My Top Strategies for Creating a Paperless Office - Christine Kane

Paperless OfficeKeeping your work-space clutter free is critical to the flow of energy and money. According to the ancient Chinese science of feng shui, clutter is stagnant and confusing energy that constantly drains you.

And if we’re totally honest, most paper piles are a “gotta get to this” physical representation of a to-do list. Am I right?

So how do we get out from under all that paper, and reduce the clutter that can drain our precious energy (and fill up our purses, pockets and drawers)?

I’ve been mostly paperless for over two years now. I’ve discovered that even though there are dozens of fabulous tech tools for a paperless office, it’s your habits and processes that must shift so you can actually leverage those tools! (I teach two tracks to business. One is STRATEGY. And the other is SOUL…the deeper self-work, often dismissed as woowoo. But, as evidenced here, it’s a key piece of any success!)

Here are my top how-to’s to keep your office (and habits) as close to paperless zen as possible:

1) Eliminate the paper before it follows you home like a lost puppy.

As business owners, we collect paper flotsam and jetsam all day. Think receipts, meeting notes, business cards, the fabulous quote you scribbled on a napkin.

But consider this: Many of us also have a phone and/or tablet that also follows wherever we go.

See, this is why Evernote makes people say that if Evernote were a human, they’d sleep with it. (Okay, maybe that’s just me.)   Evernote lets you capture all kinds of documents, photos – even a recording of that quote you loved! – and tag and upload them on the fly. More specific solutions include QuickBooks for bills and receipts, and ToDoist for eliminating hand-written task lists.

The point here isn’t to list every available app – but to encourage you to form the habit of Pre-Emptive Paper Evasion.

Once you’ve stowed that piece of paper in your purse, briefcase or pocket with the silent I’ll-deal-with-this-later promise to yourself, you’ve already started the cycle of accumulation.

The goal is to touch a document no more than once, scan and organize it into magic electronic world, before it velcroes itself to other docs and suddenly you have piles of paper – which aren’t nearly as cute as puppy ones.

(Health tip: Those magnetic receipts you get? The ones floating all over your purse? They are covered with BPA and toxic to you. Take photos of these and leave them at the table and consider it a health practice!)

2) Reclaim your mailbox.

I get almost no junk mail in my box anymore. That’s because I got proactive about my incoming mail.

You can get pissed at junk mail. But you can also take responsibility for setting boundaries around your time, attention, and yes – your mailbox.

You can easily reduce the most commonly mailed items:

  • Set up your invoices and bank statements to arrive electronically.
  • For more specific mailing lists, contact the sender and asking to be taken off their direct mail list. (Years ago, I assigned this on-going task to my assistant. It worked wonders.)

3) Collaborate, without the paper trail.

Whether you’re a solopreneur or have a staff of 20, you’re constantly exchanging information with co-conspirators: a team member, virtual assistant or a client…

Make it a priority to share files without making a trip to the printer.

  • Both Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365 offer “interactive document editing features,” fancy-speak for “share and collaborate.” Google Docs lets more than one person simultaneously edit a document, as well as chat and comment about it.
  • Basecamp is what we use at Uplevel World Headquarters. And many small businesses swear by Asana. And of course, there’s everyone’s new fave: Slack. Each of these takes collaboration out of the email back-and-forth rut.
  • For moving and storing bigger files, easy-peasy solutions include Dropbox and Hightail. Dropbox allows you to create group folders, so you can quickly share docs with the right peeps.
  • To eliminate paper agreements, Adobe Document Cloud is one of the most popular online contract signature solutions. Proposify offers a super-interactive way to deliver proposals to your clients, allowing you to track when recipients open the proposal and on which pages they spend the most time, and allowing clients to comment, accept or reject, and sign it.


But, Christine, what if I LOVE paper and pens and writing by hand?

Hey, I get it! We all know that writing and sketching activates different parts of the brain and improves creativity, attention spans and memory

So I’m not saying to toss out your journals. I still love my moleskins.

AND I’ve also found a few fun hybrids that get me off the paper train: in Bamboo Paper, you can doodle and hand-write notes and lists to your heart’s content – right into your phone or iPad. I also use Noteshelf for taking notes at masterminds and events.

So there you have it, my top ways to keep the paper off your desk and out of your clean, uncluttered, energy-flowing, revenue-attracting office space!

What’s your favorite paperless tip? Let me know in the comments below!

  • Darin Johnson

    One other resource I am using is something called Neat from a company called It is a Scaner for your Business card, receipts and documents. A way to eliminate paper and de-clutter. I believe it works with Evernote and definitely Quick Books Accounting Software.

  • Sandra James

    Thanks for this great article. You are such a positive teacher. Love it! Some of your readers may also find this article helpful for 5 Habits to Organize and Simplify Life.

  • LL

    Thanks for this, Christine! A sister to this post would be how to clean out the email inbox and get it to ‘zero’ (empty). One trick is to use Google Hangouts (or the equivalent) instead of email – for quick questions to colleagues. It works. Minimizes ‘filing’ of mails or deleting.

  • Marion

    I discovered the app PaperKarma a few years ago. It’s a free app that allows you to simply take a picture of junk mail with your phone showing your address and the name of the publication/return address; send it to PaperKarma; and they contact the company and have your name removed for you. All free. 90% of my junk mail has disappeared!

  • Andrea

    I just adore your humour! Love, Andrea

  • Kimberly

    Fujitsu scansnap. Best scanner ever, hands down. Not the cheapest but the best. No jams. Fast.

  • Jodi Fitzpatrick

    Microsoft’s One Note is somewhat like Evernote, but I’m comfortable in the Microsoft ecosystem and I like its binder structure. I cache everything from recipes to quotes to travel documents. I’ve also started using it for building projects. I can load plans, permits, job notes and all the specifications and installation manuals, then share the binder with my contractors, so they can refer to things right in the field in their phones. I received some resistance at first, but we’re learning what a great tool it is for construction and my husband’s flooring company (3-5 million gross annually) is planning to adopt it.

  • Diotima Mantineia

    Just added this post to my “Share with clients” notebook in Evernote. (No, it’s not just you) 🙂

  • mcb

    Maybe I’m late to the paperless game but we used to print documents and confirmations and put them in a “to be scanned” stack. Now we skip the stack and use the Print to adobe pdf “printer” and send the electronic doc that didn’t have to be stacked, cursed and scanned straight to the box dot com shared folder!