Four steps towards a more mobile and paperless office

In my first job out of college, I took notes on legal pads as if they were going out of style. I’d file away my notes in manila file folders after meetings, along with handouts and copies of agendas. My trusty Franklin Covey planner kept me on schedule and helped me keep track of my tasks. There was a 5-foot tall filing cabinet in my office filled to brim with papers and drawers in my desk with my “active files.” I thought I had a good system! I kept hard copies of important documents for historical archives. This was 15 years ago and times, technology, and I, have changed.

Most of my files are now kept on my company’s computer servers, saving into electronic file folders like I once did paper files. But up until recently I still had a handful paper files at my desk and relied on a trendy spiral notebook to take notes in meetings and keep a running to-do list. Oh, and dare I admit I had an actual Rolodex with a growing stack of cards sitting on top (mocking me) just waiting to be filed away.

As my job requires me to be more mobile than ever traveling to various locations, I’ve needed to stretch myself to be more efficient with my time and nimble with my space. I don’t want to carry around paper files or feel as though I’m missing important documents back at my desk when I’m on the road. So here are some steps I’ve taken recently to move towards a more mobile office:

1. Retire my notebook. I now bring my laptop and a pen with me to meetings. If someone passes out an agenda or handouts, I might jot down a few notes to remind me of things I want to say when the time is right – but I use my laptop to take notes and use it to accomplish related tasks during the meeting to keep things moving. I explain to people up front “I have a paperless office now – I’m taking notes on what we’re talking about (not surfing Facebook).”

2. Turn off incoming voice mail. My office voice mail usually fills up with sales calls each day. Few colleagues actually try to call me as they know I’m rarely at my desk. The really connected folks instant message me (we use Microsoft Lync) for an even quicker response. Since voice mail was by far the worst way to reach me and a big time suck for me to stop and listen to messages, I was ripe to try something new. I changed my outgoing message to direct people to email me (spelling out the full address) or, in case of emergency, call our department’s administrative assistant. Of course, she and I discussed this approach first and she was in favor of it. Then I turned off the ability to receive incoming messages. The people who need to reach me quickly (mostly leadership and staff on my team) know how to track me down (my cell) and the rest of the folks can email me, giving me more flexibility to triage messages and respond as needed.

3. Recycle paper right away. I learned this valuable tip from my CEO when we were talking about efficiency at work one day – after each meeting, recycle any paper I may have picked up, BEFORE I get back to my desk or go to the next meeting. I now avoid dropping papers off in a pile at my desk that I need to review/touch/think about/move again. If there’s some reason I’ll really need something, I can always scan it and email it to myself, although I can’t think of a time this has happened recently. Most of the time people have already emailed copies out before meetings anyways.

4. Ditch the Rolodex. Who needs business cards when we have LinkedIn, anyways? If I have someone’s business card from a meeting or an event, I ask myself if I need to keep their contact information – if yes, I’ll send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn and/or scan their card to my Card Munch app. I know I’m not the first person to ditch my Rolodex and certainly not the last. It definitely makes me think twice before handing out my own business cards!

All of these efforts are making a noticeable difference in my work flow and mobility. Of course, I still occasionally need to print documents to sign or bring paper to share something at a meeting, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to be 100% paperless. But I am enjoying this step in the right direction.

I’m curious, have you noticed your work habits change in the past few years? How has technology made a difference in your work? What other tips or suggestions do you have for me?

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  1. I just got an iPad, so now feel an opportunity to be much more mobile. I’m still learning to use Evernote, but glad to hear it’s your “go to” for note taking – might have to find myself a better tutorial to improve functionality for me. There is quite a bit of paper still floating around – I am an accountant after all! :roll: Thanks for the tips!

    • Missy Berggren

      Amy – I find I get a lot of use out of my ipad and evernote for personal uses and am still learning how to optimize for work. I’ve brought my ipad to meetings before and while it’s okay to keep notes, I can’t do much in terms of accessing my files. My laptop is really a powerhouse and allows me to do so much more – from excel to photoshop to ppt to word to email – that it’s just more efficient for me to bring my laptop to meetings now. For seminars and conferences, however, I always bring my ipad — all I mostly need to do then is take notes and access social media. Great use for the ipad. :)

      • Thanks Missy! My organization actually does have Citrix set up so I can get directly to all of my work files, I’m just starting to figure out all of the opportunities – not as fast as I would like to be!

  2. My iPad has been the game changer for me. I have a case with a keyboard, so it becomes my computer at meetings for taking notes. I use Evernote for all of my meeting notes as I have it installed on all my computers and devices. I use Dropbox for keeping files handy everywhere as well as for sharing huge files like PPT or videos.
    Where I need improvement is throwing paper in the recycling bin instead of keeping them because they were handed out at a meeting.
    Now that I telework three days a week, going completely paperless is my ultimate goal.
    Great post Missy!

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