Is a Paperless Office Really Possible?

Category: Printing

The year was 1984. I was a newly-hired programmer at IBM, listening to a lecture on the future of technology. At the end, someone asked the presenter about the notion of the paperless office. I'll always remember his reply: 'We will sooner see a paperless bathroom than a paperless office.' Almost 30 years later, have we made any progress toward the goal of going paper free?

Going Paperless: Dream or Reality?

I don't remember any other predictions made that day by the technology futurist. I'm sure he didn't have a clue about how the Internet would revolutionize the world, or that handheld smartphones would one day be more powerful than mainframes.

But he did correctly predict that the more we use computers, the more paper we'll use. My desk today is dominated by piles of paper, and an HP printer/fax machine combo that will happily churn out more paper on demand.

So are we any closer to going paperless in our home, home office or the workplace? In some ways, I think we are. If you're over 40, you'll remember passing around humorous pages that had been photocopied or faxed so many times, they were barely readable. One my favorites from the 80's was the classic "System been down long?" cartoon. Now of course, those gems are circulated by email, posted on Facebook walls, or shared on Pinterest.
Photocopied cartoon

The ebook revolution has progressed faster than anyone anticipated. Sales of digital ebooks on have outpaced printed books. It's not uncommon to see someone reading the latest thriller on a Kindle, Nook or similar e-reader tablet device.

Almost every large company that does consumer billing now offers you the option to "go paperless" and get your monthly statement by email. This saves the company money, saves trees, and saves you the hassle of filing that paper bill. If you need to find it later, a quick scan of your email folders will bring it up on your screen. Another paper saving convenience is the ability to make payments online, instead of writing a check, stuffing an envelope and mailing it.

Technology: Only Part of the Solution

But what about all that paper that flows in daily from the mailbox, the fax machine, the printer and other sources? Bills, receipts, letters and other printed matter can quickly take over any unoccupied space on your desk or kitchen table. Aside from the clutter, it can be a daunting task to separate the wheat from the chaff, file away the important papers, and then find them again when you need them.

One idea is to use a digital scanner to turn those paper piles into computer files. But simply converting a piece of paper into a digital image file doesn't necessarily help you find it later. In my article Digital Scanners to The Rescue, I discuss some options for scanning important documents into computer readable form, such as searchable PDFs, spreadsheets and word processor files.

Another paper monster that seems to be heading for extinction is the fax machine. It's hard to understand why some businesses stubbornly cling to this obsolete technology. It's slower, more expensive, and less efficient than email. If you're not convinced, see Five Good Reasons to Trash Your Fax Machine, and learn about free online faxing alternatives.

Do You Have Paperitis?

Scanning every piece of paper that comes across your desk is a tedious, boring task. And if you're thinking that sounds like even MORE work than filing away your bills, letters and receipts, you're probably right.

Paperitis My good friends Audri and Jim Lanford are pioneers and experts on the subject of going paperless. In fact, they even coined the term "Paperitis" to describe the paper clutter and information overload that feels SO overwhelming. The Lanfords built a successful business helping companies like Procter & Gamble and DuPont save millions of dollars going paperless.

But until very recently, there just wasn't a good solution for individuals and small businesses wanting to eliminate paper clutter, conquer information overload and increase their productivity. Because they are so passionate about this topic, Audri and Jim have created a powerful free video series from that shows you exactly how to begin the process of going paperless WITHOUT the grunt work normally associated with getting organized.

Many experts consider their advice and techniques controversial, but after viewing the first video, I think you'll see why their approach is revolutionizing the way entrepreneurs, small businesses and professionals go paperless. Check out The Cure For Paperitis now.

I want to be clear about a few points. First, the Paperitis video series really is no-fluff, no strings and 100% free. Second, when I say that the Lanfords are my good friends, I really mean it. I've known Jim and Audri for over a decade, have met them personally on many occasions, and they are truly some of the original "good guys" of the Internet. Their Scambusters website has been helping people protect themselves from dangerous Internet scams and identity theft since 1994.

