There is a stack of papers on my desk in need of filing (review, signatures, etc). Today, as I prepared to tackle the mundane job of sorting through all the paper, I wondered what became of the paperless office that new technology was supposed to enable.
I’m practical. I don’t think we are going to ever do away with paper entirely. But as I looked at the stack, I thought there had to be a better way to deal with all this information. I decided to go through the paper and see how much of it could actually be handled better in a “paperless” way. What follows is a list of my notes on how I can make my life more paperless:
- Blockbuster Online DVD – While this isn’t necessarily just
paper, it comes in with my mail. I could go with a service like
www.movielink.com, but they don’t support OS X. I understand Apple
might start a service where you can buy movies through iTunes in the
near future. This still would benefit me because I want to rent movies,
not buy them. So right now, there isn’t really any good way to make
this “paperless”. (Yes there is Bit torrent, but I’m looking for legal
- Charitable Giving Receipt – Once again there isn’t
anything currently to make this paperless. It would be nice if there
was a standard for “electronic receipts” that could be used for stuff
like this. I suppose organizations could start emailing PDF’s, but
most charities send their receipts as a way to get your attention in
hopes that you will remember them next month. I don’t think this is
something that can be changed in the near future.
- Payment Check From Google – This is something I can
change. Google offers direct deposit, but I haven’t signed up for it
yet. So, there is one piece of paper I can eliminate.
- Bank Statement – This item represents the real reason the
world hasn’t gone paperless. My bank has electronic statements, but I
haven’t signed up for them because I prefer having a physical copy to
file. However, an impending move out of the country may cause me to
- Comcast Bill – My Comcast charges are paid automatically
with my credit card. In the “Payment Due” section of the bill, it just
says AUTOPAY. Unlike my bank statement, I’d be fine not receiving
this. The difference is that if Comcast ever called to say I hadn’t
paid, I would rely on my credit card bill as proof. My credit card
company acts as a third party that I could refer to in a dispute. With
my bank, I don’t have a third party that knows the details of all my
transactions with them. Maybe banks could get more people to use
paperless statements if they used a third party “statement” company.
- Other Mail – Most of my other mail could be handled by a company like www.paperlesspobox.com
where you have all your mail sent to their address and they scan it in
for you. Before I’d ever use a service like this, it would need to
offer full text indexing and the ability to archive items indefinitely.
Our society is a long way from really being paperless, but there are
definitely some things I can do to have less paper on my desk. Some of
it just comes down to the fact that I’m not completely comfortable
going with paper copies of things like bank statements.
However, on the positive side of things, I’ve drastically reduced the
amount of paper that I personally generate. With Blockbuster Online as
the sole exception, I do not regularly mail out anything. My checks
are all sent electronically and most of them are scheduled
automatically. My correspondence is done through email. So, maybe the
paperless office is starting to arrive in a very gradual sort of way.