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4 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Go Paperless

Do I need a scanner? -- and other good questions to ask

We asked Floyd, one of our Paperitis Team members, to share what he feels are the 4 most important questions to ask yourself before you go paperless.

We think he picked 4 excellent questions.

IGotTheIdea

Here are Floyd's 4 questions and answers:

To go paperless or not to go paperless isn't really the question anymore (all apologies to Shakespeare aside). No, going paperless just makes sense, especially now that it's so easy. But there are some questions that you need to consider carefully before you jump in.

Here are my top four:

Question #1: Do I Need a Scanner?

Oy, we're starting with the one question we dislike the most... but everyone asks it, and you really should think about it before heading out and dropping hundreds (or thousands) of bucks on office equipment.

If you've been around this site or been reading our newsletters for a while, you probably know our answer to this question. But for you neophytes, here it is: No.

At some point you may want to pick up a scanner to digitize your existing paper documents, but then again, you probably will not.

A scanner isn't really necessary unless you want to divest yourself of every scrap of paper in your life. That may be an enviable goal, but it's neither necessary nor especially practical -- if for no other reason than that people will continue to shove paper at you, like it or not.

Plus, if you haven't already, you should read our article: "The Single Biggest Mistake Almost Everyone Makes When They Decide to Go Paperless - And How to Easily Avoid It" for our more detailed answer to this question.

Question #2: How Far Should I Go?

This is a hard one to answer, not least because it doesn't make sense for anyone to dictate a specific level of paperlessness for you. It's a matter of adapting to the changing times and taking advantage of new technology -- not executive decree.

Consider your goals, and then think about what you're capable of. Even if you'd like to achieve almost 100% paperlessness in some rosy future, it's best to start smaller.

Can you handle going 5% or 10% paperless? Try it, and see what the road looks like from that vantage point.

In other words, take baby steps.

You can keep moving forward, at your own pace, until it's comfortable to stop.

For most people, we find that the ultimate goal is around 90% to 95% paperless. But again, don't feel you have to do this in one fell swoop. As we said, take baby steps.

Question #3: Which File Formats Should I Adopt?

Actually, that's a simple question. Your system should handle every file format you need. :-)

Right now, the simplest, most universal digital file formats appear to be TXT and PDF for documents, and JPG and GIF for graphics. As you proceed paperless into the future you may need more digital file formats. But you'll most likely want to include at least these.

However, we prefer a system that lets us also store audio files, videos, web page clips, Microsoft Office docs, etc.

You should make sure you can EASILY get every document in and out of your system. Then, if you need to change systems in the future (for whatever reason), you aren't locked in.

That's why we use the Premium version of Evernote. You can learn more here.

Question #4: What Can I Start Doing Right Away?

It's astonishingly easy to get started. Among other things, you can cut off nearly all your junk mail, convert to paperless statements and payments for your bills, sign up for online document storage services, start reading books, papers, and magazines on an iPad... the list goes on.

We have lots of helpful tips and advice for you -- as well as funny cartoons -- so stay tuned. :-)