Fear of Paperless Failure

August 6, 2009 at 3:25 pm (Helpfulness, How-To, office, paperless)

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.


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Love for Unclutterer

July 14, 2009 at 6:13 pm (Helpfulness, How-To, office, paperless)

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:


or 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

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De-motivating reading du jour

July 9, 2009 at 7:19 pm (office, paperless, Rant)

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.

Michael Morton from Marketing Monster (rss)


Absolutely!  I use a paper calendar.  I just could not give up being able to see everything at a glance!

Ariane Benefit from Neat & Simple Living (rss)


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.

Lea Woodward from Location Independent Living (rss)


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!


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Be careful what you order

June 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm (Helpfulness, Nudge, office, paperless, Rant)

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

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