Time was when you had a large desk – a messy one at that. You printed papers or had thick files that sat in almirahs. You waded through them to find the stuff you wanted, and they cut more trees so you could do this.
Think again now. From a 6 foot by 2 table to a trendy iPad connected to the Internet (cloud, as they say now), the office has come a long way in a journey that involves less and less paper — if only you can apply your mind to do it that way. Here’s what you need to get there.
1 A Good Camera: No, you don’t even have to buy a cool shooting device or an expensive DSLR. A camera phone will do, thank you. Use it now, not for “selfies” to upload on Facebook but to click a visiting card, an invoice, a bill or even a handwritten note. The new camera phones have strong picture resolution to catch most of the text details. There, you have eliminated lots of paper – and more important, storage that occupies real estate.
2 A Document Scanner: If your camera is not up to clicking the document you want to store – let us say it is a huge certificate or legal document – you can use a good scanner. You can consider buying the Fujitsu Snap Scan or my favourite, the Neat Connect. These scanners have slots built in for receipts, papers and visiting cards, so that you can scan them at a go, and they can scan both sides at one time. Sadly both are not available in India, and cost you about $500 (about R 30,000), plus shipping and taxes. The best part is you can link these scan devices to the cloud.
A cheaper alternative is HP’s all-in-one multifunction printers that come now with a scanner that needs no separate PC link. You can simply scan to your phone or tablet – and that too wirelessly. No hassles of booting or testing the scan quality. At `7,600, the HP3545 offers a great starting point in the journey to a paperless office.
3 Evernote or Microsoft One Note: Though I am a big Evernote user, Microsoft One Note just went free last week — and it offers similar features. These electronic note apps (that you can download) can take the images you clicked or scanned. The photo can now also get comments and tags to help you sort and track them as per need. You can also create folders to make a collection of all the documents related. Since the documents are now pictures, Evernote and One Note will also do optical character recognition for you and help you make these searchable – just like you Google something on the Net. You can use tags such as bill, lunch, receipt or name of the person associated with a document. You are, well, sorted now. Evernote and One Note also allow you to share your notes with auditors or accountants.
4. Cloud Storage: Parking space on the Net can be very useful. Evernote and Microsoft One Note will also back up your data, but since your data is now in digital format, you can always store these images on Dropbox.com or Box.net, or simply your Google Drive.
Postscript: You are ready now for a paperless office culture, but remember, there is more to this – because you have to change your behavioural pattern to make things easier in the long run. This is what we call “life hacking” – the business of building your habits.
Try and make sure you ask for every paper you get in electronic form, be it your utility bill or a shopping mall receipt. And yes, do it for your credit card and bank statements to complete the circle.
(The writer is a technology expert who calls himself the Big Geek)