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Document Spring Cleaning: How to Finally Get Organized

Spring is here, and it’s time to clean. But just because you’ve vacuumed the carpets and emptied the trash doesn’t mean you’re finished.

No, you’re not done until everything is tidy. And that includes your home or office’s paper records. With one scanner and a computer, you can revolutionize the way your small business runs or your method for taking care of life’s everyday tasks.

Maybe you’ve been putting it off for a while now. Watching the copies of bills, bank statements, invoices and receipts pile up for months or even years. And every day you don’t start it, the more daunting a task it becomes.

But today’s the day. This guide can help you on your way to becoming a little more paperless. You’ll finally have room on your desk for your mouse pad again.

1)    Enroll in Paperless Billing: First, head to the websites of as many of your utility providers, cable services and whoever else sends you bills to enroll in paperless billing. You already get enough junk in your mailbox every day. Ditch the archaic paper bills. It’s usually a quick process; companies actually want you to do it and promote it accordingly on their websites.

2)    Make Use of Online Banking: Have access to online banking? It’s time to utilize that handy online bill pay your bank provides. Free yourself from the pesky processing fees utility providers often place on online and phone payments and automate the whole process, so you never pay a late charge again.

3)    Get Yourself a Scanner: Got a scanner? If not, check these out. You’re going to need one. If you have mountains of paper, you might want to consider an ADF scanner. If you have only molehills of documents, a sheetfed scanner will probably get the job done for you.

Either way, a scanner is a great investment for the long term. It’s tough to completely stop the flow of incoming paper, and you may need to scan random files in the future. Plus, you can always scan old photos and business cards you wish to keep.

4)    Find a Shredder: Another thing you might want to have is a good shredder. Some of what you have lying around is probably sensitive information, i.e. bank statements, credit card bills, love letters from an old flame, etc. So after you digitize and store it securely, there’s no point in having a paper copy for anyone to discover. (That is, after you’ve backed it up.)

5)    Make a Plan: Be sure to have directories and folders set up for appropriate storage. Know where it’s all going, before you begin. Or consider document management software to make organization even easier. We offer Presto! PageManager 9 and BizCard 6.

If you would like to scan to Evernote or Google Docs, there are ways to do that as well. (Click either link to learn how.) Again, determine this all beforehand. It’ll make your job easier.

6)    Should It Stay or Should It Go?: Take this opportunity to re-assess your current document situation. Choose what you want to scan carefully. Don’t just scan every scrap of paper you have. If you don’t need it, don’t scan it.

But when in doubt, keep it. Some official business documents need to be kept for a minimum of six years. Some even require ten. Some need to be kept forever. Here’s a guide.

7)    Scan!: Scanning time. If you have an ADF model, you can load many documents at once and set a path for them to take. If you’re using AmbirScan, refer to this post for instructions on ADF workflow.

If you’re using an Ambir sheetfed model, you will be able to utilize the AutoContinue function, which allows you to continuously scan without the program prompting you between sheets. It’ll place each document in the same PDF file. This is especially helpful for scanning packets of information.

8)    Keep an Extra: Back everything up. Whether it’s onto an external hard drive, to the cloud or even to a memory stick, be sure you have at least two digital copies of everything. It’s too easy to accidentally hit the delete key.

If you’re scanning for your business, be sure to go over the scanning process and the expectations for the future with any other. Living and working digitally is an ongoing process, but with just a little bit of coordination, it can streamline any small business’s document workflow.

9)    Stick with it: Scanning can be hard work. But if you follow the plan you’ve set up beforehand, you’ll start to see a whole new way of working and living coming together in front of your very eyes. Everything in it’s rightful place, just a click or two away.

Some other tips:

  • Scan at a maximum of 300 dpi for increased speed
  • If you want to get rid of stored data, erasing it won’t always do the trick. The hard disk must be destroyed.
  • If you’re using Liquid Paper to protect information, be sure it’s dry before scanning.
  • Remove your staples!
  • If you scan photos or other physically sensitive documents, use protective sleeves.
  • If your scans are blurry, streaky or completely nonexistent, refer to our post on calibration.