Going Paperless

(Image courtesy: http://www.amalaserline.com/)

Thanks to a Twitter conversation between myself, and the Pams, @pammoran and @pamelamcleod, I’m thinking about the value of going paperless in my job and perhaps in other areas of my life. I have only just begun in this cause and while the environmental aspect of a paperless life is laudable, the organizational piece is where the value really lies.

Why paperless?

1. Yes, it saves paper. New Hampshire is still 90% forested, so we’re probably not in danger of killing that natural resource but the cost of paper can be significant over time. I approve enough paper purchases for the school…now if I can get my staff to stop printing emails.

2. I don’t lose anything. I consider myself relatively organized, but if I can’t get my hands on that elusive paper, I’m pretty ineffective.

3. It increases my productivity. Everything is in one place and accessible quickly. Paperless assumes the trend of powerful searching as evident in Mac’s spotlight, Window 7’s new features, and Google’s search. We’re tagging files more instead of throwing items in folders.

How am I paperless?

  • I have been convincing those I work with to send me items digitally as much as possible. Very little comes over in paper except perhaps resumes, School Board packets, and timecards.
  • I’ve been helped by the advent of software such as My Learning Plan which digitally keeps track of employee  leave and professional development and BudgetSense our district financial system. Once upon a time, I would sign reams of leave forms and budget requests. Now, I do such little handwriting that my signature is all I write. In fact, as a natural result, my handwriting is now labored and messy. There’s another blog post idea.
  • I’ve begun to use Evernote as a clever productivity tool to capture smaller pieces of paper. (Going on a spring conference to ISTE or ASCD? Keep track of your receipts that way.) I can take a picture on my Droid and access it on my iPod Touch as well as the Mac Evernote client.
  • The office copy machine in my school has been configured by our crack IT department to easily scan an item and place it into my administrative assistant’s folder on our school server. She can then easily email a PDF version to me. I keep a paper folder for  items to be scanned.
  • Google Docs is beginning to be part of my work flow. This doesn’t replace paper among those who are digitally based, but it can be a digital alternative for many. This year our district had our Title 1 review from the Department of Education with the usual accompanying paperwork. Much of the writing was done on two Google Docs in collaboration with a half dozen people. We easily would have been trading hard copies without that tool.
  • Of course, underlying all of this is  backup. I have a separate hard drive connected via USB and I use the imitable Time Machine Mac backup daily. Most IT experts will say that there needs to be three sources for your data, your computer’s hard drive, your backup hard drive, and online backup. The thought is that if you have fire or water damage, your computer and backup are next door to each other and might both fail. One online backup system is Mozy which you can have for a monthly charge.

How are you paperless?

7 comments Add yours
  1. Bill, can you address your district’s procedures for non-PD leave requests (vacation, sick, etc.), and purchase orders? Those are the areas where we are still using tons of paper. We also use MyLearningPlan and that has helped a great deal with the PD-related paperwork.

    Do all dept heads have direct access to your financial system – do they enter their own POs, or so secretaries input the POs into the system from paper copies? What about teachers?

    I think a lot about teachers’ use of paper, as well – now that I have a Kindergartener, I process about 5-20 pieces of paper a week at home. I would like to lead the teachers in some instruction about how to email things home to parents who prefer email notifications.

    I am also an Evernote user – I think you were the person who recommended it to me! I love the sync capability for away-from-my-desk notes and use it on my netbook and iPod Touch.

    We have been trying for years to get a scanner/archiving system in our district – I love these systems! With scanners at key points in the buildings, EVERY piece of paper is scanned and tagged with keywords. The scanners do OCR, and then the server automatically categorizes the digital document, compresses it, and stores it permanently in an enterprise database. When files are needed from X years ago – no more digging through file boxes for the document.

  2. I too am trying to go paperless. I have been using my Scansnap scanner to scan just about everything to evernote. Our district does alot administratively thru google docs and our copy machined are also set up to scan to email or any where you want to put something

  3. Thanks for this post. I am wrestling with the very same thing. I am going to try to make better use of Evernote and will look into the idea of the scanners. My school is just about to receive one of the new copier/printer/scanner/fax machines. Hopefully this will allow me to do this.

    Topher.

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