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The Biggest Mistake People Make When Going Paperless

Thinking of ditching the paper clutter? Be sure to avoid the biggest mistake people make when going paperless!

The Biggest Mistake People Make When Going Paperless

Donnie and I have been “paperless” for over a decade now, meaning that we store all of our most important documents digitally rather than in a physical filing cabinet. We love it because it eliminates paper clutter in our house while giving us secure access to our files any time, from any location, with just a few clicks.

Through the years, we have taught a lot of other people about going paperless too. We have been overjoyed to see many of them successfully transition from overstuffed filing cabinets and paper everywhere to a simple, streamlined paperless system.

But in that time, we have seen a lot of people fail at going paperless too. And when that happens, it’s usually because they make one major mistake.

The biggest mistake people make when going paperless is tackling all of their messy stacks of past paperwork before creating solid paperless habits going forward.

Avoid the Biggest Paperless Mistake: Start by Looking Ahead

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

One of the biggest reasons that people want to go paperless is because they are sick of their overstuffed filing cabinets and piles of paper everywhere. So it makes sense that their first instinct is to deal with the paper piles.

But there are several reasons why this strategy is difficult and often leads to failure.

Our piles of old paperwork are often overwhelming.

By the time we decide to go paperless, we have usually accumulated an overwhelming amount of paperwork. Maybe we start out with the motivation to tackle it all, but as with any large, time-consuming task, our motivation tends to wane is it drags on and on.

We soon find something else we “need” to do, and abandon our paperless project. And when the topic of going paperless comes up in the future, we think to ourselves, “I tried going paperless once. It was too hard and tedious, so I gave up.”

Our paper problem is not solved and we go on living with paper clutter and the inconvenience of never being able to find the documents we need without a long and frustrating search.

Woman looking at a folder of paperwork in an organized office

But best case scenario, let’s say we push through and complete the initial purge and scan of our huge backlog of paperwork. We feel proud and excited that we’ve accomplished our goal and have eliminated our paper piles!

But there’s just one problem…

Paper doesn’t stop coming into our house just because we decide to go paperless.

Even if we manage to sort through our huge pile of paperwork, that one-time paper purge won’t be enough. We will still have incoming bills and mail, kids’ school paperwork, medical and insurance papers, instruction manuals, and more.

Pile of Papers

In not too long, our paper piles will grow again and we’ll be right back where we started– frustrated and drowning in paperwork.

But what if instead of focusing on just throwing out all of our paper right away, we focused on setting up a smart system and building solid paperless habits?

We build positive paperless habits when we start by moving forward.

Rather than jumping straight into an overwhelming paper purge, we’ve found that people are most successful with going paperless when they choose a date on the calendar and commit to going paperless with all incoming documents starting on that day.

When we get the mail or help our kids clean out their backpacks for the day, we get into the habit of immediately recycling/throwing away anything we don’t need, scanning items we want to keep using an app on our phone, and putting any action items in a designated inbox to be dealt with during a weekly processing session.

Woman scanning a document using her smart phone

Going through this daily/weekly process going forward allows us to get a handle on the most important pieces of going paperless while just dealing with a small amount of paperwork at a time.

We can get familiar with Evernote, our digital filing cabinet where we keep all of our scanned documents. We can figure out the best setup for our notebooks and tags within Evernote that will keep our documents organized and easily searchable. And we can seamlessly integrate Evernote and going paperless into our life so that it becomes something we do without even thinking!

We’d love to help you get started with figuring out Evernote! You can snag our free step-by-step walkthrough– which will help you ensure you’re setting up your Evernote account the right way from the very beginning– by clicking the button below.

Paperless Made Simple | justagirlandherblog.com/paperless

Get started with Evernote and learn our proven paperless workflow for free!

These free video lessons will teach you how to set up your Evernote account the right way from day one– AND how to adopt the paperless workflow we’ve been using for more than a decade– so you can be well on your way to eliminating paper clutter in your home!

When to Deal with the Backlog of Paperwork

And once we are familiar with the technology and have it set up in the optimal way to meet our needs, THEN we can go back and tackle our backlog of paperwork, either making a weekend of it and getting it out of the way all at once or chipping away at it little by little.

Woman in a chambray shirt looking at a laptop computer

If we wait until we’re comfortable with going paperless and confident in our ability to do so, then scanning and processing our big paper piles doesn’t feel as daunting. We’ll be able to complete the task with confidence that we’re doing it the right way, organizing our files digitally in a way that makes sense and that is safe and secure.

How to Give Ourselves the Best Chance to Stick with Going Paperless

So how do we avoid the biggest mistake people make when going paperless? Where do we start the paperless process? Choose a date on the calendar. Beginning on that date, commit to scanning all incoming paperwork that you want to keep, tagging it in Evernote, and filing it away for future access.

Calendar with July 1st circled as date to go paperless moving forward

Starting by picking a day and going paperless moving forward will give you the best chance of staying paperless for the long term!

What technology do I need to go paperless?

This is one of the most common questions we receive when we talk to people about our paperless process! To give you our most complete answer, Donnie and I wrote an entire post about our paperless tech stack here.

And if you could use a complete step-by-step guide to the entire paperless process, our Paperless Made Simple course can help with that!

Paperless Made Simple walks through the entire paperless process, helping to eliminate paper clutter and giving you access to all of your most important documents anytime, anywhere, with just a few clicks.

Paperless Made Simple | justagirlandherblog.com

Learn more about Paperless Made Simple right here!

Don’t miss these other posts about going paperless:

And if you want to save this post to revisit later, be sure to pin the image below so you can find it easily:

The #1 Mistake People Make When Going Paperless

Have you tried going paperless? Let me know how it’s going in the comments below!

Thank you so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

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