August 19, 2015

The Paperless Office Dream


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I knocked on the door, stepped into the office, said “Good Morning everybody” and dropped off a file folder full of papers into the ‘Inbox’ and collected a new file folder of papers from the ‘Outbox’. Back in the hallway I placed the file folders into my cart and moved on to the next office. It was Monday morning and another boring day, heck another boring week, laid ahead of me.


That was 1988

I was in my first year of apprenticeship with the Winterhur Insurance company. Every morning and every afternoon I had to push this cart through the hallways of the 5 story office building to distribute and collect file folders. Then I’d travel with the elevator down to the basement where the copy room was located and where Martin, a middle aged bachelor and Head of the Copy Department, was waiting for me.


Two huge and incredibly noisy copy machines were filling up the room. The air was stale and dry and very dusty. The windows were small but the glare of the fluorescent bulbs lit up the room and made it feel cold and extremely unfriendly.


The race began, the goal was to copy all the papers as quick as possible to be able to distribute them in the early afternoon on my next round through the hallways.


What a change to today, right? We thought twice if we really wanted and needed a copy but even back then, actually years before already people had struggled with paperwork and were trying to find a solution for the paper problem.


In 1978, information scientist Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster had envisioned a paperless society in his book ‘Toward Paperless Information Systems’. The word “paperless office ” was born and while I was making copies day in and day out, we talked a lot about what that would mean. The prognosis was that soon we would not ‘kill’ any trees anymore to produce newspapers, books, contracts, policies, letters etc


How did it turn out?


Almost 40 years after Lancaster’s vision and 25+ years after my 3 month copy torment the world is a completely different place, although not paperless….. on the contrary!


Despite the so called Digital Age, where Emails and text messages are sent instead of letters, Kindle books are downloaded to our cellphone in lieu of Books put into our book shelves, where we read the latest news on our tablet instead of in a newspaper, the age of eBill, ePost, eCheck, eTransfer, Online Banking etc ….. we all still struggle with piles of paper, even more paper than ever before.


Take a look around your house and office, you probably see stacks of papers, bills, newspapers, and flyers. Maybe the papers are scattered all over the place, you keep some in your car, some under your bed, some in the bathroom, some lays on the (dirty) kitchen counter or even in the microwave?


Dealing with paperwork can be a daily struggle even if you are an organized person. It all gets even worse when you become an entrepreneur and have your own business, it takes on a whole new dimension.

In my 20+ years as an accountant I have seen many small business owners struggle with paperwork, feeling overwhelmed, procrastinate and having countless sleepless nights at tax season. That’s why I recently wrote this guide:

While I can’t promise you a paperless office, I can assure you, that if you implement my tips you’ll feel more in control and more confident. You’ll have more free time and mental capacity to focus on your passion. You’ll worry less, struggle less, save money, and tax season will be less painful (and your accountant will thank me too). Get your guide here


Let me know how you get on!
Take Care

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  • I’ve seen many strategies for handling papers (“only touch it once”) and realize that I am a long way from a paperless office. In fact, I am running around here, looking for a Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupon, *wishing* that they would make those electronic … scan on your phone? It would be heaven to somehow only connect with the paper I need and not stacks of paper that is meaningless!

    • I don’t believe in the ‘only touch it once’ strategy, that puts a lot of pressure on. You might not deal with it because your goal is to touch it only once. I find it’s easier to have a system in place on how you deal with the papers. Even if it is a sequence and you touch it more than once 🙂

  • I’m looking around my room and yep, I see paper. Old letters, old receipts. My handbag is filled with random papers and I don’t know where they came from. I definitely won’t be going paperless any time soon – I have to read a lot of scientific articles and it’s so much easier if I can print and highlight (otherwise I’m likely to nod off in front of my computer screen) but reducing some of the clutter would be good!

    • Yes I agree, it’s so much easier to read something on a piece of paper than on the computer screen. I don’t think paper is per se bad and I for sure don’t see me going 100% paperless anytime soon.

  • Thank you for the post Conny!

    Such a great reminder! So happy to hear how far companies have come towards going paperless. It takes a little getting used to, but once it’s routine and we have the technology to use less paper, we will never go back to using as much paper as we did before. This is a step in the right direction!

    Although, I still do like using paper to do lists. Maybe I will have to get a good to do list app! Any suggestions?

    • Thanks Val for your feedback, I like to use the app Evernote for a lot of my to-do’s, it’s a great tool also because I can sync it with my cellphone and ipad. But to plan my week and/or day, I still use paper. I find it much more gratifying to cross something out on paper than just check it off in an app. That’s just me 🙂 maybe one day I manage to skip the paper part.

    • I hear you and mine looks just as bad sometimes and then I get it sorted again and stick to my self-imposed daily routines, that feels so much better.

  • Guess what? One of my resolutions for 2015 was to go paperless. I haven’t made it 100%, but I’m well on my way. So glad to have inspiration from you here.

    • Great goal Maggie and it can be done! I am in the process of doing so as well. One tip, make sure you talk with your accountant what the requirements of your tax authority are. I know in some places you have to have certain originals on paper, and the digital version is not good enough.

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