While many home office professionals are taking steps to eliminate or at least reduce the endless streams of paper flowing in and out of their offices, others still face piles of paper, stacks of mail and file cabinets too stuffed to open. By making a few changes in the way you handle information-whether paper-based or electronic-you can reduce the amount of paper in your office.
- When a piece of paper crosses your desk, make a decision about it immediately, rather than stack it on top of or alongside other papers. Before you decide to keep a piece of paper, make sure it's information you need to keep for future reference rather than something that you need "just in case." If you keep something, yet can't find it, it's of no value to you.
- Scan documents into your computer, then toss the paper versions. But be careful not to keep so much extraneous information on your hard drive that you get bogged down searching for the documents you need. It's easier to store scanned reference information (documents you may need at a later date) on disks or other types of external tape drives. Make it easy to find these documents later by storing them by category. For example, store all publicity documents on one Zip disk and marketing information on another.
- Use your computer to send and receive faxes. When you receive a fax, file it on your hard drive, a disk or other external tape drive. When you fax a document not already on your hard drive, simply scan the information into your computer and fax it. If you won't refer to the faxed information again, dump it.
- Instead of typing, printing, stuffing and mailing another letter, use e-mail. You'll spend less time composing the message, and the recipient can respond quickly and easily (plus your postage bills will go down). Take the time to clear out old e-mail messages you won't refer to again, and avoid the temptation to print out e-mail messages. Keep important messages stored electronically.
- Before you renew another magazine subscription, find out whether the publication is available online or on a CD. When you need to refer to an article, you'll save time by being able to search your computer or CDs for an article stored by name, rather than pouring over past paper issues looking for the same article. In addition, you'll no longer waste valuable space in your office storing stacks of magazines.
Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of HomeOfficeLife.com and the author of Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Blakely Press) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press).
Brother home office expert Lisa Kanarek advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and writes the blog Working Naked. She is the author of several books, including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life.