Going Paperless with Evernote

My office was a total mess.  I had two file cabinets full of papers that I may or may not ever need one day.  I’m not a pack rat when it comes to documents, but if there’s a chance I might need it, it got filed.  Filing papers takes a few minutes, so it was not uncommon for me to toss a stack of incoming mail on my desk.  You know, I’ll get back to it later in the day or the following day.  Instead, I toss another stack on top of it.  This only makes it harder to sit down and work through the queued mail.

I began migrating from local to cloud-based storage a few months ago.  I’ve managed to begin storing my documents, photos, etc. on DropBox and Google Drive and have a fairly solid method in place.  I’ve only held back with the more sensitive documents, such as those related to financial accounts or income tax returns, and only because I haven’t been able to fully trust storing them in the cloud.  With DropBox’s encrypted folders, I’m considering moving that content into the cloud as well, meaning that nothing important is stored only locally.

But what to do about the ongoing accumulation of paper-based records?

I’d been using Evernote for a while to store running and triathlon articles that were of interest to me from a coaching perspective.  I’d even found small uses for it recently, such as storing a copy of the dogs’ rabies vaccination records for easy access.  Recently I’ve been reading more and more articles about going paperless with Evernote and decided it was time to give it a try.

We have an all-in-one printer/scanner that will auto-feed up to 35 pages at a time.  Eventually, I’d like to get a smaller one that stands upright (smaller footprint) and will duplex-scan so two-sided documents get scanned as they feed.  I’ve been looking at the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500, but that’s about a $500 investment.  Unless my business picks up considerably, I just don’t have scanning needs that make my current scanner a limiting factor.

Ultimately, I ended up with a couple of physical files left.  I kept my employment file from when I worked at the Sheriff’s Office.  I kept some legal documents that I have to keep in paper format, such as house deed, car titles, etc.  Those actually went into the fireproof safe, so technically they were cleared out of the file cabinet.

That’s really about it.

A couple of suggestions about going paperless with Evernote:

  • Throw out anything you know you don’t need.  Scan everything else.  A digital copy is safer than a physical copy, provided it’s stored in a smart manner.  More about that in a second.
  • Once you’ve scanned the items, put them in directories/folders that correspond to the top-level folder you had them filed in when they were in your filing cabinet.  Don’t get too specific.  If you had a “Honda Accord” folder and a “Toyota Yaris” folder in a hanging folder called “Vehicles”, put everything in a “Vehicles” folder on your computer.  You can use tagging to specify the actual vehicle in Evernote.
  • Create an import folder with the Evernote application on your computer.  This will allow you to easily drag and drop scanned documents into Evernote from your Documents folder on your computer.  You’ll use this a lot while you’re initially processing the paper in your office.
  • Once you’ve scanned all your documents, you’re ready to start tagging them so that you’ll be able to find them easily later without having to navigate to their folder.  Go heavy on the tags, you can always delete them later if you decide they aren’t useful.
  • If you have a premium Evernote account, your scanned PDF documents will be indexed and searchable, so you don’t need to create tags of the content, just descriptors of the note/document.

You can get Evernote for free here.

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