5 Key Steps to paperless productivity

I love paper. I hate paper.

Regardless of format, print or digital, what I want is information at my fingertips when I need it, wherever I am. I want instant capture of ideas, to-do’s and notes (which for me still requires paper) but I don’t want a lot of paper laying around creating clutter.

Less paper helps me focus. Less paper makes me more efficient.

This isn’t about being totally paperless. I’m not there, and doubt I ever will be. But I’ve eliminated at least 80 percent of paper from my life with a significant, measurable improvement in efficiency, access and results.

Here are the eight steps I use to make paper-less (not paperless)a reality in my life.

1. Use paper as a capture tool first. I keep a notebook with me most of the time (see below). I take it to meetings and use it during phone calls. Throughout the meeting, I sketch-note, capture to-do’s, and jot down creative ideas.

2. Process to-do’s into an online system. The actionable tasks from those meetings are transferred into my digital task management system – Currently Evernote and Trello. Meetings get scheduled, outsourced tasks get assigned.

3. Process all other paper similarly. This includes business cards, letters, bills, anything else you get that’s paper-based and worth keeping. I use Evernote as my digital filing cabinet, but Dropbox, Google, Box, or some other cloud file service to save copies of your paper files will work too. It doesn’t really matter where you keep files. The key elements are organization and access. These documents are available to me literally anywhere – at my office, on my laptop, my iPhone and iPad.

4. Use mobile apps for information capture. Whenever I can, I capture information straight into my digital systems. Again, I use Evernote for capturing notes, ideas, and to-dos where carrying just my iPhone is ideal and I don’t have my paper notebook.

5. Paper notebook. During the day I usually carry this with me at all times. It natural, easy, and fast note taking and to-do recording when I don’t want to interrupt the rhythm of a conversation by taking out my iPhone. Any next steps or to-do’s are processed using GTD principles and the steps above, and indexed so I can quickly flip to the pages in the notebook when needed.

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely either interested in trying something similar, or think I’m a nut. Whatever you choose as your own process (online or offline, digital or paper) clearly isn’t going to work if it doesn’t make you comfortable and isn’t something you can sustain on a daily basis.

All I know is, this basic process makes my life easier, less stressful and far more productive.