The quest to go paperless (Part 2): your process

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The quest to go paperless (Part 2): your process

Once you've bought your scanner, what then? Anthony Caruana explains his method for getting rid of piles of paper from his desk.

There's more to going paperless than simply buying a scanner. Lots of important documents that you'll want to file may already come to you or be available electronically.

For example, many banks and other financial institutions make statements available online. And many retailers send receipts via email.

Unless you have simple processes, you can end up with important documents being scattered across multiple systems. That was one of the challenges we wanted to overcome. That meant finding a solution that let us pull together documents from multiple sources easily so they can be easily filed and stored.

That means that scanning is only part of the challenge when it comes to going paperless. We needed a way to get documents that are already electronically stored into our filing system. That brought us to Evernote as it has the capacity to receive content via email and we can also add documents via drag and drop.

We're not going to focus on Evernote at this point - we'll discuss specific applications we're using in the final instalment of this series. Our focus will be on what we used to do when it came to filing and what we're doing now.

Our old process looked simple. Each financial year, we'd buy a new lever arch binder and pack of dividers. When a new piece of paper arrived, we'd simply punch holes in it and place it in the binder. By the end of the year we'd have a folder fill of paper to store away.

Receipts would be stuffed into a plastic pocket that would be stashed away with the folder until the end of the financial year when my accountant would check that I'd been storing all the important scraps of paper the ATO might be interested in.

The trouble is - it sounds simple but is actually reasonably labour intensive and means I need to set space aside for storing documents.

The new process sounds more complex but is easier to execute and greatly reduces the clutter in the office.

Any receipts and statements I receive via email are forwarded straight to Evernote. Evernote creates a personalised address for every user so you can forward content to your online library. I've added an entry to my address book called "Evernote Uploads" so I don’t have to remember the complex address Evernote has assigned to me.

You'll have to manually file things in Evernote later but that takes a second or two once you've created notebooks for all your main document types. Think of notebooks as being like the dividers in your folder.

Evernote lets you group notebooks so you can establish a hierarchy. So, in my Business Documents stack I've created notebooks for Receipts, Bank Statements and Business Documents (such as insurance and business registration papers). I also have notebooks for documents relating to my domestic papers.

Incoming pieces of paper such as letters, receipts and statements are scanned with the Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i. The accompanying software sends the scans straight to Evernote.

While I'm travelling I use my smartphone's camera to capture receipts straight into Evernote so I don’t have to scan them when I get home.

The Australian Tax Office has ruled that it is acceptable to retain electronic versions of documents as a record as long as they are not altered or manipulated once stored; are retained for the statutory period of five years; and are capable of being retrieved and read at all times by Tax Office staff.

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