I’m going to pitch it to my boss in the morning and see what he thinks. We’ve been throwing around “Lunch & Learn” ideas for the past couple of weeks, why not use the opportunity to reduce our departmental expenses while providing productivity enhancement classes as well?
The first step I’ll take will be to check with IT once I get the green light to make sure they can support people’s e-processes once they’re taught how to do it.
Secondly then I’d do an applications audit with IT to see what tools are available to use such as capability to install “print to pdf”, get to know details like size limits on user drives which would host the paperless documents, etc
I’ll stay focused on getting the OK first, though. 😉
I’ll keep you updated!
The Paperless Assistant
This week I went to a wonderful seminar called “Spring Clean Your Business” at Record Storage Systems of Charlotte, NC. Following the seminar was a facilities tour of their newly added Document Imaging Center. I have to say, I’m pretty excited to see companies like this offering paperless options to their lineup so that businesses (a LARGE user of paper products nationwide) can go paperless, even with their stored records.
Being on location at the Record Storage System’s storage space was especially exciting; It’s amazingly huge and organized. I’ve never seen so much filed PAPER! (I’ve worked at a paper distribution center for Charlotte’s largest paper, the Charlotte Observer so I can’t say it’s the most paper I’ve ever seen but it’s the most, shall we say, processed paper I’ve ever seen).
It makes sense that there’d be draw for such a company to start leasing out server storage space instead of physical storage space. Physical space is expensive and I’m sure they’re looking forward to passing on the savings they’re going to see as more businesses convert to paperless archiving.
Another thing that really pleased me was their presentation. They had something for every stage of the paperless process and offer each stage a la carte for their clients. From desktop scanners that could be installed all the way to RSS doing all of the activities, it’s good that they’re offering services across the entire process so as to make it more economical.