Less paper clutter can help reduce stress & aid clear thinking - could you cut down?
Using less paper is obviously a good thing for the environment, but it's also amazing what it can do for your stress levels and productivity! I run a 99% paperless business, and in fact, am pretty much paperless in most of my personal life too, and I've found the main benefits include:
- A tidier desk = tidier mind (less stress from seeing clutter!)
- I don't worry about losing papers
- I can access documents from anywhere in the world
- Out of sight, out of mind (leaving my mind to focus on important stuff!)
Below I've listed some things that I do and tools I use to cut down on my paper use, that could provide some inspiration for you to reduce clutter in your business too!
1. Invoices & contracts
Okay so most non-physical businesses don't require paper to process payments and invoices, but I don't print mine out for my records (I don't actually own a printer, so it would be a pain for me to do this anyway!); I keep them in my cloud file storage.
With regards to contracts it's a different story. These need to be signed by both myself and my clients. The whole print, sign and scan thing is not only a total faff, it's also pretty wasteful, so I use the free Docusign app to sign all my PDF contracts digitally, and I encourage my clients to do the same for ease also.
2. Business finances & receipts
I keep track of my business finances using Google Sheets, because it means I can access them from anywhere (my laptop, my phone etc. from anywhere in the world), but I also have an accountant who keeps an official record too.
With HMRC and tax statements etc, I opted out of having physical copies posted to me, so all my notifications come via email and my self employed information is online. However, I do have a physical copy of my important Government Gateway docs and yearly accounts on file for security - sometimes it's got to be done!
What I really can't stand though, are receipts. There's nothing worse than mini, unorganised paper clutter! So I use the TinyScan app on my phone to 'scan' my receipts and turn them into PDFs, and then I save these to my cloud storage (explained below).
3. Planning & scheduling
Rather than have a physical planner or wall/desk calendar, I use Google Calendars. Again, this is accessible from my laptop or phone, from anywhere in the world - unlike a physical calendar or diary where if you don't have it on you, you're screwed!
You may also know that I use (and am obsessed with) Trello! It's a free online project management tool that I use to organise all my business projects and tasks, and it also doubles as an editorial calendar and business plan too!
4. File storage & Notes
When I'm out and about and an idea pops into my head, I usually enter it as a note into my iPhone's 'Notes' app. But what about actually file storage for documents, photos and client projects?
You've heard me mention cloud storage a couple of times now, and the system I use is Dropbox (< that is an affiliate link, but I've used this every day for 3 years now and love it!). It means that all the files on my laptop are safely backed up, and yet again, I can access my files from anywhere! That includes my phone, where I have the app downloaded and can also upload files (like my receipts from TinyScan, and any photos) to Dropbox as well.
5. Tracking & reminders
More replacements for planners, diaries and paper lists; I also use the Reminders app on my phone to schedule my to-do list and notify me when something needs to be done with an alarm.
For tracking hours on projects, rather than write each notes in a planner and have to add it up manually, I use the free Hours app to track and add up my time for me, and these can be exported as CSV or PDF reports too!
Whilst most of my design business is based online, I do often travel for meetings and events with my other business. This means using public transport or driving and keeping track of mileage, which I either do using Google Sheets on my phone, or using the TrackMyDrive app.
I also use car park apps (like Phone & Pay) to buy tickets, which saves me keeping track of those tiny pieces of paper for my accounts, and means I can top up my parking from the other side of town without needing to rush back to the car park!
When it comes to flights or trains, instead of printing my boarding pass, I simply download the airline or train app and show the QR code at check-in/at the barriers. This saves time trying to search my bag for the right papers too!
Did you know you can use your phone or contactless card to pay for the tube just by tapping it on the ticket scanning pad - no more silly little tickets to keep track of; just email receipts for your accounts!