Finally, you'll learn a lot from the Paperitis videos, and you'll also be introduced to an excellent training program that's available for purchase. I'm happy to disclose my affiliate relationship, but if I didn't have full confidence in this program and the people behind it, I wouldn't be recommending it to you. I hope you'll check it out and see how much you can benefit by using their ideas.

Have you tried going paperless? Tell me about your experience. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Is a Paperless Office Really Possible?"

Posted by:

J Means
12 Oct 2012

I took the accounting department of the small business where I worked paperless, and I'm in the process of the same at home. I found that each has their own unique sets of needs. My needs for my home are few... Paperport, a good scanner with duplex, color, and twain drive capabilities. Add to that some large USB zip drives for historical items, and you are set. Startup can be achieved for under $500. The hard part is setting the main system. After that it's a breeze. To me it's the only way to fly!

Posted by:

12 Oct 2012

I have been using the Neat Digital Filing System for several years and find it works quite well, It cures me of my need to keep all that paper.

Posted by:

Salman Khan
12 Oct 2012

Earlier this year, I decided once and for all to go totally paperless. It was a tedious task to setup but now, after all the work has been done, I have no trouble paying my bills or finding one.

I support it. By the way, my mailbox is rarely full now. The clutter is reduced and I'm a happier person.

Posted by:

12 Oct 2012

It is possible, and the only real way to do it is: start with yourself. The biggest thing is the way some people are. You just have to really concentrate on keeping paperless. My bills and statements are done on-line. My childrens' schools (they go to different schools) are getting better at e-mail instead of handouts to go home. My daughter turns in her homework on-line. I am taking a class, and I rented the e-textbook, and instructor accepts everything (reports, essays, etc.) on-line. We even take our tests on-line.

I haven't bought a paper book for 3 years now, but I read around a book a week. So, I have a stunning library of over 200 e-books. This is a bit harder because there are people who love their paper books (and you can't get the author to sign your book), but I prefer them electronically.

Where I work, I keep trying to get our department to go paperless, but working out to be futile. I try to get everyone to only send me things electronically, but people seem to prefer paper.

Posted by:

Gyppo (John Craggs)
12 Oct 2012


Having grown up using a typewriter and carbon paper I love the convenience of my computer, but. . .

I suspect going paperless is like embracing celibacy. We all know we could, but a lot of us don't really want to ;-)

Bottom line is I still don't really trust digital back-ups. Even the three generation system. Anything I really want to keep, such as a copy of my own novels and articles goes on paper as well as thumb drives, CDs, etc, and is carefully filed. Paper has the durability to last for centuries, and has often proved this.

What will the paperless warriors do when the machinery fails?


Posted by:

12 Oct 2012

I live in the Philippines. Paper is a way of life here. I will not see paperless in my life time.

Posted by:

James Stevens
13 Oct 2012

After trying out numerous scan programs, I discovered eDoc Scan. It made setting up various databases a cinch, and I can locate any client invoice, bill, deposit slip, bank statement,or other document by name, date, consecutive number relating to the same number in the accounting software, and so on.It made paperless easy for my residential construction business.I have two backups, a computer for backup only, and and an external hard drive

Posted by:

14 Oct 2012

I was trained in typing in the early 1960s. I still get a bang out of typing & printing my own letters and filing them BUT if the letter I write is just routine (like one accompanying a bank deposit)I keep only a digital copy. Like Gyppo (John Craggs) I don't entirely trust digital backups and I like holding a hard copy in my hand. Even with the flat screen (MUCH more readable), it's easier to read a hard copy. I also fear what happens when the power goes off, as it certainly will do eventually.

Paper copy is actually very advanced technology. It's also simple, straightforward & easy. You don't have to depend on electricity or on asking your computer. You just go into your file and pull it out.

- Marian

Posted by:

04 Mar 2013

Hi, what a great web blog. I usually spend hours on the net reading blogs on various subjects. And, I really would like to praise you for writing such a fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and yes you got it. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks.

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