Paperless Office – A ‘How To’ Guide

Piled up note books
If your desk is looking a mess and your archives are over run with folders - it's time to make a change!

A few years ago I started my own business, within about three days my office was resembled a paper castle. For months I tried to keep things in order with well labelled folders and organised note pads, but it didn’t work. I had to move to a system that gave me a paperless office.

I needed a system that would allow me to:

  • Not lose any important information
  • Ensure all the important stuff didn’t get lost.
  • Keep my desk clear (tidy office, tidy mind!)

and most importantly,

  • Was simple to implement.

I’m the first to admit I am disorganised, if it isn’t simple I don’t do it!

I declared to everyone around me I was going to have a paperless office. They laughed, in fact they didn’t stop laughing.

‘You can’t do it, it’s impossible to run a business with no paper records’.

Here is how I proved them wrong:

Creating a Paperless Office – A Brief Guide

For and efficient paperless office, you will need:

  1. Buy or use a good scanner – This is the key to a hassle free paperless office.  You need a scanner that can quickly copy, good quality images.

Look for a scanner that has:

Develop ineo photocopier
I didn’t have to buy any new tech to go paperless, our current photocopier had everything needed.
  • A document feeder – Having to place individual items on a flat bed scanner is time consuming, and annoying. Look at what is in your paper pile now, think how long it would take to scan each individual item. Automatic fed scanners make it quick and easy!
  • A scanner with file location options – You need a scanner that will quickly allow you scan files to a specific location. We have different folders for invoices, delivery notes and other items(more on this later).
  • Duplex Scanning – Really important for doubled sided documents.

2. A Google Drive (or another cloud based storage system) – This will make your documents easily accessible.

3. A Receipt Bank account – This will keep track of your invoices as you scan them. Receipt bank works with most accounting software and not only gets invoice out of your way, but also processes them for you! Going paperless doesnt just keep things organised and help clear your archives – it also makes lots of regular office tasks redundant.

A screen shot of receipt bank. A paperless office essential
This site freed up hours of time for me. It’s a ‘Paperless Office’ essential!

Get a Good Paperless Office System in Place!

The key to a paperless office, especially if you need other staff to adopt it, is to make it easier and more efficient than the current process. If it seems to difficult it won’t be adopted!

An Example System

This is the system I used day to day. It does work, paper doesnt sit on my desk for long!

Documents are grouped into three sections:

  1. Invoices
  2. Delivery Notes
  3. Everything Else

Each sections has its own folder, ‘invoices’, ‘delivery notes’ and ‘mailbox’. They are organised as follows:

Invoices – Scanned straight into a dropbox file, they are then picked up by Reciept Bank automatically. Once they reach Reiept Bank, they are read and processed into a file that can be sent to most accountancy packages. This means no manual imputing of invoice figures.

Delivery Notes – Scanned into a google drive folder and left there unless required. As they are scanned immediately and dated by the computer – it generally makes goods inwards processing simpler.

Mailbox – Everything else goes in here. Ready to be organised into separate folders if you really need to! Often they don’t need organising, because they are dated and would have just sat on your desk until being thrown in the bin anyway.

Keep the system simple – frequent documents that can be grouped should be scanned into there own folder. Things that are difficult to group can go into the mailbox, organised later if you need to.

Tip: Scan documents as PDF file types. OCR software can read this and make it searchable. This means you don’t need to spend hours trying to organise documents into different folders.

Remeber that a ‘Paperless Office’ doesn’t mean you will never use paper or infact have it on your desk. The aim is to minimise paper and to move all your records onto a digital system.

I often get asked about tax inspections – in the UK it is legal to keep invoices in a digital format instead of paper as long as they are easily accessible for an inspection (this is the same for keeping paper records).

People joke with me because i frequently say ‘Scan it and Bin it’, but once you get into the swing of things – it’s liberating!

If you this post interested you, you may like finding out how Receipt Bank revolutionised my office!


1 Comment on Paperless Office – A ‘How To’ Guide

  1. As someone who has struggled both with being a totally disorganized person and an entrepreneur, I couldn’t agree with your post any more. An efficient and easy to use paperless office system makes life SO much easier. Your basic approach is a good place to start and can be expanded from there.

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