My latest at ProfHacker: Strategies for Going Paperless

Papers to scanThe paperless life: it’s a dream for a lot of us here at ProfHacker, and we’ve certainly covered a fair number of paperless strategies for various aspects of academic life in this space before.

I’m not convinced a fully paperless life is possible; somehow, the stuff still keeps landing on my desk and in my mailbox (yes, I do still have mailboxes that collect paper mail, both at home and at work). I try, though, (a) not to generate paper and (b) to be sure that paper that comes my way doesn’t stay around very long. My current setup follows. It’s Mac and iOS-heavy, because the primary tools available to me are a Mac Mini and an iPad. If you have recommendations for readers who use Windows or Linux, please share them in the comments!

The first part of my system is to avoid creating paper in the first place, if I possibly can, so:

  • I get electronic receipts whenever possible. When I can use Google Wallet to pay for a purchase with my phone, I do so. Some merchants offer to email a receipt instead of printing one for me; I always say yes.1 Fortunately, I don’t need to keep most of my receipts once I’ve paid my credit card bill; I forward the few exceptions to Evernote.
  • When I take notes, I often prefer to write longhand. Rather than write on paper, I use Notability on my iPad. If I don’t need to save the note I’ve created there, I just delete it when I’ve finished with it. If it’s something I might want to refer to again, I send it to Evernote. I can do that from within the app itself if I’m on the go, but Notability can also back up directly to Dropbox (helpfully, it makes a PDF of the note), so if I’m at my computer I can also just drag the note into Evernote’s desktop client.
  • I create my course materials in either Evernote (which I use for lesson plans and notes) or Google Drive (which I use for assignment sheets and slide presentations).

That leaves me to deal with the paper that simply can’t be avoided.

  • Receipts go into an envelope until I can check them against my credit card statement, then get recycled. If I need to keep the receipt for warranty purposes, I use Evernote’s document camera on my phone to capture it.
  • Everything else gets recycled or shredded, as appropriate. If it’s something I need to keep a copy of, it gets scanned and sent to Evernote first.

It took a while, but I finally figured out a scanning system that works well for me without breaking the bank or taking too much time. (Sure, I’d love a ScanSnap — who wouldn’t? But over $400 for a single-function device? Yikes!) Any all-in-one printer with an automatic document feeder and the ability to scan in duplex mode2 will do the job. I’m using an Epson all-in-one in conjunction with an app called PDFScanner to scan documents to my Mac. (Amazingly for a $15 app, PDFScanner will run OCR on a scanned document, and can handle several languages.) All my scanned documents get saved to a folder on my desktop called (not very imaginatively) “Scanned files.”

Once they’re in that folder, I need to rename them. Quick Look will show me the contents of a file without my even having to open it, making it easy to quickly get the information I need to give the file a descriptive name.

Renaming the file is all I need to do to get it into Evernote. In addition to the “Scanned files” folder, my desktop has a folder called @Evernote. Thanks to an Automator script created by Justin Lancy, anything that goes into the @Evernote folder gets imported into Evernote, then deleted. I’ve set up a Hazel rule that watches the “Scanned files” folder and automatically moves any files whose names have changed to the @Evernote folder.

What’s your paperless (or “as close to paperless as is reasonably possible”) strategy? Let us know in the comments.

[Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski]

  1. I realize this opens me up to the possibility of unwanted email, but my spam filters usually manage to keep most of it out of my inbox.<<
  2. A word to the wise, though: not every all-in-one that can print in duplex mode can also scan in duplex mode. Be sure to check!<<

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

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