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08:51 am: Paperless

One of the blogs I follow with great interest is Geekdoctor. He’s the CIO of Harvard Medical School, among other things. Besides being smart, connected, and talkative … he appears to live a very purposeful life. He implements his organizational and ethical decisions in a way that I admire.

A few recent highlights include:
* My economic indicators
* The broken window effect
* A Privacy Framework for personal health.

Here’s one that I’ve been pondering: He sets a goal of having “zero paper” in his office. This isn’t so much an environmental thing, as an organizational thing. By contrast, I start with the assumption that there will always be a need to keep paper records … but I try to minimize them. What if, instead, I viewed every piece of paper that I have to stash in the monstrous filing cabinet in my office as a failure of my own cleverness?

Could I pull this off?

I’ve been going in this direction anyway. I used to keep everything. Banker’s boxes of credit card statements from 1996. Seriously. I first pared that down to “I only keep the most recent 12 months.” Now I’m down to “I keep the most recent piece of paper with my account info on it.

First off, many of the businesses that I use have gone “paperless.” I already told my bank that I don’t want them mailing me statements. Ditto with the credit cards … though they insist on dangling “checks” in front of me about twice a month. Simply using all of those resources is a help.

What if I took the next step and simply scanned every remaining bill as it came in? I’ve got a decent scanner. All I need is a structure for naming the files, and I would remove the need to save a lot of stuff.

What of books? I keep books mostly for sentimental reasons … because I like the way they feel in my hands.

Thoughts? I’m sure there are edge cases (my passport and birth certificate, for example – though I should probably scan those anyway) … but in general – could I go paperless?

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.



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