As cheesy as it sounds, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to reduce paper use in the office. Back in 2018, it was a running joke at my workplace that the marketing budget is going to be cut because the company needs to buy me loads of new pens, pads and sticky notes. I will admit it – my paper consumption is bad, like, really, really bad.
In my defence, I am a creative and very visual person – I need to write EVERYTHING DOWN (and I mean that – everything) in order to function at my work properly and come up with new ideas. However, it’s now 21st of Feb and I haven’t done anything yet to face my biggest weakness. So I did what I do best – I googled. And there are lots of tips out there on how to minimise paper use in the office, so I took some of them and made a plan as well as set some milestones for myself.
Reducing paper in the office Step 1: Think twice before printing
Even back at university, I liked to print everything. If I needed to read an article for a seminar – I printed it. If I wanted to proofread my essays – I printed them. And the list goes on and on, and on. You see, at the University we were given an allowance of 40£ to use it for printing academic material. However, it didn’t last me more than a term (and to print a one-sided piece of paper costs 0.05£ – so you do the maths!). It seems like my habit of printing continues even past university life – I still print a lot (although I don’t print emails nor articles to share around the office, which, in my book, is a huge plus).
From now on, I will only print things I desperately need and wouldn’t be able to survive without a physical copy of the document. So no more printing agendas to bring to the meetings and no more content printing to proofread.
And even when I am going to print, I will reuse the other side of the paper to write something to use the paper in the most efficient way possible.
Goal number 1: Maximum print only 5 documents a week. Even less, if possible.
Minimise paper in the office Step 2: Scan your documents
Printing less is one of the easiest steps in this ‘paperless office’ journey as everyone can control themselves from printing unnecessary stuff. However, the challenge comes when you receive paper into the office – what should you do with it? Scan it, of course.
I won’t lie – I am a bit biased on the document scanning step because I work for an information company and we provide document scanning for our clients. So it is much easier for me as I can ask our production team to help me deal with the inbound paper. However, below are some steps you can take to minimise your paper usage in the office:
Utilise the scanner
If you have a scanner or multifunctional printer in your office – use it! Although it will probably not be able to perform an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in order to make your documents truly digital and functional, you will reduce the paper piles in the office significantly.
If you need to ‘scan on the go’ – use your phone.
Apps such as TinnyScanner (iOS; Android) or many others are a great way to digitise your paper receipts, documents or notes. TinnyScanner even allows you to bulk documents into one PDF and send them as one email attachment! However, they usually do not provide the best quality of digital document nor those apps allow you to index the information in the document. This becomes a problem when you try to search for a specific document and can’t find it. Another thing to consider – your phone’s storage space as newly scanned PDFs can take (and you won’t be able to use it for your Holiday pics 😉 ).
Goal number 2.1: Dedicate some time to scan all my notes.
Goal number 2.2: Scan everything I receive in the post on the day I got the document.
Reduce paper in the office Step 3: Stop writing on paper
This one is the hardest step for me – because I like writing on paper. My ideas flow much easier when I write them down. Even my sentences sound much nicer when I put words on the paper. However, I completely understand that I will never achieve great results in trying to reduce paper piles in the office when I use paper as the main resource to keep my mind organised.
The ideal situation is, of course, just to quit using paper and go ‘cold turkey’. However, I know it is near impossible. So my plan is, instead of using scrap paper, sticky notes and whatever else is lying around on my desk to write on it, I am going to allow myself writing in one notebook. So when I am stuck and desperately need to write something down to make my ideas flow, I am able to do so.
I think this is going to work as I have a backup plan when I desperately need to write something down. Also, my workflow should be more productive as I won’t need to spend n-amount of hours to look for ideas and notes I previously wrote down.
Goal number 3: Use only one notebook to write everything that I need
Minimising paper in the office Step 4: Utilise the technology
So the excessive printing has stopped, the documents are digitised as soon as they hit their office and the production of new paper documents is minimal. What’s next? The challenge becomes to proactively change the habit of how you work. And it is easier said than done.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of apps, software and WEB applications which allow to completely replace paper in the office. All I (and everyone else, who is thinking about reducing paper usage in the office) can do is just start using them. Only by trial and error, I can eliminate what works for me and what doesn’t. Right now, I will try to stick to the following applications.
This one is obvious but somehow I’ve never utilised it properly. I think it is a great tool to take notes while you are in the meeting as it allows to share the document with your team very easily. Also, the document can be easily accessed on OneDrive. This allows me to see information not only from my work computer but from other devices too. So the idea of ‘notes on the go’, without the need to carry piles of paper sounds amazing.
I like sticky notes as they are colourful, help me visualise and I can write quick notes or ideas on them. However, something needs to change about using too many sticky notes as they are not the most paper-free way to go. Since I am using a Mac, I came across a built-in app called ‘Stickies’. I am pretty sure Windows system has an alternative too. I like the idea of writing quick notes on ‘Stickies’ on my computer. It still gives the feel of visualising your ideas but doesn’t require to use more paper.
A way to manage your time
I liked to plan my day/week by writing on sticky notes and sticking those on the wall near me. This way, I was able to plan my day-to-day activities very easily and just stick them all on the wall. However, I will admit – it ‘s probably the least effective and very paper-heavy way to plan my time. So yesterday I was on a hunt to find a way of how to plan my activities. There are loads of project management applications but I liked the feel of Asana. It seems very cool and if you just want to use it as your day-to-day planner without too many functions – it is completely free. I think there are many more time management/project management applications so shop around and see what suits you best!
Goal number 4: Start using available technology to make my office life really digital.
Let’s be honest – I don’t expect to completely stop using paper but hopefully, by following these little steps, I will reduce how much paper I use. I’m going to follow these steps for a month and see if my habits change at all. Hopefully, I will report back in a month and share my amazing ‘paperless life’ results.
Do you have any techniques on how you reduce paper in the office? Please share in the comments – I can’t wait to try them out!
Dajon’s document scanning services can help your organisation (or you, personally!) to minimise paper piles in the office. Give one of our consultants a call on 020 77 32 32 23 or contact us for a FREE document scanning consultation!